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HTC, as far as I consider them, is the only asian mobile company that is seriously giving Apple a run for its money. Samsung, LG and other asian phones is no match with what HTC has been doing in terms of hardware design and software R&D (HTC Sense UI). HTC is dealing with 3 O'S’s at the moment – Android (Sense UI skin), Windows Mobile 6.5 (Sense UI Skin) and Brew Mobile Platform. They are also going to fully support Windows Phone 7 Series.
They are so good that even Google allied with them to produce the Nexus One (a.k.a Google Phone) which prompted Apple to sue them over patents. Should Apple be threatened? is it an iPhone killer? My impressions and my part 1 review after the jump. (Warning: It’s gonna be a long read)
Why Android? HTC Hero?
First of all, I came from a Nokia E61i (Symbian) before shifting to Hero and Android. For me, E61i was the best qwerty phone during it’s reign or before E71 took over. I have been using the E61i for over 3 years and it has grown annoyingly slow for whatever reason. So I decided to upgrade to the newest model which was E72 but felt that the Symbian operating system was still the same. Yes, it would be faster with 600MHz, but the experience would still be the same.
I know Windows Mobile would be out of the question because of it’s known sluggishness. I might have considered WP7S had I known about it before hand. The Palm Pre was my favorite choice but it’s not available anywhere locally. The iPhone on the other hand had no multitasking and was too expensive.
What was left was Android and HTC no doubt has the best Android handsets in the market today. See HTC Evo. Also, I got the Hero at the same price as my E61i. A sweet deal that was to good to pass.
My Hero didn’t come with the Android Marketplace icon. I wondered why and found out that the Hero I bought was among the countries wherein the Marketplace is intentionally disabled, similar to the way the Zune Marketplace is disabled outside the US. One thing I can do to bypass it would be to root the phone but I don’t want to do it now, not yet anyway.
I searched and found apps along the way, without the need for the Android Marketplace. I used the HTC Sync software to sync stuff and install applications using my PC to the phone. No problem with that.
HTC Sense UI
This is what differentiates HTC from other Android manufacturers. They went into all the trouble and really spent money on researching and developing this very intuitive skin interface called Sense UI. I was actually considering the Google Nexus One at first but when I realized it had stock Android (or Google’s UI) rather than HTC’s own Sense UI, I was discouraged.
Having used the iPod Touch, Zune HD interfaces. Sense UI offers another way to navigate icons and information with the use of widgets and notifications. I love the UI and the ability to run multiple applications simultaneously.
The used of screens and widgets makes accessing applications quicker and easier. The only problem with the Android OS is that once you exit the application, it doesn’t actually closes it. The app still runs on the background taking up free memory that in the long run bogs down the phone. Luckily, there is an app for that. Advanced Task Killer. Free.
Hardware & Software
The specs of the HTC Hero are as follows: Qualcomm 538MHz proc, 5 megapixel camera, trackball, 3.2” capacitive touch screen with 320x480 HVGA resolution plus commong smart phone features like Bluetooth (some rant here later), WiFi, MicroSD slot and accelerometer they call G-Sensor.
Compared to the iPod Touch 2G, the Hero’s display is excellent and more vibrant. One thing though is that the Hero has only 3.2” real estate compared to iPod Touch’s 3.5”. The smaller screen makes texting on the virtual keyboard feel crampy. If that’s the problem, you can always rotate to landscape mode to get a larger keyboard.
You can actually change keyboard layouts from Qwerty, Phone Keypad and Compact Qwerty.
The physical buttons on the Hero is a welcome addition specially the dedicated search button that works on Contacts, Internet, and in almost all built-in apps. The Trackball also is helpful in editing texts because it acts like the arrow keys on a keyboard. It also glows on calls, texts and emails.
Voice calls and the internal speaker was adequate and performed as expected.
SMS and MMS
Text messages are compiled by contact conversations “chat-like” style which is great if you need to see what you previously typed. For more flexibilty, there is a free 3rd party app called Handcent SMS which provides more personalization features and support for customized notifications.
Unlike my old E61i wherein you could just text SMART a piece of code and they will send you an MMS configuration setting over-the-air. The HTC Hero (or SMART)doesn’t have that feature. I tried various settings found on forums, blogs and even from SMART Customer Care itself, and still couldn’t get this MMS thing to work until I asked a generous HTC Magic user on TipidPC for his settings. I still had problems receiving but after some experiments and tweaking I was able to find a stable configuration that I would like to share to others plagued by this
Working HTC Hero 3G Internet and MMS setting for SMART:
If you’re looking for a good 5-megapixel camera, then look somewhere else. HTC Hero’s camera doesn’t live up to my expectations. Mildly shaking the phone while shooting results in blurry photos even with autofocus (this doesn’t happen to me on E61i). I’d have to say that the camera is usable only on daytime and outdoor shots. Best if you have steady hands and subject. Regarding shaky hands and subject? Again, there’s an app for that. Fast Camera. Free
Still, the camera does what’s it’s supposed to do, shoot picture and record videos. The quality is not that bad, but not that good either.
Shot using free FXCamera app. It’s a great app for shooting photos with effects like ToyCam, Polaroid, FishEye, Mirror, etc... It takes better pics than Hero’s built-in camera in my opinion.
Apps on Part 2
There are tons of great apps for the Android OS. Will highlight some of the best ones on a Part 2 post..
Part 1: Conclusion
So far, phone is looking good. I’m not experiencing any serious lag issues that people are complaining about. Aside from the MMS and battery problem (on the part 2 post), I don’t have any complaints with this phone. I’m pretty sure the coming 2.1 update will be even more stable than the current firmware. Still getting my feet wet on Android actually so if you have any questions? Feel free to ask.