- Superior voice quality
- Microsoft Exchange support
- 5-megapixel camera
- Finicky on-screen keyboard
The HTC Hero is going to be Sprint’s first model running Google’s Android OS. It will have a tablet shape with an HVGA touchscreen, wireless broadband, and Wi-Fi.
Sprint’s version is similar in many ways to the European version I reviewed recently, but there are some notable differences/improvements in hardware and software.
It will be available from Sprint on October 11 for $180 after a $100 rebate with a new two-year service agreement.
DESIGN & BUILD
The European edition of the HTC Hero has a protruding “chin” on the bottom of the device, while the Sprint version is a standard bar-style phone. I must say that I like this version better; it is simply more pocketable and comfortable to hold. It doesn’t stand out from the crowd so much in an aesthetic sense, but it’s streamlined and modern. It’s roughly the same length as my iPod Touch, but much narrower, and it feels good in the hand. It is heavier than the Touch, but not unbearably so, and feels very solid.
The controls are very minimal indeed. On the left side you’ll find the volume up and down buttons, and that’s it aside from the sync/charge port on the bottom of the phone. There are two very small Call and Disconnect buttons on the front panel, underneath the screen. The first couple of days I had a really hard time with them, because they were just too tiny to hit without really thinking about it, but now I’m not having any issues with them.
The other controls such as Menu, Home, Search, and Back, are pressure sensitive and not actual buttons at all, but I didn’t have any problems with them.
The trackball is larger than the European Hero, and a little looser. My control wasn’t quite as tight and precise as on the other version, but this one is a bit faster to use since there’s more “play” before you have to reposition your finger to keep rolling.
The microSD slot is underneath the back cover of the phone, but thankfully it isn’t hidden under the battery so you can change it out on the go if necessary.
The headphone jack does accept standard headphones, which is great — I really don’t like being forced to purchase a special headset or an adapter just to listen to my music.
The HVGA screen really is the star of the show here, and it’s gorgeous. At 3.2 inches, there’s plenty of real estate to play with here, and the colors are bright and vivid. Video looks great too, without any ghosting issues.
I found it to be very responsive to my touch, requiring only a light press of the fingers instead of heavy duty mashing. It also supports some multi-touch gestures, such as a pinch to make the text larger or smaller when you’re browsing the web.
The virtual keyboard is the one aspect of the HTC Hero that I can’t praise unconditionally. It works, and I like the feedback I get when I touch each key, but I wish that the keys were larger and easier to use. Even after practicing quite a bit, I still need to look at the screen when I’m entering text to make sure that the input is accurate.
I’m sure that if I had more time with the device that would improve, but right now the text entry experience just isn’t as good on the Hero as it is for me on the iPod Touch. It’s better than the virtual keyboard on many other devices, but not a perfect experience.