Saturday, 14 November 2009

HTC Hero with Android

During summer 2009 I had the chance to compare Apple's iPhone side by side to the then new HTC Hero runing Android. After reading so many positive articles I was curious.

Disappointing at first

The HTC Hero comes with a refurbished Android theme. Compared to the rather clumsy looking original, HTC's Sense theme is looks decent. But this is where my first impression left the enthusiastic path. Compared to the iPhone the HTC was no hero at all. It was slow, text entry was cumbersome and full of recognition errors. So I did not buy it then.

Coverage in the media suggested, this was just a problem with preliminary models.

10.000 apps available .. where?

I read this article comparing AppStore to the Android Market. Apple was supposed to offer well around 100.000 apps. Google claims to have more than 10.000's of apps in it's Market Place.

Let's face it: Neither has Apple any more than say 300+ apps that are worth mentioning nore has Google anything more than around 100. You get easily overwhelmed by round robin lists, betas, free evaluation copies and some me2 development templates. But this is nothing I would call a usefull app (please refrain from flaming me on this, I would hate to censor your comments. I do look forward to discussion though).

Second looks

So, why do I comment on Android, HTC and mobile Phones here?

I do see a huge potential in mobile communication. The iPhone currently is the linea ultima in mobile communication and personal assistance. Windows mobile never was a direct competitor but Google's Android has the potential to be a serious contender.

While Apple uses a strict policy of control, Google offers a more open approach. Developers are encouraged to develope for Android, there are several SDK's, plugins for IDE's (ok, I have my personal opinion about Eclipse) and offers lots of documentation and sample code.

All this makes it an opportunity for innovative solutions and development.

Where we are

While it is easy to geting started, most of this sample code enters Market Place by just being renamed (there are approximately 8 notepad apps derived from Googles Notepad app and only Googles version syncs with GDocs). This is unfortunate and tends to scare people away.

To prevent poor apps to be swamping the market place, Google offers a rating system from 0 to 5 stars. It might sound like a good idea, only the fittest apps will survive. Unfortunately the rating is slightly missleading. Personally I could not relate attributed stars to the quality of the program. I found some apps that were rated 5 stars and the comments suggested that the app crashes (which it did on my phone as well).

True Lies

Here are some myths about the HTC Hero:
  • The HTC Hero has a specially coated touch screen, that makes it look less smeared as other touch screens:
    The HTC Hero will have a special coating after 5 minutes of use. Before that, I can see nothing special about it.
  • The HTC Hero has a scrath proof screen:
    Mine hasn't. Mine had some scratches after 2 days of use (my Motorola RAZR v3 does not have any scratches after 3 years of use)
  • The HTC Hero comes with its own Interface, HTC Sense. It is vastly improved performance-wise:
    HTC Sense is a theme. It improves the looks of the shabby Android Interface a lot. Other than that, it does nothing.
  • The HTC Hero's battery can last more than a week:
    I presume it will if you don't operate it. I have to reload it every other day
Here are some nice features (and immediately remedied):
  • The interface lets you operate the phone with intuitive on screen operations:
    However, not all apps support widget presses to open option menus. Sometimes you have to use the menu key. This might be anoying, because some usefull apps only have keyed menus.
  • Sense has a beatiful, iPhone like date and time selector:
    Well, Sense does, Android does not. I do not know, why some apps have the nice scroll selector, others you have to type + and - signs.
  • I like the Market Place. One can easily purchase apps:
    This was quite a surprise and is a definite positive: I purchased Scan2PDF which I had a free version that embeds watermarks in the PDF. Purchase was straightforward. Entered my credit card, accepted the fee and download started.
    (OK I even found something here: the free version was not removed from the phone, I had to do that manually. There is no security to prevent you from deleting what you just purchased. I also don't know, how to redownload the app in case I reset my phone).
  • The phone comes with headset, a nice box and small power supply.
  • The phone can be charged with a universal USB cable (with micro USB connector at the phone end).
  • The headset jack is a standard jack. One can use any headset they want.
  • ROM 1.6 is significantly faster and more accurate than 1.5. I look forward to 2.0:
    (the original ROM from Google cannot be installed, one is required to get a ROM from HTC).
Do I regret?

Giving the potential that lies within Android, I do not regret having purchased the Hero (speech quality is clear, reception good, quality of mp3 acceptable). Some functionality is still not as one would expect. The phone app cannot be adjusted to personal preferences (which I would actually expect on a mobile phone). Mail services are not integrated (there are seperate apps for GMail, IMAP and SMS).

I still think that the tight integration in Googles online services is something to be aware of (I found my contacts in my Google calendar which I never used before). I still have not decided whether to use Google Docs, calendar and other services more intensly. It would make the phone more versatile.

My recommendation: Have a look, take a test drive and don't believe what most people say about Android (or the Hero). It's pretty beta out there.


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Anonymous said...

How about an update status March 2010?

Anonymous said...

Just got a new HTC hero which is vastly improved but still has its glitches....WiFi capability is acceptable and will save big$$$ on data usage however as soon as the phone sleeps it automaticlly disables WiFi...I rippedy through most of my data in a week just from my hero being tied to mail accounts and switching to mobile I have my phone display set to ' never dim' which rips through batteries but is better than 5 gb of data every month....its a very bandwidth hungry well The mp3 interface is ok but doesn't compare to.the iPhone and I am a little disappointed with only 2 gb of storage....except for syncing the phone it works faster and easier with ubuntu 10.04 than with windows 7.... of course