- Great display
- Very fast response
- Well integrated with Google, Facebook, and Flickr
- Exchange ActiveSync support
- GSM version's "chin"
- GSM version lacks U.S. 3G
The HTC Hero is an Android-based device that offers tight integration with Google and social networking sites such as Facebook and Flickr, but also works with Exchange ActiveSync.
It also has all of the standard features such as Wi-Fi and Bluetooth, as well as a 5 megapixel camera with video capture.
It is currently available in the U.S. only as an unlocked GSM phone from eXpansys. It’s a joy to use, but it comes with a hefty pricetag since there’s no carrier subsidy. However, Sprint is going to release a version of this phone next month, for less money down. Still, the unlocked version is the only option for AT&T and T-Mobile customers.
BUILD & DESIGN
The Hero comes in two versions, and these have different designs. My review unit is the unlocked GSM one.
The first thing you’ll notice about this version of the Hero is that it’s quite different in design from the typical smartphone. The one I have is white, with a matte finish and silver accents. It’s also available in black.
There are very few buttons, and all of them are located below the screen. A trackball centers the lower portion of the device, and the bottom is actually “bent” upward like an actual phone.
In some ways it’s kinda awkward, like when you put the phone in your pocket and it doesn’t lay flat, but in other ways it’s quite nice. Not only does that little bend set your phone apart, so it isn’t as much of a cookie cutter device, but it also angles the microphone towards your mouth for better sound quality (and it lessens my tendency to talk way too loud, as I usually do when conversing on a mobile phone).
There are volume controls on the left side of the device, but since they’re made out of the same matte white plastic as the back of the phone, it took me quite a while to figure out they’re there. Now that I’ve figured it out, I like the minimal effect — it’s obvious that the designers wanted to create a device that was both attractive and functional.
The microSD slot and the SIM card slot are both located under the back cover of the device, with the SIM card slot underneath the battery.
The Sprint version of the Hero has corners are more curved, and it lacks the bend (see here). These differences are really just on the surface, and the two versions are otherwise identical.
The screen measures 3.2 inches and runs at 320 by 480 pixel (HVGA) resolution. In practice I found it to be extremely bright and clear when used inside, and still readable outside in direct sunlight, though of course it washes out a bit under those conditions.
Photos and videos look very good, especially in full screen mode. I didn’t notice any major lag or ghosting issues at all.
The Hero doesn’t have a physical QWERTY keyboard, but it does have a rather nice virtual one. The keys are fairly large, and while I had a few issues with hitting the right key in the beginning, practice has helped quite a bit.
Numbers and punctuation are accessed by tapping a key at the bottom of the screen, to the right of the space bar.
My only complaint about the virtual keyboard is that the spacebar needs to be larger, as I found it to be the hardest key to hit consistently during my testing.