The way we use our phone influences how we perceive it and how various things, like battery life, will perform. Just like I did with other phones, I used this one as my main phone to check emails and Facebook updates (a lot) but I replied only moderately. I browsed the web a few times a day to check on news or stock quotes, and I used the map application, at least for a few minutes every other day. I don’t call much (10mn a day?) and I didn’t play games or use any other app very often.
Physical design (very nice)
This HTC Hero (from Sprint) is different from the one found in European countries, although the specifications and most of the user interface is similar. It construction is noticeably better than the MyTouch 3G (HTC Magic) from T-Mobile. Your hand won’t feel like touching plastic, because the back has a faux-leather feel, while the front is either glass or aluminum. It is quite nice to hold in your hand and to use. That said, it is also a little bulkier than the HTC Magic.
Basics (very good)
Phone Settings (easy)
Virtual Keyboard (good)
Left: HTC Hero, right: iPhone 3GS
Left: HTC Magic/MyTouch 3G, middle: HTC Hero (Sprint)
Web Browsing (good+)
Pinch and zoom, even not perfectly executed is much better than the zoom buttons
No Flash support for Hulu, but some Flash games work
that none of the games were actually playable because they were too slow.
Email (very good)
Copy/paste issues: strangely enough, the copy/paste of the HTC Hero does not work like the HTC Magic. For both phones, it is not great and I found it frustrating to copy/paste simple stuff like an email subject. In the email application, moving the trackball tends to send you to links, instead of moving a cursor that would help you copy text content. Copying everything is relatively easy (just keep the finger pressed until the “copy” menu pops), but selecting a subset of text is ridiculously perilous. Honestly, this is not really a deal-breaker, but it is frustrating to see something so basic so poorly implemented.
On another topic, the HTC Hero comes with a PDF reader, which is great for attached .pdf files. I tested it on a few eventbrite receipts and it worked flawlessly.
Security (good enough)
Note that Android does not come with a remote wipe, but you can look at third party apps like Mobile Defense to get that job done. It would be great to have something natively.
Photo and video capture
I’ve uploaded the full-size samples to Ubergizmo’s Flickr account
On the video side, the quality and framerate are average. The Framerate is about 15fps, which is on the low-side. The resolution is low as well: 320×240. In short, the HTC Hero records only 1/4 of the pixel at 1/2 of the framerate when compared to the iPhone 3GS. It’s a bit disappointing for a high-end Android device.
Performance (good, but…)
The HTC Hero performs well. The display reactivity is much better than the HTC Magic. As I’ve noticed with other Android handsets, the phone can become quickly sluggish if you have multiple applications open.
Closing apps is also not a trivial task (All Programs>Settings>Applications>Manage Applications) unless you download something like “Task Killer”, a free utility. Out of the box, and after using it “normally” (email+web browsing…) for a couple of hours, I had about a dozen apps running in the background:
HTCIQagent, Voicemail, SprintTV, TouchInput, Weather, Browser, Gmail, Settings, Calendar, Market, PC Sync, com.htc.provider, Messages, HTC Sense, OMADM and Task Killer.
It’s easy to find yourself with a bunch of apps running
Even after closing unused apps, it still takes a second or two between when I click on an email and when I can actually see its content. It’s not the end of the world, but on my BlackBerry, this step is quasi-instantaneous. The phone works well, but it would be very nice if it could be more reactive.
Music: Music playback very well, and it is possible to search by album, artist, playlist, genre or song. There’s no text-based search, which can come in handy if you really have a lot of songs/albums. Obviously having a normal 3.5mm jack connector is great. I really liked the music player widget that lets me pause/skip the current song from the home page. If I want to see the full player app, I can simply click on the current song, and voila.
Photo gallery: Thanks to the good display, photo slideshows look very good. It is possible to zoom in and out with the (relatively slow) pinch & zoom gesture. However, the speed at which you can flick from one photo to the next, in full screen view, is relatively slow. Fortunately, there’s a “film mode” that makes it much faster and easier to go through a photo album.
Video update: the YouTube player sometimes kicks in “low-quality mode”. If the video quality is really bad, try Menu> More > Watch in High Quality (thx Jeff T.) and if your connection allows, you might get the higher quality stream. The video will then be on par with the MyTouch 3G and iPhone. Mystery solved.
The audio output is done via the phone’s speaker. It’s not great, but next to the image quality issues, it seemed like a mild problem.
A screenshot of the 3GS (left) and HTC Hero playing a YouTube video.
Note that the HTC Magic as a playback quality similar to the 3GS.
Larger image on our photo gallery
network, you might get good results, but due to low network reception, the service doesn’t work in our office next to the Potrero Hill Caltrain station in SF… To be fair, we seem to be in a hard-to-reach spot and T-Mobile’s reception is non-existent here, but with them, we have UMA to compensate for that.
Google Voice is not on the iPhone yet…
USB Mass Storage mode: when you connect to a computer via USB, it is possible to mount the phone as a USB drive. From there, you can import content just like you would do for a camera or an MP3 player. You can also browse the files on the phone. It is simple and efficient.
Temperature: the phone gets warm pretty quickly in the back. I haven’t done anything particularly intensive in the past 20mn, but every single app that I opened since is still alive and running in the background. That’s always a good sign that you should close some programs.
Battery Life (normal)
Just like most smartphones, you will have to charge it on a daily basis. The battery usage varies simply too much to provide a definitive answer. For what I do, it seems no better or worse than other smartphones that I have been using recently.
Things that could be better
Copy/paste: This version is worse than the HTC Magic / MyTouch 3G, needs fixing ASAP.
Performance: This is the most important thing that could make a good phone an excellent phone. Even if the graphics are faster than the MyTouch 3G (HTC Magic), it is still slower than the iPhone 3GS. The phone needs more reactivity overall. Waiting one second to open an email or to get a “reaction” is too long. Also, you have to pay attention to what software is running in the background because they can make the phone somewhat sluggish. I really recommend downloading the TaskKiller app to quickly see what’s going on and shutdown apps. It does impact performance a lot.
Video playback quality: I really hope that the video playback quality will be fixed in a future update.
Video recording quality: The iPhone 3GS can record and compress 8x more pixels per second, there’s clearly some room for improvement here.
Admit it, it looks good…
Inevitable comparison: The HTC Hero is a good phone, but it’s not where the iPhone 3Gs is, in terms of reactivity and speed. On the other hand, the platform is more open. so you might find apps that don’t exist on iPhone. Also, if for some reason you don’t want to have AT&T as a carrier, this is one of the best touch phone that you can get.
*As of today, and on Sprint.com, the HTC Hero goes for $179.99 with a 2-yr contract. The cheapest plan was a 450mn+unlimited data for $70/mo
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