HTC Hero in-depth review -

Look and feel

A beautiful looking device that comes in a variety of colours. The handset sits nicely in your hand and has lost the plasticy feel that plagued its predecessors.

Ease of use

The Hero is incredibly easy to use, with customisable and well thought-out screens, helpful shortcuts and apps that integrate easily within the operating system.

Features

HTC’s device is preloaded with a significant number of useful apps, but the almost limitless supply of applications on the Android marketplace should keep you busy.

Performance

The best element of the Hero is just how well integrated all the applications are. As a result, the user experience is second to none. The capacitive touch-screen is highly responsive with virtually no lag, while the internet and browser experience is top-notch.

Battery life

Even with the various features and applications using up a lot of power, the battery life was still very good.

The verdict

The HTC Hero has set a precedent for functionality in phones. The user experience is comparable only to the iPhone, it looks good and is cheaper to boot.

 HTC Hero Review -
5

Review by Sunetra Chakravati,12/12/2011 3:55:54 PM

10

out of 10

Performance

10

out of 5

Look and feel

10

out of 5

Ease of use

8

out of 5

Features

8

out of 5

Battery life

Pros:

Syncs perfectly with social networks, excellent internet features, super responsive touch-screen, one-touch access to Android Marketplace.

Cons:

Camera can?t capture night or motion shots; phone may slow down when storage fills up.

After a year of hype, Google has finally kicked some ass in the world of mobile. The HTC Hero is the third phone to run on the search giant’s open source operating system (OS) Android, and it’s easily the best one. HTC’s first Android device, the T-Mobile G1, may not have captured mainstream attention, but the Hero is an incredible internet and media handset that doesn’t just blow its own predecessors out of the water, it stomps all over its competitors too. Add that to the burgeoning applications marketplace for the Android OS, and we can practically hear the rumblings of that vaunted iPhone killer.

Look and feel

First off, the Hero is gorgeous. Our review model was the white version that will be exclusive to T-Mobile, with a pale silver frame. (Orange will have dibs on a graphite version of the handset). Criticism levelled at HTC’s first two Android phones, the T-Mobile G1 and Magic, included the plasticy feel of both devices but the Hero is a classy, compact device that still feels pleasantly weighted in the hand. The curved mouthpiece really works here – it actually looks and feels ergonomic rather than like an unrefined extra as it did in the G1, and to some extent the Magic. This feature also helps protect the touch-screen when it’s in the pocket by minimising any pressure that would cause bending or breaking.

Ease of use

This is easily one of the most intuitive phones we’ve come across, particularly when you take into account what complex features it packs. As is the company’s custom, HTC has skinned the phone its new HTC Sense interface, where you have seven customisable home screens to play with. You can also save your various combinations of shortcuts and widgets as different ‘Scenes’ – essentially much deeper and complicated versions of ringtone profiles. For example, the preset Scenes include Work, where work email and shortcuts to business-oriented programs take pride of place, and Social, where the shortcuts are to text messaging, personal email and entertainment widgets instead.
Don’t freak out though – it’s all surprisingly easy to remember, as there is a ‘Home’ home screen, with three other screens arranged on either side of it. We set our Scene to have Twitter updates, personal email, and calendar to the left of Home, and Favourites and useful apps, last received message and entertainment apps to the right.

The touch-screen is one of the best we’ve come across – responsive with zero lag time. It’s a capacitive one that responds to electrical impulses (rather than pressure) just like the iPhone’s, so feather touches are all it takes to input commands. You can type as fast as if you were typing on a hard keyboard, and the Hero is one of the only phones whose predictive texting follows the iPhone’s extremely intuitive system – word suggestions are based on which keys are near the ones you mistype rather than on approximate spellings. 

Apps are becoming the make-or-break feature and the Hero has one-click access to the Android Marketplace and tonnes of free (and some paid-for) apps. Downloading apps is incredibly straightforward – simply hit install and the app automatically appears in the Programs menu.

Well connected

We were particularly blown away by how well the Hero integrates applications, whether preloaded or downloaded. HTC has been pushing ‘people-centric communication’ in its recent Windows Mobile handsets, but it’s been most refined in the Hero, which comes integrated with Facebook, Twitter and Flickr and will automatically scan your contacts list for matches with friends in these social networks. You can then sync the data; an unprecedented integration that means you can pull up a contact card on your phone, and check out all the info you have with that contact – from texts and emails to the albums they have on Facebook and Flickr.

Then there are the apps, an ever-growing number in the eminently usable Android marketplace. Once apps are installed, they automatically integrate with the appropriate programs. We installed Twidroid, a Twitter client for Android, and when we snapped a photo, we were given the option to send the image directly to it (versus having to attach the file to an email sent through a picture uploader such as Twitpic), along with the usual Facebook, Flickr, Picasa, and email options.

In addition, you’ll get push notifications from all your social networks, plus Gmail and Microsoft Exchange accounts. As expected, the phone is perfectly calibrated for Google programs – the Gmail app is just like it is on desktop and you’ll be able to access all your folders, including Drafts and Trash, plus any custom folders you created. You can sync contacts with your Gmail list and events with Google Calendar; or both with Microsoft Outlook making this a viable phone in the business arena as well.

Internet and sat nav

One of the most hyped features of the Hero is its Flash-enabled browser, something the iPhone hasn’t managed yet. We tested it out with a YouTube video to pleasing results – very little screen stutter and no streaming delay whatsoever. In general, we found internet and the browser to be top-notch – windows are automatically resized, with single taps to hit a hyperlink and multi-touch pincer motions to zoom. This works particularly well with no lag at all. In fact, the browser responds perfectly to touch inputs, to the point that scrolling down even occurs faster the harder you swipe.

Then there’s the digital compass. While the Magic was a great sat nav device, it’s the Hero that really pimps out the excellent Google Maps – now the glowing blue dot that represents you stumbling blindly about the city will have a little arrow indicating which direction you’re going. The assisted GPS (A-GPS) secures a fix in seconds and you’ll have the option to request directions on foot, driving and via public transport. It’s so neat that we’ll never bother figuring it out for ourselves again.

Because we’re picky like that…

The camera is the only mediocre feature. Despite auto-focus and a pumped up five-megapixel lens from 3.2 megapixels in the Magic, there’s still no flash, so the phone is really only capable with well lit, super still shots. You won’t be able to get any kind of motion shot, and forget about low light/night shots – there’s no flash, no mode, and not even a white balance option for ‘night time’.
The phone also has a propensity to slow down as you load it up with apps and messages, though not to annoying levels.

Conclusion

We may have beef with the camera, but it’s easily overshadowed by the incredibly intuitive and easy to use Android operating system. Thanks to excellent syncing between social networks and contact lists, the phone truly acts as a hub for information from the ‘cloud’ (that virtual place where accounts such as Hotmail are stored). The Hero can take on the iPhone 3GS in features and usability, but more importantly, it has marked the gold standard for how phones will function – as a mobile device to access your media, data and friends through the internet.