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Wednesday
Aug052009

HTC Hero - Android Goodness - The Full Review

For my regular readers, you will have already seen my video footage of the HTC Hero. It was a fun time, to finally try and give up my iPhone for an alternative platform. For all of you who haven't seen the video footage, you will find it on my YouTube Channel or throughout this review.


To kick things off, I must say that I was very impressed with the build quality. This is a sleek mobile phone, with a distinct angle near the microphone and of the unit. People cutely refer to this as 'the chin'. The design is an acquired taste, but I think that most people will find it endearing. The size is also very nice. Although not much smaller than an iPhone, it has some nice bevels and curves, so feels a lot smaller, and dare I say it 'more mobile phone-like'. This is also down to the slightly smaller 3.2-inch (320x480) screen. However, this sort of size is ideal for general use and also looks very good for web and movie browsing too. In the box you get a handsfree kit, USB cable, wall charger, quickstart guide and the Hero itself. We were lucky enough to get sent a white unlocked version from Clove Technology. This has an ultra smooth finish with a teflon coating (the white is the only colour to have this). The special coating is meant to repel greasy fingerprints... in my tests it certainly did.

 

Out of the box, setting up the Hero is very simple. This handset runs on the Google Android platform. As such it is very friendly to you, if you use Google's services, such as Gmail. Luckily I do, so tapping in my account settings had me up and running with my email in about 90 seconds. To say I was impressed with the ease of this initial setup is an understatement.

How this differs from other Android based handsets is the user interface (UI). The manufacturer (HTC) have developed an overlay UI called 'Sense'. Basically, this makes everything look nicely designed, all the screens match and you get a nice funky keyboard too. They also developed their own Twitter application, so at setup stage you are also prompted for your Twitter account. You can leave this for later on, but I popped in my details and it all went swimmingly well.

With the Hero up and running, you are presented with your home screen. Swiping ones finger across the screen reveals a further six screens, so that's seven in total, that can be customised. You can put shortcuts to applications, plus a whole load of widgets. Widgets are like tiny applications, for things like the weather, clocks, music, Twitter, etc. What makes this a pretty astonishing achievement is that they all 'live update'. So, flicking you finger across to your email widget, shows you your latest emails. The speed of the Hero is pretty good. With a small amount of widgets, there is hardly any lag. If you fill up every screen with a live widget, then you will notice some slowdown. Having said that, any phone that is running loads of processes will exhibit this too.
The internet is really nice to use, with HTC tweaking the standard browser. You get great performance, support for flash (albeit not 100% of flash works, maybe 90%). Plus you get multi-touch. So you can pinch and zoom your way around the internet in style.

 

The camera on this baby is a 5-megapixel offering. There is no flash, but it performs pretty well without it. Very low light situations will mean you get grainy pics. In room light the camera performs great, with good detail. Outdoors it produces well exposed photos, that are very colourful too. Video is not so good, mainly due to the low resolution, but how often are you really going to use it for video? At first (and I mention this is in the video), I was not a great fan of the one-push photo taking. You don't push down halfway with the trackball to focus, then the rest of the way to take the photo, as you would expect. It is all in one action. You push, the focus then locks on and the Hero takes the photo, all in one action. The reason I did not like this at first is because of my passion for photography. It just didn't feel natural. However, now I have got used to the idea, it makes sense. You can hold the mobile more steadily, without fiddling with the buttons to much. A firm push on the trackball and the Hero does its job.

I mentioned the widgets earlier in my review. Well, there really are loads. HTC have done a wonderful job in making the Hero stand out from the crowd. The weather widgets look wonderful. The music widget also looks great and performs well too. I won't list them all here, check out the fourth part of my video coverage below to see what the Sense UI has to offer.

Should Apple be worried? With so many people going the iPhone way, I don't think that they should panic. However, they definitely need to listen up. The iPhone OS is elegant and fluid, but when you sit down and think about it, maybe it is too simple. You brush your finger across pages and pages of icons. That's it, they are just icons. To check your email, you need to touch an icon. When you have finished, you need to come back to the home screen. Then to check your Twitter, another icon... finger cramp could soon ensue. With the HTC Hero, you have all of this information on your home screens. Swipe your finger to another screen and the information for your emails, tweets, weather, bookmarks and music is instantly there.
A lot of people rightly state that the App Store is fantastic. So many free applications and games, easily accessed, easily installed. Some paid apps are pretty cool too. Whilst this is true, the 'Android Market' offers a superb collection of freebies and paid for applications already. Give it another six months and I think it will really excel. Searching, downloading and installing things is so so easy. So this argument doesn't stand.
The HTC Hero is an excellent mobile phone. It offers great build quality and design. The user interface works fine if you don't overload it. The Android platform is quite frankly superb. If you need a smartphone for your emails, internet and social networking, the Hero is highly recommended.
Price: £391
Supplied by: Clove Technology
Contact: 01202 552936

 

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