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HTC Finds Hero In New Android Smartphone

Gordon Kelly

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HTC Finds Hero In New Android Smartphone

A trek to Shoreditch is generally not one of favourite things to do, but HTC's launch of the 'Hero' smartphone today and perhaps even more importantly its 'Sense' Android based UI were well worth it.

Running through the tech specs on the Hero first we find a 3.2in HVGA capacitive touchscreen display, 5MP autofocus camera, HSDPA, WiFi, aGPS, a digital compass, accelerometer, 3.5mm headphone jack and while there's just 512MB of onboard memory a microSD expansion slot means that won't be a problem. On the exterior a Teflon coated back feels good in hand and an anti-smudge screen doesn't eliminate all fingerprints but it certainly does a decent job minimising them.

So far so good, but where things get really interesting is on the software side.

For a start HTC has integrated multi-touch into the display so zooming in and out can be achieved using the same pinching gesture made famous by the iPhone. Then comes the company's coup de grace: it has taken all its Windows Mobile TouchFLO experience and built 'Sense', a beautiful and extremely thoughtful front end for Android.

Sense works remarkably well. As with Palm's WebOS and the Inq1, it seamlessly integrates with Facebook adding photos and status updates to profiles. Unlike these handsets however it then takes this to the next level by automatically sorting emails, Flickr photos, call history and even tweets to each contact. Clever stuff.

Much like WebOS and iPhone OS 3.0, HTC has also integrated a full handset search but thanks to a dedicated search button this box can be brought up at any time on any screen. Continuing to one-up the opposition the Hero also brings a web browser with Adobe Flash support, something that hadn't been expected until October with the release of Flash Player 10. Calls can be muted simply by turning the Hero over and yes, cut and paste is in there too.

So it sounds like a dream handset, but what are the caveats? In my brief time with the Hero I'd have to say not too many. The camera does lack a flash which is a shame and it is easy to cut back to the Android UI though that isn't nearly such a problem as it is with Windows Mobile. Most crucially however I did find the performance a little slow. This manifests itself primarily when browsing web pages but can also be found when switching between programmes. As you might expect HTC did stress these handsets were pre-release and did reassure us there was still some polishing to be done, but the Hero will have to go some to match the speed of the iPhone 3GS.

That said, the HTC Hero looks set to trump the visually similar Magic and while we still wait for a Palm Pre UK release date it becomes the most credible iPhone challenger to date. Orange and T-Mobile will be initial launch partners for the handset when it touches down in July. £40pm two year contracts will nab you the Hero for free on both networks but we await full tariff breakdowns. Let's hope they don't do an O2...

Update: T-Mobile is breaking from all logical marketing sense and rebranding the HTC Hero to the 'T-Mobile G1 Touch'. Given the original G1 is also a touchscreen handset this only looks set to confuse and frustrate potential customers.

Link:

HTC Hero Product Page

rav

June 24, 2009, 8:54 pm

looks awesome and if touchflo is anything to go by should be great to use.





android's really starting to come together and i actually just ordered a htc magic. lucky i've got 7 days to return it just in case.





but what is up with all this network exclusivity. we need competition!

BOFH UK

June 24, 2009, 9:00 pm

Hmm... torn by this. On the one hand it looks very nice indeed in terms of software and unlike the WM-based devices the underlying operating system isn't a pile of... umm, is actually decent. But no built in memory is a downer, slow smartphones are a pain in the arse (says he who has owned the original SPV...) and, most of all, that chin is ridiculous! Seriously, why spoil what looked like quite a nice handset by immitating Jay Leno?





My real worry though is, oddly, Android itself. Unlike the iPhone and Palm Pre it's getting put into a lot of different handset configurations and I just don't see how they're going to grow the userbase to the same extent when you've got so many different combinations of processor, memory, functionality and even input devices. For now I think the sensible move is to sit tight, wait and see what happens with both Android and WM, see if the Palm Pre delivers when we get the GSM version and, of course, see if O2 drop the absurd price of the iPhone.

HarryGlass

June 24, 2009, 11:15 pm

I admit I've not used an Android device but have read plenty and from that I'd agree that it sounds like it's not quite ready for the mainstream. But with this nice UI over the top and 2.0 coming soon I think it's safe to get an Android phone now.





But nice as this looks, I think I'll stick with the Samsung i7500 for 3 reasons. The camera flash, OLED screen and built in memory. Shame it's got less RAM and a smaller screen, but nothing is ever perfect. I also think those 3 features are what gives the i7500 the edge over the iPhone and so I wonder what'd make people choose this over an iPhone?

Gordon394

June 24, 2009, 11:26 pm

@HK - its simply that the software is even more polished, though it should be by version 3.0 of course...

Helmore

June 25, 2009, 12:17 am

@HK - screen size is the same on the HTC Hero and the Samsung i7500 and the amount of RAM on the i7500 has not yet been specified by Samsung. I know it says 128MB of RAM over at pdadb.net, but I'm not sure where they got that from and I'd say it's simply their guess.

HarryGlass

June 25, 2009, 12:36 am

Ok, so in practice then the Hero might have nothing over the i7500 except the skin which should be easy enough to procure and stick onto any Android device. I wish they'd just announce the thing on some network I so need a new phone and it's the closest to the "perfect" phone I've yet to see.

PGrGr

June 25, 2009, 2:10 pm

We tech geeks are always waiting. "I'll wait until the next iphone comes out". "I'll wait until the android market achieves maturity". "I'll wait until the samsung i7500" is available". etc. Not to mention "I'll wait until HD is available on a 32 inch tv" and "I'll wait until the price of LED LCD TVs comes down".





As far as phones are concerned, I would like to get a smart phone - I haven't had one before, and the iphone seems to be the Ferrari of the market. The best (for non business users, before I get flamed) but the most expensive. The Hero looks to be great for me, and I'll probably take the plunge with one of these.

Stelph

June 25, 2009, 2:31 pm

Any news on whether the "sense" Touchflo thingy will be released by HTC for the other Android phones like the G1? I guess that if not then some enterprising soul will port it across, would be nice as im tempted to get a 2nd hand G1 to try out Android on a budget.

rav

June 25, 2009, 3:51 pm

@Stelp


I doubt it. At least not officially. From what I understand the G1 and Magic are "Google Experience" phones. I.e. they have the google logo on the back and are the standard Android build. I'm pretty sure the Hero is a non "Google Experience" handset.

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