UPDATED: We're very impressed with the way HTC has fixed a huge number of the problems which bugged us on both the Orange and the T-Mobile versions of the Hero / G2 Touch.
Essentially most of the lag has disappeared from the early model we had, and the experience is very smooth now, with a couple of minor exceptions.
And there's still more to come - Android 1.6 (Donut) will be dropping in the near future, meaning some fundamental changes as well, with elements like shutter speed on the camera heavily improved.
We'll be re-re-reviewing some of the top Android devices when this hits, so check back again when the new version finally arrives.
There's a lot to like about the HTC Hero. A lot. Be it the multiple home screens, the option to change scenes to suit the time of day, the Facebook integration or even the responsive touchscreen.
It's clear this is the best Android phone yet (we know that's not hard to do given there's only three, but this is a big improvement over the Magic).
The Android system is still as easy to use as ever, and the customisation available on each home screen is amazing, with easy dragging and dropping of icons into the bin should you want to remove them.
Call quality is good, the Android Market is easily the second best application portal on the market at the moment, and the overall feel of the device was nice and not too dinky. Overall, the highs hit were pretty high indeed.
However, there were lows to talk about as well, although they are now more minor than they were prior to release. The weather lag is a bit of a disappointment, and there are some glitches in things like scrolling through messages, with some disappearing for a short time sporadically.
The camera quality was also laughable, both in terms of video recording and photography. We know HTC isn't the biggest name in this market, but simply whacking on a 5MP sensor and then not following it up with some decent optics or image processing software is a bit of a cop-out.
We wanted to love the HTC Hero so much, as it sounded like a real alternative to the iPhone (and we need a few more of those).
And for the most part it is. As we picked up the phone, we quickly got excited by the likes of Facebook integration and being able to stock our home screen(s) with a million different options.
And in terms of overall slickness it's now very close to the iPhone. It's wrong how nearly every touchscreen on the market is compared to Apple's device, as most aren't aiming to be the same thing, but the HTC Hero is clearly a competitor, and it competes very well.
The media experience isn't good enough, being a little bit too basic and the video playback isn't enough for us.
However, don't get us wrong, this is a great phone and pleasingly, the firmware updates has sorted many of the problems we first encountered.
It's good enough for us to raise the HTC Hero / G2 Touch up to the level of the iPhone - we know some will disagree with the notion, but for us it's the best anti-iPhone option on the market, as shown by the slew of awards it's garnered in recent months.
We're expecting a greater number of Android phones this year with more from HTC and the Sense UI, so it's even better than we can expect improved handsets, and the next one could just be the bullet that shatters the Apple.
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