While American consumers are eagerly awaiting HTC’s second Android phone(myTouch 3G), the company’s third phone the Hero is launching overseas. The internals are almost identical to the myTouch 3G, but the phone sports an updated casing design and comes loaded with the new HTC Sense user interface.
We thought we would take a look at the early reviews since US customers won’t be able to purchase the phone for awhile. T-Mobile recently mentioned at their New York press conference that they would not be launching the Hero, but another carrier like AT&T could pick up the device.
It’s clear this is the best Android phone yet (we know that’s not hard to do given there’s only three, but this is a big improvement over the Magic).
However, there were lows, and some of them were pretty deep indeed. The 528MHz processor doesn’t seem to be grunty enough to power all the multi-tasking the phone needs to do.
The camera quality was also laughable, both in terms of video recording and photography.
In one sense the Hero is “just another Android phone”; in another sense, it’s an entirely new direction for HTC and the platform.
In general the Sense UI is a triumph. It’s that good. They’ve made Android amazingly usable and that’s quite exciting.
The Hero is well-designed, usable, and powerful. The OS and UI combo is almost perfect and the future is bright for the phones running Sense.
Up top there’s a welcome addition to an HTC Android device, in the shape of a 3.5mm headphones socket, while on the base there’s the company’s own ExtUSB port (which is compatible with standard mini-USB).
What elevates People above and beyond the standard Android address book is its integration with Facebook and Flickr. By entering your login details for one or both, People automatically tries to match up contacts you have on those networks with entries in your address book.
Android’s flexibility is, arguably, one of its biggest stumbling blocks; out of the box there’s little to guide a new owner through the platform’s capabilities. By introducing Sense, however, HTC have made the Hero instantly usable, and they’ve done so not with the bare minimum of app investment but with a range of programs that offer up-to-date functionality like social network integration.
The HTC Hero is as much a champion for HTC as it is for Android: It’s the first genuinely gorgeous piece of hardware running Android, and the Sense UI is the most ambitious, polished software HTC has developed yet.
The Hero is flawed, though, in ways that are truly depressing in light of its potential and how much it does get truly right: It’s often sluggish, which absolutely destroys the user experience.
HTC’s done a fairly remarkable job transforming Android’s rough surface into something slick and glossy and palatable while integrating social networking features that go beyond any phone but the Pre.
While its predecessors ran Google’s mobile OS in its barebones form, the Hero glosses it with HTC’s new ‘Sense’ UI, adds multi-touch support and brings a strong feature set that includes a 5MP camera. The result is the closest thing we’ve seen to an iPhone-beating experience.
Support for multi-touch ‘pinch to zoom’ gestures is also welcome, with our only quibble being that scrolling around web pages isn’t quite iPhone-smooth (though again this may be pre-production cobwebs).
With a battery life that’s not class-leading but certainly adequate (we got a day and half from moderate use) all that remains is for Android’s Marketplace to fill up its shelves with more compelling apps.
Overall, it looks like the Hero is getting positive reviews. Some have criticized the phone for its sluggish performance, but I expect this to be resolved by future software updates. The new Sense UI looks to be a smash hit, which is good news for Android phones as it is likely to appear on other devices. HTC has raised the bar for the Android platform and it will be interesting to see how Motorola and Sony Ericsson respond later this year with their custom versions of Android.