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Quick Look: HTC Hero, Android Champion

Quick Look: HTC Hero, Android Champion
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Third time's a charm for Android? HTC Hero is the third phone with the Google-made operating system to hit U.S. shores. Our European reviewer likes it.

The Hero As A Phone

Block your ears! The Hero speaker is really quite powerful: 20% volume is enough for normal communication. You’ll also have to get used to the hiss that's hard to ignore once you’ve noticed it. Synchronization of contacts with different mail accounts etc. is very practical, as long as you’re using Gmail and other Google services. Otherwise it’s a lot more complex. Lastly, you’re a bit handicapped by the touch screen as you need to keep your eyes fixed on it when keying a number in.

The Touch range benefited from the nice, light TouchFLO layer with improved easy-of-use and adaptation to Windows Mobile. It therefore seemed a good idea to deal with the Android HTC phones in the same way. This is what the manufacturer has done with the Hero and its very TouchFLO-like “Sense” interface, truly integrated into the OS this time.The HTC Hero will launch in the U.S. on October 11 on Sprint. It will be priced at $180 with a two year service contract. This review refers to the European version of the phone--the U.S. phone is expected to be nearly identical, with the exception of rounded corners, and buttons around the directional pad, rather than above it.

Something of the Blackberry, something of the Touch, something of the Dream

With its teflon anthracite back and brushed aluminum face, the Hero is largely in line with the aesthetic of the second Touch generation. The only exception is the prominent lower area that is reminiscent of the Dream, the first HTC phone based on Android. This, coupled with the teflon back, does wonders for the phone’s multimedia handling, but  is perhaps less practical for
making and receiving calls or slipping into your pocket.

The finish is exemplary compared to what we usually see from HTC. The only downside is the screen that, although supposedly coated to resist finger marks, picks up prints all too easily.

The lower part of the façade has six navigation buttons that allow you to move left, right, up, down, receive a call, display the home, menus, hang up, access search and go back. You’ll also find the trackball, so dear to Blackberry users, essential, adapting itself well to Sense and Android.

Users of the older phones in the Touch range will find the Hero familiar. The influence of TouchFLO is clear to see, but goes further than on phones based on Windows Mobile. Integration with the Android interface is very successful and thankfully the cinema décor feel has been avoided. The same goes for the thumbnails that are more numerous and can be further personalised with the help of widgets. The trackball is well adapted to this type of interface and allows easy, precise navigation through the menus, facilitating the original touch interface.

The length of the phone’s start-up time is however a bit painful. At over a minute, it’s in the same unhappy bracket as Toshiba’s TG01.

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