The HTC One has a distinctive feature that makes an impression as soon as you unlock the device. HTC has adapted the homescreen of its flagship so that it’s made up of tiles which pull content and social network updates through in a manner similar to news feed app Flipboard.
The Taiwanese firm has called this innovation BlinkFeed, and it makes the HTC One’s user interface look markedly different to those on other Android devices. But does BlinkFeed offer anything that can’t be achieved already by using widgets on a standard Android homescreen?
BlinkFeed looks fantastic. It creates a truly striking interface on the handset’s homescreen that can be scrolled up and down at leisure, with images and headlines fitting neatly into a grid system that refreshes automatically.
On the other hand, widgets have received criticism for the way they look and make use of space on Android devices. They can vary in size and shape so much that fitting all the ones you want together can be very difficult and often results in being forced to spread them over several homescreens, taking up more space than BlinkFeed.
However, BlinkFeed is limited in the sources that it can draw content from, although several major news providers such as The Guardian and Reuters are supported along with big social networks such as Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn. Third-party news aggregator Flipboard has the capability to pull feeds from niche publications however, an area where BlinkFeed is noticeably lacking.
BlinkFeed differentiates itself by virtue of having has an excellent search facility which can be accessed by swiping downwards to reveal an options menu. Content pulled through can be searched with ease, which is especially handy if you’ve seen an article earlier in the day that you want to look up again.
There is no way to search through the contents of widgets on an Android device though, with the best option being to simply hit the Google search bar and go the web for results. This is great for general searches but less useful if you are looking for a specific article.
Widgets do have an advantage when it comes to displaying social network updates though. In BlinkFeed, these appear almost at random within the feed and aren’t in any particular order when they do. On the other hand, Android’s Twitter and Facebook widgets allow you to cycle through all updates that have appeared in your stream, ensuring you don’t miss anything that’s going on.
Overall, widgets do have some advantages over BlinkFeed, mainly due to the fact that each of them performs a specific task to which its functions can be tailored. However, BlinkFeed creates such a striking impression from the moment you clap eyes on it and is demonstrative of a very forward-thinking attitude from HTC that, in our opinion, makes it better of the two options.
It will be interesting to see if other manufacturers of Android devices decide to put their own spin on the user interface innovations that HTC has demonstrated here and indeed whether the feature is taken to by to public upon the launch of the HTC One. We’ll monitor this one with much curiosity.