The HTC Hero is the first Android Smartphone available for Sprint. Apparantly, Sprint didn’t feel that the Open Source operating system from Google was quite adequate enough at first, so they waited for it to grow. The more they waited, the better it got, making their first Android phone one hell of a Smartphone.
I’m coming to the Hero from a BlackBerry Curve 8330, which I loved dearly and still miss on the occasion. The problem was, I was ready for an upgrade. I figured out every trick the BlackBerry could do, and the truth was I got tired of it. I was ready for something new. I thought about getting another BlackBerry, but what good would that do? RIM has refused to update their OS in any major way for over 10 years, meaning I would be getting the same phone inside of a different case.
So, I decided to spend $500 on this phone, the HTC Hero. And dammit, that was an excellent idea.
To clarify real quick, the phone is much cheaper than $500 if you get it with a contract. My damned gadget fetish simply would not permit waiting, so I got it with only a 1-year discount of $75, making the total four hundred and something bucks.
The Hero looks like a lot of other phones from HTC. Rounded edges, dominant touch screen, a series of functional buttons, call and send, and a trackball. When you actually hold the Hero in your hand, however, you’ll start to notice differences almost immediately. It is made of a higher quality material than essentially all HTC Android phones that came before it, and the function buttons are physical buttons behind a soft, brushed metal plate, not haptic touch buttons along the bottom of the screen like, say, the HTC Droid Eris.
The phone feels great in your hand, and at only 4.46 inches tall by 2.2 inches wide by .54 inches thick, it isn’t a burden in your pocket either. That said, it’s certainly not the most compact Android handset out there either, but it uses every inch of its physical make up, meaning it doesn’t feel cheap and plasticy, instead possessing a great weight and exceptionally sturdy design.
The physical buttons I’ve mentioned are call and end, Menu, Search, Home, Back, and the trackball (which is much larger than any phone trackball I’ve ever encountered). These are behind a soft metallic plate on the bottom of the phone that provides nice click when pressed. I do have a few complaints, though nothing more than minor qualms. I really would have preferred the Home and Back buttons to be above the Menu and Search buttons, the trackball could’nt isn’t clicky enough, and the Call and End buttons are just a bit too small. Other physical features include a volume rocker along the left side, an 8mm headphone jack on the top, and a mini USB jack on the bottom.
The biggest attraction of the phone, of course, is the gorgeous touchscreen with multi-touch capabilities. Web browsing is a breeze, sorting through menus works great, and gaming is a blast (though certainly no replacement for a Nintendo DS). A built in light sensor adjusts the phone’s display to make sure you always see the display as best as possible. It works excellent for the most part, but once you get outside in the ultra bright sunshine, it’s going to be quite a challenge to see much of what’s going on.
I’ve had the phone for about two weeks now, and have ran into a few problems with the call quality. I’ve only once connected to a friend to hear them sounding like a strange pedophile robot (as opposed to where they’d normally sound like a strange pedophile), and have yet to hit a dropped call, and call quality is usually outstanding. The problem is, more than a few people have reported calling me multiple times and getting directed straight to my voicemail before giving up and just texting me. These people are all on AT&T, so it could be a problem with their service, or it could be a problem with Sprint. Who ever is to fault, it’s rather obnoxious. Despite this inconvenience, I am very pleased with the overall quality of calls.
The thing that is really most impressive is the sheer amount of stuff the phone can do. It comes stocked with Android 1.5 (soon to be updated to 2.1), which is the most versatile OS on the mobile phone market at this time. Sorry Apple Fags, Android is much more customizable, versatile, and capable than what your iPhone is running. Same goes for you Windows Mobile lovers. All 6 of you. Just about every aspect of the phone can be customized to your liking, and since Android is Open Source, if you learn how to really get under the hood and tinker with things, you can make it do pretty much anything you want.
One of the biggest selling points for buying an HTC Android smartphone over buying one from, say, Samsung, is that HTC Android phones are loaded with HTC Sense, a customized User Interface (UI) that is much more aesthetically pleasing and much more impressive overall than the standard Google Android interface.
Also impressive is the MarketPlace. Somewhere around 40,000 apps, it is a much more viable market than any other mobile app store on the market, which the obvious exception of Apple and their monstrous gajillion or so apps available. But still, 4o,000 is a lot of apps, and if you look hard enough for what you want, chances are you’ll find it.
While the phone is certainly excellent overall, and is easily the best phone I’ve ever owned, I do have a few gripes. The phone can get rather sluggish on occasion, lagging while navigating the home screens or taking upwards of three seconds to open an SMS application. Battery life is no where near what I’m used to, coming to this from a BlackBerry 8330 that would last over two days of regular use. Also, there is no saving of apps to the Micro SD card, which is really a drag as it is easy to run out of room on the phone’s built in memory. The update to Android 2.1 supposedly fixes all of that, though, so we’ll just have to wait and see how that goes.
The general idea among critics is that the HTC Hero is currently the best Android Smartphone money can buy. I’m sure that will remain true up until the HTC Evo 4G, the phone that makes me wish I would have waited a few months longer to upgrade, releases. Dammit, I never win the hardware game.
Anyway, the phone is snappy and responsive for the most part, though the lag and sluggishness becomes very annoying on occasion, there isn’t quite enough memory for all the storage I’d like, the e-mail is laughable when sat next to any BlackBerry, and getting used to the touch screen keyboard is a pain in the ass.
Still, there’s not much else I can complain about. It’s the best phone I’ve ever owned, and it’s one of the best phones currently on the market. HTC Sense UI makes everything better, the 5 MP camera is nice, the trackball comes in useful on occasion, and everything is completely customizable. The only thing that keeps me from recommending this phone is the fact that the HTC Evo 4G is on its way. That phone is a beast.
Score: 9.0/10 (Outstanding)