Amazement pending for HTC’s Amaze.

So you’ve read my post on the incredible holiday offers available from Canada’s upstart carriers. If you’re an Android user like myself, the bad news is that neither Mobilicity nor WIND will be carrying Samsung’s new Galaxy Nexus until at least the new year, after their holiday promos have come and gone. The good news is they’re both selling a fairly compelling alternative right now… The HTC Amaze.

Specs

Both the Amaze and aforementioned Galaxy Nexus are pentaband handsets (supporting GSM, 3G & AWS frequencies around the world) with dual-core processors and onboard NFC chips. Interestingly, the Amaze actually trumps the Samsung on a few key points:

  1. A 1.5GHz dual-core processor (vs. 1.2GHz);
  2. An 8-megapixel camera (vs. 5MP);
  3. Removable storage and full support for UMS.

Ok, that last one is really only an issue for fellow Linux users, as I wrote about last week

Design

To say that this HTC is substantial is an understatement; my Nexus S feels like a cheap plastic toy in comparison. Part of this is due to the generous use of real metal around the case. The reinforced gorilla glass undoubtedly contributes to the weight. And the removable back panel isn’t just a battery cover — it also houses contact points for the phone antenna and NFC transceiver.

The net result is that, for a $500+ phone you feel like you’ve gotten your money’s worth every time you pick it up — so much so that the home key is a bit of a stretch for my thumb when the Amaze is in my right hand.

Sense

When people who don’t know what they’re talking about speak of Android “fragmentation”, they really mean the additional UI tweaks that manufacturers often add to their Android devices. I actually don’t have a problem with this, except when they can’t be easily disabled. More on that in a bit.

  

Of all the phone-maker “enhancements” Sense is, in my opinion, the easiest on the eyes. The weather widget alone is the envy of many non-HTC users — click on the first thumbnail above to see it in its full-screen glory. Also note the unique launcher along the bottom of the screen, giving customization of your device (on the right) equal weighting to the main app menu (on the left).

Another standout feature of Sense is HTC’s Friend Stream (centre thumbnail), where you can aggregate your Facebook, Flickr and Twitter friends into a single feed. Note that doing so will prompt you to link these contacts with corresponding entries in your address book, which may or may not appeal to you. Stripping them out later is easy enough, just a matter of deleting some custom HTC code in the “notes” field of your desktop contact entries. You can also unlink them directly from the handset.

The bloat in Sense most likely comes from the 3D effects (thumbnail on the right), which remind me a lot of Compiz for desktop Linux. You can get your five homescreens to spin endlessly by quickly flicking a finger horizontally across the screen. Woo?

The Pending Part

There are two issues with my HTC Amaze. One is temporary, and the other is something that I hope is temporary. Here in Canada the Amaze is sold locked to either MobilicityTelus or WIND Mobile. I purchased mine from WIND, and I’m confident that they’ll make good on their promise to unlock it after I’ve stayed on their network for three billing cycles.

The second issue is a bigger deal for me. HTC has pledged to unlock their bootloader on new devices for power users — you know, folks who want to take control of their handsets, make backup images, have permanent root access, etc. The trouble here is that the multiple attempts to unlock my Amaze have failed. I’m not sure if it’s a carrier restriction or some kind of error in HTC’s device token database, but if you’re on Twitter and in a similar situation feel free to retweet this message.

TL;DR

For many potential users there’s nothing at all wrong with the Amaze; even without Android 4.0 (an update is supposedly due in early 2012) it’s a high-powered, high-functioning device with a great camera. But without an unlocked bootloader, necessary for permanent root-user privileges, one cannot take advantage of the incredible community efforts to realize Android’s full potential. As such, I’m finding myself less than amazed with HTC’s otherwise fantastic device.