HTC Sense 4.0 previewed: Streamlined UI, 50GB DropBox integration, more

HTC has already said it plans to focus on quality not quantity with its 2012 range, but it seems the company has some significant software changes in the pipeline too with HTC Sense 4.0. The Android reskin initially offered a far more usable interface than the native OS, but Google's successive iterations narrowed the gap and HTC failed to keep pace with its own services. Now, according to some preview playtime by Pocketnow, that's changing: gone is the unnecessary heft, replaced with a pared-down UI, better typography and improved apps such as email and DropBox integration.

Some of the changes are said to address common complaints like landscape homescreen orientation support and putting notification menu access into the lockscreen (as well as alerts, shortcuts to apps and contacts, and task lists). However there are also more fundamental improvements, such as 50GB of free DropBox space automatically granted when you first activate your phone, and treated as another "local" drive by apps.

HTC's email app is apparently much improved, with a new Smart Sync option that learns from your usage patterns and shuts down push-email so as to save battery life and data. A Guest Mode can lock down usability to certain apps and block access to personal data, for when you hand your shiny HTC over to someone to play with.

Read Later and Watch Later options in the browser, plus ditching hardware keys in favor of on-screen buttons as in Ice Cream Sandwich, are also promised. All in all, it's a big step forward from what's become quite a cumbersome addition to Android devices, however distinctive, and we should get to see it properly at MWC 2012 in late February.