At last the phone we've been waiting for has finally arrived. The HTC Hero (advertised as the HTC Hero Graphite by Orange and G2 Touch by T-Mobile) has emerged blinking into the light, complete with the new Sense UI, to unleash a smackdown on the iPhone 3GS and the Palm Pre. Android upgraded, this is the most powerful Google OS phone yet.
UPDATE: We've installed the new firmware on the HTC Hero, and it promises to fix a lot of the problems we've spoken about in the review. Check out our updated findings to see if it makes the step up.
If there's one thing you can say about HTC it's that when it announces a phone, the launch is typically not that far behind, and it's achieved that with the Hero, coming weeks after the announcement, in a similar way to the HTC Magic, its second Android phone.
It's not actually a Google phone as such, as it's not branded and co-designed by the big G. But it still has all the Android hallmarks, and then adds a whole new dimension with the Sense UI from HTC.
In the UK, T-Mobile is set to re-badge the HTC Hero as the T-Mobile G2 Touch, but don't worry, it's still the Hero. It's just T-Mobile renaming it for their own promotional purposes.
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The overall look of the device is a bit Marmite-esque. The jutting lip and functional appearance certainly won't see it winning any style awards, but at the same time it's well laid out and fits comfortably in the hand, with the extra coating on the back making it harder for it to slip to the ground.
The seven buttons on the lip (including trackball) are swiftly becoming recognisable as the 'Android' set, thanks to HTC dominating the OS early on. The power key is again on the Terminate button, which also serves as a sleep button.
This can get a little annoying as the default action for most is to press this to end an application, but you do soon get used to hitting the Home key instead.
We love the fact that Android's use of the menu and search keys will bring up different options in different home screens, meaning the user quickly feels at home even in new and alien applications.
There's no front facing camera on this phone, something that's becoming increasingly popular on today's mobile phones as the public realises video calling is really no fun at all, and mobile networks realise there's more money to be made in mobile broadband than sending moving pictures of someone's face.
The rest of the design is thoroughly minimalist, with only a (rather easy to accidentally hit) up and down key in one single block on the left hand side. This means there's no dedicated camera key - rather you have to click the trackball to take a picture.
In the box
We were given the basic box to review the phone with, so we can't know for sure if we got all the pieces you'd expect from the final retail unit.
However, given how minimalist the contents of the HTC Magic were we can only assume that the same is true for the HTC Hero. There's a USB cable, a connector to turn this into a plug, a UK adaptor, the phone itself and some headphones with music controls/hands free kit. Not the biggest booty in the box, but nice and functional (and fairly well aping what you can find in an iPhone kit too).
The headphones aren't of the best quality, as they're not even in the ear buds, but they do control the music well with the forward and back buttons halfway along, and are a good length.