I have spent some time with my HTC Hero and thought it was rtime for a review.
I am on contract with T-Mobile and have unlimited data. You really need a good data plan, even if you have WiFi at home and work. Android loves data. Unfortunately T-Mobile’s coverage is crap.
First the phone itself. The design is generally good, and the “chin” makes a lot of sense when you use it. Build quality is good. The only issues I have are that the the volume buttons are too easy to press when using or fishing the phone out of your pocket, and the ringing volume is not loud enough. The latter would be okay if the vibration was powerful enough, but it isn’t. I sometimes don’t notice it.
Sound quality on calls is good, including the speaker phone. The headphone output is rubbish though. Sound quality is below par and there is constant hiss. It makes listening to audio books at low volume a bit annoying. My old N97 was much better. Still, it is usable and at lest there is a standard socket instead of the stupid Nokia pop-port.
Speaking of standard ports the Hero has mini USB. Even better it mounts the SD card as a standard flash drive. No stupid sync software or special modes required. There is a sync app which is on the SD card and is portable (does not need installing). I have not tried it because it does not work on XP x64.
Battery life is pretty good. I normally charge the phone in the evening and then keep it on overnight. I then have the WiFi on all day at work and when I get home the battery shows almost no drain. Of course these meters are often highly misleading but I have been really pushing it lately and it doesn’t suddenly drop right down like my old ipod does. Even with WiFi a.d GPS on for wardriving it comes well. It is easy to charge over usb.
WiFi deserves a paragraph or two. It generally works pretty well, although roaming could be a boy more aggressive. It seems to struggle with very low signal access points. Seems on a par with other phones though.
The most frustrating thing is that it is such a missed opportunity. Android is based on Linux and so in theory a port of aircrack is possible, but lack of driver support is holding it back. Even if there was just a packet capture app… A slightly better antenna would make a big difference too.
The version of Android on the phone has the HTC Sense skin on it. It isn’t that different from normal Android, the main differences being the home screen and they virtual keyboard. The home screen works well. You can customize five pages of. Mixed apps, widgets and shortcuts. I mostly use Android or downloaded ones rather than the HTC widgets as they are q bit big and flashy.
The keyboard is generally good. Vibration feedback is provided buttons make it less responsive. Prediction seems to be excellent and does not overly favour user dictionary words like my Nokia did. After I sent some DNS settings by text it always put ‘DNS’ instead of ‘for’.
The HTC keyboard is a bit different to the standard Android one. I have not really used the standard one so can’t compare, but I hear the HTC is usually judged favorably against it. It lags a bit with the vibration or sound feedback on which sometimes causes it to think you long-pressed a key when you only tapped it. There is no pound key either – a major omission!
I can type pretty fast one or two handed with it. I wondered about getting a hardware keyboard but I don’t think it would be worth it.
Now, the apps. There are so many fantastic apps, and most are free. You are not limited to the app store either, you can install them from any site or the SD card. Apple recently deleted all the WiFi finding apps from their app store and reject a lot of good stuff like emulators and replacements for the built in ones. None of that nonsense here.
One of the best features is the detailed permission display when installing an app. It tells you exactly what the app is allowed to do. The comments system on the store is also very good, and bad reviews are not censored.
The Google apps are pretty good. You obviously need to have a Google account but you can use POP or IMAP etc. with other providers.
The apps all tie together well. For example your contacts brings together gmail, Facebook, Twitter and more. If you install a file manager it can be used to choose files in other apps. All apps can use the notification system.
I only wish the was a WiFi packet capture app, or even better a port of aircrack.
One of the most useful apps is RMaps. It is similar to The built in Google Maps app but can use offline map data. I downloaded all of they greater Tokyo and surrounding areas so that I can have maps when I don’t have am unlimited data connection. The GPS works pretty well once a fix is acquired but it does help to be stationary at first.