The Hero is a real threat to the iPhone

There’s a lot to be said for an instrument that reflects the word ‘Hero’ back at you when you turn it on. It’s a great motivator to go out there and be the best you can be. Clearly, the developers at HTC had this word imprinted on their brains when they designed this handset.

The Hero is truly a remarkable piece of technology, and a serious threat to the universal dominance of the iPhone. HTC has spent an enormous amount of time and money on this phone, and their dedication has paid off, both in design and performance.

When it comes to design, the phone is a natural progression of all that has come before, improving incrementally while not straying too far from the elements that really are working. The phone feels solid in the hand, a weighty 135g with battery, and 8 of its 11 centimetres in length are taken up by the touch-screen.

Like most HTC phones, it also features a couple of key controls on the base of the phone. In this instance, Home, Menu, Send and End keys on the one level, plus a dedicated Search key, Back button and scrolling Trackball directly beneath. It’s a functional, and aesthetically pleasing layout.

The most distinctive feature of the phone is the prominent ‘chin’ that juts out at the bottom of the phone. Opinions vary on how it looks, but personally I like the look of it and enjoy how it cradles your cheek when you’re speaking on the phone.

But the real fireworks are saved for what lies beneath, and it is here that the most work has been done. I found myself confused and frustrated by the HTC Tattoo, which promised so much but left it all lying slightly out of reach.

The Operating System (OS) in the Hero has undergone a major overhaul, and two key features stand out. The first is the seamless aggregation of all your contacts’ channels of communication into one place. HTC are calling the user interface ‘The Sense Experience’, and it allows you to combine all the channels that your friends use to communicate and puts them in one place.

It really is nifty and a delight to see your Facebook friends’ profile pictures and information come to life on your phone. This is not a brand-new feature of the Hero, but it is the first phone to really deliver an integrated package that works seamlessly.

The other standout feature of the software is the Android Market app. Research coming out of the United States indicates that phones carrying Android have outsold the iPhone for the first time, which must be immensely pleasing to Google, who developed the Android platform and app store.

There are thousands of applications available for download to the Hero, and they have been neatly divided according to function and popularity. The apps also feature comments from users, which enables you to judge for yourself whether you really need this app as part of your phone.

Of course the Hero is not perfect. Battery life is an issue with the phone, particularly when it is operating at full capacity. Furthermore, while the five megapixel camera takes great quality pictures and allows you to share them easily, the irritating lag in shutter speed means that you often miss the moments that you really would want to share.

Neither of these are deal-breakers though, and are easily forgotten when you consider the sound and image quality, the ease and flexibility of the operating system, the dashing good looks, and the scope of the Android app store.

This phone is a thrilling, engaging tool to own, and a conversation starter that ranks right up there with the ubiquitous iPhone.



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