Sprint subscribers/Apple haters, rejoice. Your Hero, literally and figuratively, has — or will — arrive Oct. 11. It's not perfect, but, as modern interpretations of Superman, Spider-Man, Batman, Wolverine, et al. have lately illustrated, what hero is? It's damned close.
I got my hands on a slightly flawed yet gallant Hero, and what follows are my somewhat worshipful opinions.
Hero acts and feels like a slightly smaller multitasking version of the iPhone. Hero's sensitive touch and smooth finger scrolling is the best I've tried since the iPhone. It's got multi-touch capabilities, albeit a little herky-jerky ones, and it offers MS Outlook contact and calendar sync. It does most everything the iPhone does and more, even if Apple has 10 times the apps Android has… at the moment. And the Hero's looks are sophisticated: sleek and cool, admired by men, wanted by women.
Like Motorola on the CLIQ, HTC has used Android as a jumping-off point for creating a broader, more flexible, functional and customizable user interface called HTC Sense. For one thing, you get seven sliding home screens that can display a lot of open apps. Loquaciousness on this topic is restricted by needed brevity, but suffice it to say you'll bask in the luxury of Hero's myriad customizable and operational abilities.
There are also a number of "duh" improvements in some basic apps. For instance, on the home screen is a huge digital clock along with the date and the current weather conditions. Tapping the time takes you to the clock/alarm settings; tapping the weather takes you to a full forecast.
HTC has cleverly combined the phone touch dial pad with your contact list. You can easily toggle from the scrollable list to the dialpad and back again on a single screen, handy when you mistakenly thought you had someone's number. Hero's music player improves, in some ways, on the iPhone's iPod. For instance, you can finger swipe though your music queue forward or back via album covers without leaving song info/touch control screen, while the current song plays on.
Web pages always seem to fit within the screen — and if you pinch-in to zoom, the text reflows again, even if you rotate the Hero from portrait to landscape. And obviously Sprint's superior and swift EV-DO 3G network leaves AT&T's sputtering in its supersonic wake.
The Bad News
Hero does have some feet of clay. It's often slow to snap into action — you touch a function and… you wait. Not long, a second, maybe, but longer than you're used to or you'd expect, long enough to think the touch didn't register, prompting you to impatiently touch again.
Its 5MP camera sounds copious, but pictures are often fuzzy in parts and, with no flash, indoor pictures are almost impossible to snap without shutter motion blur.
The thin keys on the portrait QWERTY, even with haptic feedback, result in recurrent typos.
Hero's vocal qualities are barely average, but then so are iPhone's.
It's got lousy battery life — rated at for hours talk. iPhone veterans know talk time is only a clue to how many times you'll have to recharge during the course of the day. Like the iPhone, which has five hours of talk time, your constant use of your Hero will drain its power much quicker.
For technophobes, Hero's Android-plus UI is a little unfinished around the edges. For instance, when you plug in the USB jack, you then have to tell the phone that you want to "mount" the SD card to transfer and sync instead of the so-called smartphone just knowing or at least prompting you.
Instead of hitting any front-panel control button to wake the sleeping Hero, only the "End" key will work. Smartphone novices will encounter a number of annoying little "How do I do this?" situations.
And Android really, really, REALLY needs an iTunes-like management/syncing program. Really.
But right now, this is Sprint's only Android Hero, and the sum of its abilities far outweigh its occasional encounters with Kryptonite.