Once again challenging the iPhone's reign as the touch screen device of choice for over two years, HTC's new model boasts industrial design and interface usability that makes us weigh our options carefully. For early-adopters looking to differentiate themselves from the iPhone-using masses, the Hero may be the answer.
Three years in the making, HTC's Hero notably adds HTC Sense, the first fully customized version of Google's Android mobile phone operation system. It's a setup that packages powerful capabilities in a distinct design, which alone makes for some impressive competition to the smart phone market.
Featuring an angled bottom and beveled edges, the Hero's contours fit nicely in one hand, offering comfortable access to main navigation buttons with just a thumb. The shape also positions the mouthpiece closer to the mouth when held to the ear. An anti-fingerprint coating prevents screen smudges and the white version includes an industry-first Teflon coating, resulting in a durable white surface that's soft to the touch. For added functionality, the design incorporates a trackball in addition to the touch screen.
The 3.2" HVGA display offers crisp resolution optimized for Web and multimedia content. Hardware features include A-GPS, a digital compass, gravity-sensor, 3.5mm stereo headset jack, five mega-pixel autofocus camera and expandable MicroSD memory.
Some features that stand out include a dedicated search button that provides a contextual search experience—whether it be searching through Twitter, contact lists or emails.
Text reflow is another feature not to be overlooked; zooming in on text automatically reframes the words, eliminating horizontal scrolling. (See the HTC Hero walkthrough video below for a demonstration.)
I also love the fact that you can activate silent mode simply by turning it face down. It's a simple but super useful bonus designed for the way we use our phones.
HTC Sense takes a different approach to usability by aggregating communication channels and applications into a single view. Sense integrates Facebook with the address book and status updates and photos, along with Flickr photos, show up alongside text messages, emails and call history in a single view. It even includes a Twitter module on the home screen. It's all thanks to close partnerships with all three brands to create seamless functionality.
What's more, Hero will ship with support for Adobe Flash technology, promising a more complete web browsing experience. With access to over 5,000 applications in the Android Market and full integration of Google services like Gmail, Calendar and Contacts, being one of the first to get this phone doesn't mean you'll be left unsupported.
In an important ideological move, the HTC provides a way to manage all the connectivity of smartphones. Helping to create a division between work and life, a new profile feature entitled Scenes enables different customized content profiles around specific functions or times. For example, a weekend mode potentially highlights social networking functionality, while burying work email toward the bottom of the user interface.
There's no word yet on price, but we expect it will be comparable to the first Android phone as well as iPhones. HTC Hero will be available throughout Europe in July and in Asia later in the summer. A North American version will be available later this year.