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Review: HTC Aria

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The HTC Aria uses HTC's Sense interface on top of Android, and I've long been a fan of HTC Sense. It adds some polish and graphical flair to Android without changing the basic interface concept. Android can be a difficult interface to learn at first, and HTC's Sense doesn't make it any easier, but it does add plenty of customization options, cool and useful widgets and deeper integration with social networks like Twitter, Facebook and Flickr.

If you're not familiar with Android or HTC Sense, here's a brief tour. There are seven home screen panels that you can flick through side to side, and you can add shortcuts or widgets to the home screens. Shortcuts can be for applications; contacts, so you can direct dial with one tap; or any number of things, including navigation directions, so you can tap a shortcut and start navigating home in one step. Widgets are little, active applications that live on the home screen. There are dozens to choose from, ranging from weather forecasts to music playback controls to basic Twitter and Facebook apps that update continually.

Android can be confusing because there are so many ways to access features. Sometimes you tap and hold an icon to see what it can do. Sometimes you press the menu key for more options. Notifications and other features show up in a menu that drags down from the top. It takes some getting used to, but the rewards are great and Android offers better customization than any other smartphone OS.

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Though the HTC Aria uses Android 2.1, it doesn't get all of the stock features. Notably, the phone is not powerful enough to run Live Wallpapers. But all of the cool HTC Sense features are on board, including the new pinch gesture on the desktop to see a windmill of all your home screen panels. You also get the cool address book and an improved interface in many features, including the music player, the calendar and the text messaging app.

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