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Initial Thoughts on my HTC Hero and Android

This is simply a dump of the wave I'm keeping about my HTC Hero and Android in Google Wave. It's not in any particular order.

HTC Hero/Android Thoughts and Observations

I'm just going to post what I think of my phone and the OS, Android. This is the first Android phone I've had and I'm coming from Windows Mobile, so this should be interesting.

Size

I don't know the dimensions exactly, but this is a very, very nice size. It's fits very nicely in my hand and is actually smaller than I expected it to be. It's a tiny bit smaller than an iPhone.

Buttons

This phone actually has the same number of protruding buttons that the iPhone has. The iPhone has the Home, Volume, Silent, and Sleep buttons. This phone has Off/End, Call, Volume, and the Trackball. It also has four non-protruding buttons on the lower face that are Menu, Home, Search, and Back. What's really nice is that all the buttons on the face (including the trackball) light up during use.

Indicators

This phone has two indicator LED's at the top of the phone. My old HTC Mogul had an infuriating behavior of blinking one of these LED's every four seconds as long as it was connected to the cell network. And no way to turn that off. This phone, thankfully, does not do that.

Keyboard

I have been using a physical phone keyboard for so long that this is a tough switch. There is "tactile" feedback in terms of a tiny vibration when you hit a key. The keys on the screen do seem a bit thin, but still very usable. Calibrating the keyboard was a big help. Also, it has taken me several days to make the "switch" from a pressure sensitive screen, ala Windows Mobile, to a solid, glass, capacitive screen. Once this transition was over, my accuracy went way up.

To do a special symbol you have to hold down one of the regular ABC keys and it gives you all the symbols and accents for that letter. I like this style. It's much easier than switching the entire on-screen keyboard to a symbol layout and using that. (Although you can do that if you prefer.)

UI Speed/Lag

Overall the interface is snappy and responsive. I do mis-"click" every so often, but again, I think that's a calibration issue. (It was.) On very long lists, when it first loads, there is sometimes a very slight hiccup or tiny lag if I start trying to throw-scroll right away. A few times I've noticed that when I go to drag, it first thinks I'm clicking and the UI state of what's under my finger changes, but every time it has detected I'm actually dragging and undoes the UI state. Like Windows Mobile, it does not actually initiate the UI action until the "mouse/finger-up" action. This is very good for when I go to click and decide I don't want to. I can just drag my finger away from the control and it will not take action.

I have also noticed that there is occasionally a one to two second UI sluggishness/hiccup when switching to an app that was in the background while Android brings that app to the fore in memory. This is very similar to the exact same lag momentary hiccup/lag you get even on desktop apps when switching to an app that's not currently primary in the memory. I suspect this is simply a matter of multi-tasking in general, as it's not limited to Android or this phone.

Screen

The screen is beautiful. It's 320x480, which on this screen size looks amazing. I don't know where the sensor is, but it has a brightness sensor that auto-adjusts the brightness based on current ambient light (brighter screen in sunlight, dimmer screen indoors). I put a screen protector over the glass of the screen, as I want to keep it nice. The screen is an optics-grade screen with an oleophobic coating like the iPhone. It is not a recessed screen, so applying the screen protector is very easy. It is also a capacitive screen, not a pressure-sensitive screen like most Windows Mobile devices. I like that.

When this screen protector wears out, I will likely not replace it. I tried keying the very top of the glass face (not over the screen, mind you) and no amount of pressure while keying it would scratch the surface. This is a Very Good Thing.

Some people have complained about dust getting underneath the screen. I have not had this issue at all, and I am not careful about keeping my phone in a lint-free pocket. My pockets are nasty sometimes (as yours will be when you have two kids who hand you random crap to hold), and I haven't had a problem.

Home Screen

I need to play with this more, but there is one feature that is so subtle, but so awesome. You can set a background for your home screen, but there are many home screens, actually, much like the iPhone. You sideswipe to get to them, although they are to the left and right of the main home screen, unlike the iPhone. But here's the little detail I like. When you are sideswiping to the left or right, the background moves as well, just exactly as you would expect in a 3D environment if the background were quite a distance away from the screen itself. This is very subtle, but very slick and gives a depth to the home screen that is slick.

Having widgets for the home screens are awesome. It's very easy to sideswipe over to a homescreen and get the most of the functionality of an app without having to load the full app. (Although, when a widget it open, the app itself is actually running, so it takes up the same memory as running the full app. Just keep it in mind.)

Another plus: folders. You can make folders on your home screens. This is great. I have a folder to shove all my games into. Perfect.

Battery

The battery lasts through the day for me. In the first few days this was not the case for two reasons. First, there is a bug with the default Messaging (SMS/MMS) app that causes it to keep your phone in "active" state 100% of the time after you send an SMS message. Second, I love this phone and was playing with it like mad.

Regardless, I will always have lower battery life than most people simply due to the fact that I live in a very low-signal area. This is always bad ju-ju for mobile phone batteries. I may look into getting a signal repeater to handle that, but until then, I just deal with it.

The first battery problem was easily handled by using Google Voice instead of the native Messaging app. Others (who don't use Google Voice) have solved this through a third-party SMS/MMS app that doesn't have this problem.

Google Voice

This phone integrates beautifully with Google Voice. When you have the Google Voice app on your phone, you have the option (which is very easily accessible) to make Google Voice handle either only international calls, no calls, ask you every time you make a call, or handle all calls. I just tell it to handle all calls. This makes it totally seamless for me to use Google Voice with this phone. If I just go to my contacts list and click a person's name to call them, Google Voice automatically intercepts it and makes the call through Google Voice. Same with text messages. This is very, very cool and transparent to me and the people I contact.

Social Media Integration

If you use Flickr, Facebook, YouTube, Picasa, or Twitter, this phone has special, awesome treats in store. The integration of these services into the phone is very slick and seamless.

Contacts

The contacts database is brilliant. The contacts database is actually useful as a contacts database. By this I mean that when I select a contact, I can see their basic information, all texts with that person, all e-mails with that person, and all calls with that person. On top of that, it will also show me their current Facebook status update and their last three status updates, and any events they are signed up for via Facebook. And finally, I can see any Facebook and/or Flickr albums they have available (and it uses their Facebook profile picture as your contacts database picture). This is so seamless and awesome. This is how a contacts database should work.

Camera and Videocamera

The camera is 5 megapixels. For a phone, that is awesome. Here is a sample of a picture taken with my phone. That about says it all.

The video camera is decent. I wouldn't call is spectacular, but it's decent. As with most mobile phone cameras, it suffers with a lot of motion.

As mentioned before, the social media integration is awesome. After I take a picture, with one touch after taking the photo I can upload it to Flickr, Facebook, Picasa, or Twitter, and of course e-mail or MMS. (And YouTube, etc. for videos.)

Oh, and the camera is centered on the back of the phone. This is nice. One thing I don't like is that it doesn't have a flash. This was a nice feature to have on my last phone and it's too bad it's not on this phone.

Browser

It's Chrome for Android. It uses WebKit. So if it loads on an iPhone, it loads the same on Android. That's very nice. As an extra bonus, Flash works. Not Flash video, mind you, but most regular Flash seems to work fine, if a bit slower than you might used to on a desktop. I expect this to improve as Adobe steps up their mobile Flash efforts.

Replies

Thanks for the update! I'll be heading to Best Buy this afternoon to get 2 Heros (Heroes?), one each for my wife and I. Note to anyone who is eligible for a handset upgrade: Best Buy gives you the same price as Sprint, but they handle the rebate internally so you only pay $179.99 out of pocket in the store.

I'm really glad to hear your feedback on performance. It sounds like the biggest performance hit is RAM swapping, and the only hesitation I had in getting this phone was whether the Samsung Moment would be the Hero but lag-free. However, though the Moment's processor is clocked higher at 800mhz, it only has 256MB of RAM compared to the Hero's 288MB so I would expect the swapping to still be an issue. Your feedback on the screen lint issue and the screen key-test is also very encouraging, and I have decided not to use a screen protector which is a scary yet exciting proposition for me.

I switched from 2 SERO lines (one 30, one 50) to a family EPRP 1600 minute plan and yes it was very sad, but now I feel better. :) $109.99 is still a great deal, and this plan has a few extras that the SERO plans did not: Any Mobile, Sprint TV, and Sprint Nav, not to mention leverage when calling Sprint customer support... when I had SERO they didn't care whether I lived or died, but with EPRP they even went so far as moving my handset upgrade date up from 1-Dec to 1-Oct! That was amazingly cool.

Edit: OMG the Samsung Moment looks like it has a USB Micro-B port instead of Mini-A! Weak!
http://www.engadget.com/photos/samsung-moment-unboxed/2382247/
lyrical warfare - Oct 21, 2009 @ 9:33 AM Last Edited: Oct 21, 2009 @ 9:43 AM - Permanent Link
I've been keeping my eye on the hero and Samsung moment too. I like the specs and look of the Moment, but I don't have a lot of faith in Samsung devices, and if you are right about the weird usb port that stinks. It looks like the standard microusb I have seen on other devices, but I still only have miniusb devices, so I can't be sure. I'm going to wait until Nov 1st at least so I can be sure.... I'm not sure if I would base a decision on just the usb port, but to me even the standard micro usb is proprietary since I don't have any of those.
CoolGui - Oct 21, 2009 @ 8:37 PM - Permanent Link
By the way, sprint has this on it's website:

Plans available for Android phones

What do they mean in the section "Open Architecture"? Does this mean it's unlocked for applications? I am not sure why they would need this disclaimer since all their window mobile and palm OS devices have essentially been "open" to any application you want to put on it.
CoolGui - Oct 21, 2009 @ 8:40 PM Last Edited: Oct 22, 2009 @ 8:32 AM - Permanent Link
Got my Hero yesterday, this phone is simply awesome. I have absolutely no regrets switching from SERO to EPRP to get this phone. My only hope is that Android continues to gain popularity, and that Sprint is prompt with Android updates as they roll out.

The reason I decided against the Moment was less RAM and bulky. The Hero is just as sexy as an iPhone.
lyrical warfare - Oct 22, 2009 @ 9:33 AM Last Edited: Oct 22, 2009 @ 11:10 AM - Permanent Link
I've gotten to play with one of these somewhat extensively, and I definitely lust after the hardware... but the metric of "irritation with current phone" compared with "lust for new phone" hasn't quite reached the tipping point yet.

I currently have a Samsung Instinct, and all in all, I've been pretty happy with it. Easily the nicest phone I've ever had - if only the media player actually *worked* with more than a couple hundred megs of files...turns out that, although it has a microSD slot, and you can put an 8GB card in it, if you put more than about 2GB of music on it the player just pukes and dies. Oh, well.

What I *do* have my eye on, though, is the upcoming Android version of the HTC Leo.

We likely won't see it in the states until at least March... but... get this spec sheet:

1Ghz Snapdragon processor
800x480 4.3" capacitive touch screen
320MB RAM / 512MB ROM
5MP camera with dual-LED flash...

Man, I want this phone. Hopefully it's not *too* terribly expensive.

Good tip about going to Best Buy to get your phones, mailing in those rebates is an utter pain.

PS: For those of you who just got a Hero, or have some other Android phone... you gotta check out Layar. Just grab it from the app store, it's free.

Welcome to augmented reality apps on your phone.
Wirehead - Oct 24, 2009 @ 10:29 PM - Permanent Link
Even with the nice specs, I will not buy another windows mobile phone even if it could do the laundry and make meals. At least not until beyond WM6.5 (which I am using on my touch diamond now). 6.5 is an improvement, but it is still miles behind android, iphone or even proprietary OS in terms of usability.... and it seems the changes they are doing now are just hacks on top the same old core. When I switch, I'm done with windows mobile if I can help it.
CoolGui - Oct 28, 2009 @ 10:02 AM - Permanent Link
I'm really glad to hear your feedback on performance. It sounds like the biggest performance hit is RAM swapping, and the only hesitation I had in getting this phone was whether the Samsung Moment would be the Hero but lag-free. However, though the Moment's processor is clocked higher at 800mhz, it only has 256MB of RAM compared to the Hero's 288MB so I would expect the swapping to still be an issue. Your feedback on the screen lint issue and the screen key-test is also very encouraging, and I have decided not to use a screen protector which is a scary yet exciting proposition for me.
robbe - Aug 1, 2010 @ 10:08 PM Last Edited: Aug 5, 2010 @ 9:28 AM - Permanent Link

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