HTC Hero (from an iPhone devotee)

The HTC Hero is an attractive phone, with a large clear screen and a small panel for buttons. While it is an Android phone, it is interestingly not marketed as a Google phone, as the MyTouch is or the first TMobile G1 that came out. What this may mean in terms of how the phone operates is not completely clear to me, the operating system remains the operating system, its running Android Cupcake (yum!) just like the other Android phones (although 1.6,Donut is arriving soon...so. Hmm.)

Image from Slashgear post
I played with the phone a little bit (in between falling dead asleep in my hotel room upon arriving home from work) and coming back in to work the next morning at a healthy hour of 5AM. Things I love: the camera. So clear! SO focused, with beautifully functional autofocus and the ability to capture the grains of color that my cubicle table is made of (what is that, people? Rubber? Plastic? I didn't know the word for it) as well as the numbers in 8 font on the spreadsheet doc I have hanging in front of me. Using the scroll wheel to click and take the picture seemed interesting to me, because of the fact that the scroll wheel wheels around, and wouldn't that affect the picture? The answer is no, no effect at all, so it really only worked as a push button when in camera mode. The cam is a clear 5 mega pixels, which is more than I had in my first digital camera, received for my Sweet 16, and thus, makes me feel like we live in the future now!

I like how the screen transitions are super smooth-- using your finger to flip between screens (which you will have to do, as the phone will tell you you're out of wall real estate once you have a screen full of icons positioned-- no scroll downs, just more walls) rivals the iPhone experience, which is something that can't always be said for multi-touch screen phones that are not brainchildren of Infinite Loop street in Cupertino.

One place I noticed the transitions become to get slow and clunky was in the pictures app. After taking a few unflattering glamour shots (because it was 4 am, not because the camera was sub par) I was flipping through them and the response rate to my inputs decreased very  noticeably. The same thing happened with multi-touch adjustments-- pinch to zoom in or out was almost painfully slow. Why, Hero? I wasn't even running all the apps and widgets simultaneously!

hero

I love certain little interface characteristics  of Android, like the process of creating an app shortcut as an icon on your screen-- you hold down the app in the menu for a bit, until it pops itself off in a very intuitive animation and then guides you with little messages until you've successfully "dropped" it onto your wall, or one of your walls (as real estate goes fast, like I mentioned earlier.)

Boo- worthy aspects of the phone, for me. What the HELL is up with the unlock process? The phone is on, and you want to use it. There are two COMPLETELY unintuitive ways to go about this:

1) Press the "End" button once and then swipe the curve icon DOWN. (Why? What in the world?) 2) Press the flush "Menu" button TWICE. (Why twice? Why not once, or three times, or hold it down?)

Most notable point to be made about the (should-be simple) unlock process is that NONE of the other buttons will make the phone "awaken." You could press them until your face turns  blue, but the phone will remain locked and the screen will remain off, until you press happen across Menu twice (which is how I figured that one out) or you press End once and then swipe across the screen in all directions until it tells you to swipe DOWN, not UP.

Its not disfunctional, to be sure, but its VERY unintuitive, and annoying, especially to an iPhone user (Swipe to Unlock, anyone?) where almost any function of the phone or the interface can be figured out instantaneously with no prior instruction, because it was designed just THAT well.

Call me a fangirl, why don't you.

And there it is! I haven't tested the call quality yet, but in my experience, that has a lot to do with the carrier and Sprint is a strong carrier, generally. (Definitely loads better than my network, AT&T, which is horrifyingly awful, especially when handling-- and failing to handle-- data interactions from the millions of 3G customers fiddling with their iPhones all day).

Verdict*?

Thumbs up!

The HTC Hero is a very pretty, highly functional Android phone on a solid network. The screen resolution, picture and video capabilities, and apps functionality will make it a very strong contender for the upper echelon category of smartphones currently occupied (and in my opinion dominated by) the iPhone, as well as other strong fighters, like certain Blackberries (properly pluralized?), the G1 and MyTouch, and the Pre.

Welcome, Hero!

*Thumbs up image courtesy of free clipart! Woopee!