All Articles

HTC Hero Review

I’ve had my Hero since the week they came out in the UK, but I’ve been waiting until the new firmware (v2.7) was available to do a review and I’m glad I did. Initially I was somewhat disappointed with the lag on flipping through the home screens and the feeling that the hardware was struggling to cope with all the fairydust HTC have sprinkled on the UI, but the new firmware is like night and day. After the update everything is slick and speedy. Believe me, if you have a Hero or are planning on getting one make the next thing you do to upgrade the firmware. Similarly if you were thinking about picking one up but were put off by the pasting some reviewers gave it for being slow then give it a second look.


Internally the Hero has the same memory and processor as the HTC G1 and G2, but externally it’s a far tidier more professional package and makes the earlier phones look like the development prototypes that they essentially are. Unlike the version due to be released in the US it still has the chin which a lot of people don’t seem to like however it does have the effect of holding the touch screen out of contact with the contents of your pocket which is a plus.

The phone also boasts a 3.5mm jack and an impressive 5MP camera.

The battery life is pretty reasonable although you will probably want
to charge it overnight. I generally leave the Wi-Fi on all the time and
even when spending the day listening to music and synchronising
hundreds of megs of music over Wi-Fi with Spotify it didn’t give out on me.

One black mark is the non standard USB jack, What’s that all about? The Mini B exists, why reinvent the wheel?


This is a review of the Hero rather than the Android phone OS so I’m going to concentrate on the changes HTC have made. The most significant updates are the addition of multi-touch for photos and web browsing which I couldn’t imagine doing without and the excellent social network integration which links your contacts to their Facebook profiles and provides you with a rather nifty Twitter widget. In addition to that you get some useful buttons which let you turn Bluetooth and Wi-Fi on and off with one click and lots of UI sugar sprinkled all over the place.

One thing which I love is the ability to have your contacts pulled in from google meaning no painful exporting from SIM or syncing with some rubbish bit of software (I’m looking at you PC suite)

I guess if you are reading this the question you want to know the answer to is should I buy this phone rather than any of the other mobiles on the market?

In the course of my job I’ve played with a stack of mobile phones so I’ll offer a couple of thoughts on the subject.

Hero vs Other Android Phones

The most obvious competitors for the Hero are the existing Android handsets on the market having played with the two previous HTC devices I would say there is no competition. The Hero is much slicker device and you would be missing out on the 3.5mm, camera and sense UI improvements. If you must have a hardware keyboard then you may want to hold out for the Samsung Galaxy or the Moto Cliq neither of which I have tried.

Hero vs The Old Guard

First up the Hero is a pretty pricey phone and if all you really want to do is make a few calls and write some text messages then my vote would be for an inexpensive Samsung slider especially as an iPod touch is only £150 and makes up for most of what you would be missing out on, but if a smart phone is where it’s at there is nothing on the market that can compete with Android outside of the iPhone.

Having tried a variety of Symbian phones they range from the mediocre to appalling but all seem like they belong to a previous generation. The same goes for the dreadful WinMo. e-mail junkies love their Blackberries, but they really are more oriented to business and the consumer focused ones don’t do much for me. Maemo phones and the Pre both look good, but they aren’t available in this country yet which just leaves the iPhone.

Hero vs iPhone

Before going any further I want to make the point that there isn’t nor is there going to be an “iPhone killer”. Apple are far too good at being Apple for anyone to beat them at their own game. That said the Hero offers some advantages and disadvantages compared to the iPhone which will push you in one direction or the other depending on your requirements:

Hero Wins

  • Better Integration with Google services: If you are a heavy user of Google services then you won’t find a better device for using Gmail, Greader, Contacts, etc
  • Synch with multiple machines: Unlike the iPhone Android devices will let you copy music back and forth with as many machines as you want without Apples artificial restrictions
  • Apps Run In The Background: This is a huge advantage when it comes to apps like Spotify which allow you to web browse and write texts while listening to tunes something that you can’t do on the iPhone version. 
  • App store apps tend to be free and less apps get rejected: I have always found apps I’m looking for on the store without having to resort to paying and you can get your hands on naughty apps Apple don’t want you to have like Google voice.
  • You Don’t Have To Use iTunes: Not an issue for Mac users but it’s not available to Linux users such as my self and I find all Apples software for Windows utterly hateful.
  • Notification Bar and Widgets: I love the dockable widgets and the nifty notification bar on Android its far more tweakable than the regimented look of the iPhone
  • Develop Software Without an intel Mac: Only of interest to software developers, but important to me
  • Flash support in the browser: Not 100% compatible with all sites but a rarity in the mobile world

iPhone Wins

  • Much Better Mac Integration: If you are a Mac user there is really only one choice

  • It’s an iPhone: And is therefore much cooler and more desirable if you are that way inclined.
  • More responsive and slicker UI: The Hero is great but the iPhone still pips it for slickness and feedback
  • Far more apps available on the app store: The app store has far more games including lots of big name commercial games.
  • Better iPlayer integration: No listen again radio on the Hero
  • Slicker music player: The iPhone is also an iPod and so has all the whizzy cover flow and genius stuff.
Published 4 Oct 2009

    Engineer & Musician
    Nick Long on Twitter