Unlike the iPhone, the Hero only has a minimal amount of built-in memory available for storage, so pretty much all your files have to be stored on microSD cards. In fact, you have to have a microSD card installed for certain functions, such as the camera, to operate. The card slot is under the battery cover, but cards can thankfully be swapped without having to remove the actual battery. The phone ships with a 2GB card, but cards of up to 16GB are supported.
Despite the 3G support, there’s no front-facing camera. However, the rear camera has a decent 5-megapixel resolution and boasts autofocus. Outdoor shots look reasonably good, but indoor shots are less impressive, which isn’t all that surprising as it lacks a flash. The major problem with snaps taken indoors is that colour accuracy is poor leaving you with muted looking colours. Furthermore, the autofocus often struggles to focus properly in lower light. When the camera goes to take a snap, it tends to tighten up the focus and then let it slide just before it takes the shot leaving you with a blurry photo.
There’s no doubting that specs-wise the Hero is definitely an impressive handset. However, as anyone who has used the iPhone will know, sometimes a phone transcends mere specs and luckily, this is also the case with the Hero. In terms of the overall user experience, the Hero is the best Android handset yet and by some margin.
There are a number of reasons for this. First off, a big boon is the presence of multi-touch support that works in a similar way to how it does on the iPhone. Android users have been crying out for this and finally it’s arrived. On the Hero, you can pinch your fingers together on the screen to zoom in and pinch them apart to zoom out on web pages in the browser and pictures in the photo gallery. It works brilliantly and makes the web browser much more intuitive to use. However, one anomaly is that multi-touch zooming isn’t supported in Google Maps. Instead, here you have to rely on the onscreen magnifying glass icons to control the zoom level, which is annoying.
The other big addition is support for Flash in the web browser. However, the Hero doesn’t really fully support Flash. Some Flash content works, but by no means all of it, and that which does work can be a tad slow when displayed within a page – usually things speed up when you double tap on the Flash window to make it go full screen. It’s also very fussy as to what video and audio it’ll play. The YouTube site works fine, but BBC iPlayer streams are displayed with such a low frame rate that they were unwatchable and many other streams that we tried simply told us to update our version of Flash. Still, it works well on most smaller bits of Flash code that you’ll find dotted around websites, and so does help the browser deliver a more desktop like browsing experience than say the iPhone.
And last but not least there are the ‘Sense’ user interface additions that HTC has brought to this version of Android. Basically, HTC has taken some of the best bits of the TouchFlo interface it has been using on its Windows Mobile devices and added them to Android in the form of widgets – small applications that can sit on their own home screen. Previous Android phones included a small number of widgets, but here HTC has added another 14 ranging from a weather widget to one that shows your email inbox, along with a number of switches for turning on and off things like Wi-Fi and GPS.