The cool thing about HTC's widgets is that they feature real time updates. For example, the email application shows a stack of papers with the latest email you've received shuffled to the top. However by swiping your thumb up or down over the stack of paper you can move forwards and backwards through your inbox without having to open the mail email client, although if you do want to see the full message you simply double tap it to open it in the mail application. The weather widget also updates in real-time according to the current forecast, and features neat animations such as a windscreen wiper that wipes away falling rain droplets when it's pouring down outside.
Widgets can be added to a home screen at any time simply by pressing on the large '+' button on the main menu bar. You can then move them around just by tapping and holding on their top bar and you can delete them by dragging them to the bin at the bottom of the screen. As well as calendar, stocks and clock widgets, there are also two top-notch widgets for Facebook and Twitter.
To make room for all these widgets HTC has increase the number of home screens available from three to seven. The home button always returns you to the main home screen and then the other six are accessed by swiping left or right with your finger, so navigation remains very straightforward.
On top of this, HTC has also added support for multiple different scenes. These are basically groups of home screens that you customise with different wallpaper and widgets, save and then recall at any time. So, for example, you can set up a work scene with work related widgets and a leisure scene that's loaded with your social networking widgets.
Given the choice at present we'd still opt for the 3GS over the Hero, as the iPhone interface is ever so slightly easier to use (Android is still a little bit too heavy on the menus and buttons in our opinion), but also because there's such as a great range of applications available for the iPhone. However, if Android continues to turn up on excellent phones like this then the range of available apps is sure to increase dramatically over the coming months.
The HTC Hero is truly a superb phone and a real competitor to the iPhone range. The addition of multitouch, the flawed but still useful Flash support, plus the excellent HTC widgets make it a joy to use and place it significantly ahead of any previous Android phone.
The G1 may have got Android off to a slow start, but the Hero shows that it's now fully up to speed. Make no mistake, the Hero really is a fabulous phone and its price is very attractive compared to the expensive iPhone 3GS.