HTC Hero – the best Android phone, yet! (Part 1)

26 Sep

HTC had launched the Hero earlier this month and we were lucky enough to get our hands on a couple of units to put it through its paces. After having used both the G1 and the Magic, we were expecting HTC to up the stakes a bit and sure enough, they did.

The Hero is the first Android phone to come with the Android Market and Google Mobile Suite in India. It also betters the Magic by having a 3.2 inch capacitive display with multi-touch, a 5.0 MP shooter and overall better industrial design. But the real dealmaker is its software – a user interface (UI) layer called Sense that works on top of Android’s default UI.

HTC claims that the number of its engineers working on Android are second only to Google and we can ‘sense’ that they ain’t fibbing. The new UI that HTC has built is by far the best we have come across on ANY smartphone, including HTC’s own TouchFlo3D that it uses for Windows Mobile devices. The Sense UI provides seven homescreens that can be customised by adding widgets, shortcuts to programs or some unique programs that HTC has built specifically for Android. We fell in love with the some of the clock widgets and even ‘Peep’ which is HTC’s customised Twitter application that also works as a widget. (Peep is currently acting buggy and HTC says that it is working closely with Twitter to resolve it.)

The best thing (and the most difficult one) is that having Sense running on top of the default UI does not make the system sluggish and things keep moving at a fairly decent clip even if there are a few applications running in the background. Needless to say, we are impressed!

The touchscreen is responsive and is the closest in terms of response to the iPhone. Multi-touch works in the album and inside the Internet browser, which HTC has tweaked to support Flash. However, since multi-touch functionality is an added layer, it doesn’t work with apps from Google and other third party sources. Which is a pity, considering the multi-touch experience on Google Maps on the iPhone.

This is the first part of our detailed review of the Hero. Stay tuned in for some live pictures and our opinion of its performance, design and other aspects in multiple installations.

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