The HTC Hero will be officially launched in the Philippines today (later this evening actually) and I got an early review for those of you who might be interested to grab a unit soon.
The Hero is HTC’s 3rd handset to run Google Android OS (after Dream and Magic). I would think of the Hero as HTC’s fix to the Magic.
Let’s get the specs first out of the way:
Qualcomm MSM7200A 528 MHz
512 ROM, 288 RAM
3.2 inch screen @ 320×480 pixels
WiFi 802.11 b/g
3.5mm audio jack
The HTC Hero’s form factor is a little odd with the bottom part bent crooked inward. In a way, it make sense when you make a phone call since the mic is placed closer to your mouth. On the other hard, I found it hard to get a case for the Hero because of this form factor.
The handset’s build and construction is pretty solid with a combination of brushed metal finish and a smooth rubbery surface (feels like Teflon coating but earlier reports say only the white model has it). Not thin but not too thick (14.4mm) as well — fits snugly with one hand and not that heavy for its size (135g, exactly same weight as the iPhone 3GS).
Aside from having a nice oil-resistant capacitive touch screen, the Hero has a number of physical navigation buttons including a trackball that glows when there’s a new message or alert on the phone. There’s the call button and the end call button that also serves as the power button situated on both ends. There’s the home button and the menu button in the middle. The second row has the plastic trackball at the center, a back button and a special search button.
What actually gives the HTC Hero an edge is the Android OS. You can read about my review of the Google G1 Phone and my impression of the Android OS here. The Hero has version 1.5 pre-installed and got more improvements from the previous version. This one has 7 desktop/panels you can easily switch with a flick of the screen or roll of the trackball — customize each panel to hold shortcuts, widgets and folders (mine has the Calendar, Weather, Home, Twitter and Contacts).
There are a number of HTC Widgets and Android Widgets you can use but I liked the toggle widgets for connectivity as it allows me to turn on or off the settings for 3G, WiFi, GPS and Bluetooth very quickly. It helps save me on data charges and battery life.
With over 10,000 apps in the Android Marketplace, you have access to almost any imaginable application for the phone — a feature that closely competes with Apple’s iTunes Store.
The phone is very responsive and can run multiple applications all at the same time. However, I sometimes notice the handset to slow down when a lot of apps are open or running so the Task Killer widget come in very handy when that happens. The Hero has a 528 MHz (Qualcomm MSM7200A ARM11) processor and 288MB RAM that performs quite well with multi-tasking though I wish they added more RAM.
The touch screen is very good and responsive as well; the oleophobic coating of the screen makes it immune to oily finger fingerprints. Video playback is smooth and clear with very wide viewable angle (around 130-150 degrees IMO). The speakers at the back are a bit small and not loud enough for open playback. You will likely need a pair of earphones most of the time.
While the phone has multi-touch functionality, it is not available on all applications — works on web browsing but not on Google Maps.
The 5-megapixel camera has a nice autofucos feature but does not take photos very well especially on low light or non-stationary subjects. There’s no dedicated camera button and relies on the trackball for that function. Photos are also a little washed-out (and bluish at times) as shown in this sample shot below.
The 1350mAh battery gives me a decent 2 days with casual internet and phone calls but if you turn on WiFi and 3G and leave apps for Twitter, GMail and Facebook open, expect the device to be totally drained by end of the day.
The HTC Hero has its fair share or shortcomings as well — no large internal storage so you have to reply on a microSD card for that (hard to find 16GB around here so I only have an 8GB in place) which means you have to shell out more money, no FM Radio tuner and no front-facing camera for 3G video calls.
Over-all, the HTC Hero performs really well and is the closest (and even better in some areas) to the iPhone in terms of touch implementation performance, usability and added features (the Android Marketplace is a big plus). Bad news is that it’s as expensive as the iPhone. I got my HTC Hero from Hong Kong for $642 and some local stores have been selling them for Php33,900 (pretty close to the prepaid price of the iPhone 3GS).
Update: TJ Manotoc tells me the official suggested retail price of HTC Hero is Php33,999 with a free 2GB microSD card. I ordered a 16GB microSD card from one of the shops in Virramall, Greenhills and they quoted me a price of Php3,800. That means a 16GB HTC Hero can fetch up to Php37,799.