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HTC pulled out all the stops today for their gala launch of the HTC Hero Android phone and HTC Sense secondary OS. They even got out the smoke machines.
The handset seems to have just about everything you could want, except a flash - no idea why smartphone manufacturers keep leaving that out - and. essentially. it's got all the same internal build as the Magic. But you can read about these things forever, so take a closer look here...
The outsides are all very well and good. I did feel it was a little underpowered and laggy with a slightly dead touchscreen but I'll wait for a review for the final words on that. What I feel this handset's going to live and die by, though, is the HTC Sense Android toupee.
It looked fantastic in the demonstration and everything the HTC product designers said made perfect sense. The idea of integrating all of your communictions from each contact looked excellent and the degree of customisation looks beyond anything offered so far.
The trouble is that when I got the Hero into my hands it just seemed a little overcomplicated and rather ruined one of the beauties of Android which is its relative simplicity and ease of use. Now, bear in mind this was only a three minute play, so I'll give you more on that when I've had the chance of a proper review.
I'll get some more vid up of the Sense as soon as I can but, for now, you can take HTC CEO Peter Chou's word for it. Chou like.
It's being billed as the first ever fully customisable Android handset. The HTC Hero with HTC Sense will allow users to amend almost every aspect of their setup.
Tech Digest has had its hands on the phone and it has to be said that it is a lot more simple and natural to navigate than its predecessors. It's actually soft to touch and appears to be quite durable. It's even contoured to perfectly fit a face during a call. It's slightly chunkier than the HTC Magic at 14.3mm thick.
Tech wise there is a 3.2-inch, 320 x 480, HVGA touchscreen that supports multi-touch and pinch whilst browsing. It has a compass, AGPS and a gravity sensor, which I don't think we've seen before.
There's no more need to constantly wipe the screen clean too - the Hero includes an anti-fingerprint screen that is also smudge resistant. A welcome inclusion is the 3.5mm headphone jack.
Browsing should be improved with the inclusion of Flash and there is also a search button that explores everything from your apps to your Twitter feed.
The Sense feature allows for widgets that push content, different customisable content profiles called scenes and it also combines all communication channels into one screen. That means Twitter, Facebook, flickr and the like can all be accessed from one screen. Sense also allows users to link Facebook information, like photos and status updates, directly to contacts.
The white version will come with a Teflon coating - this is a first in the smartphone world and will help keep the Hero fresh and clean.
More spec info:
Qualcomm MSM7200A processor running at 528MHz
900/2100MHz HSPA and quadband GSM
5-megapixel auto-focus camera with microSD expansion - but no flash
The HTC Hero was announced today at a launch event in London and should be available in July on T-Mobile and Orange. Expect a full review on Tech Digest some time soon.