My HTC Hero for Sprint Phone Sucks

My wife and I switched cellphone plans and bought HTC Heroes back in November with the explicit promise straight from Sprint that, yes, Android would be upgraded from 1.5 to 1.6 or better within just a couple of months. Eventually, news came out that HTC would be skipping 1.6 and jump all the way to 2.1 – the most recent version. At that time, we were promised Q1 of 2010, then late March, then early Q2 and the most recent rumors had it going out April 9th, which came and went yesterday. So, where’s my update?

I’ve been aching for this for a while because every day seems to bring another disappointment with my Hero and Android in general. For the most part, it works fairly well and definitely lets me do a lot more than I ever could with a phone. But I explicitly chose Android over an iPhone because of its openness. The fact that I can program my Android using an open and free SDK using the relatively open and free Java language is incredibly appealing to me. I’ve already written a couple of small applications and have several more ideas percolating in my notebook.

But every time one of my friends pulls out an iPhone, I’m reminded of just how limited my phone is in functionality. iPhones are incredibly zippy – I touch or sweep and it responds right away. It seems that all of the cool apps come out on the iPhone first and only some of them of them ever get ported to Android. I can live with these limitations, though. Android is still a reasonably new platform, so I can understand why some software developers have yet to commit.

But during my most recent trip, I discovered a heretofore undiscovered limitation of my phone that has completely dropped the bloom off the rose. I have a few movies in an open video format that I have been dying to watch, so I loaded them up on my Android. Then, I went to the built-in video player to watch them. This is when I suddenly realized – what video player?

That’s right, my HTC Hero on Sprint can’t play most video formats off the SD card. It handles YouTube – most of the time – but nothing else aside from the format it’s built-in camera uses. This is a fundamental flaw in a so-called “smartphone” and a completely unforgivable oversight. I assumed it played video just like my old Blackberry, which preceded the iPhone.

Android 2.1 is supposed to alleviate this issue, as well as some others. Here is a list of the things that annoy be about my HTC Hero from Sprint that I expect Android 2.1 to fix, either because that’s what I’ve read or because, if it doesn’t, it continues to make my phone a third-rate player in the market.

  • Doesn’t play many video formats. C’mon, folks – this is supposed to be a smartphone that’s heavy on the media. The fact that I can’t just play my videos on it like I can with most other devices is pretty inexcusable.
  • Its responsiveness to touch and sensor inputs is slow. When I turn my phone from portrait to landscape, it can take as long as 45 second to register sometimes. The fact that I frequently have to the screen several times before something happens is also irritating. I use Advanced Task Killer to knock off unnecessary tasks and such, but it’s incredibly irritating that I have to do that at all.
  • I am constantly fat-fingering on the keyboard. My fingers are actually thinner than most people, yet I feel like a hamfisted sausage digit whenever I try to type anything longer than a Tweet. The iPhone doesn’t seem to have this problem.
  • The actual phone functionality sucks. Half the time when someone calls, everything pauses and it takes several seconds before the call comes up on the screen. By the time it does, the caller is already on their way to voicemail, giving me just one ring to answer. Ironically, the phone feels like an afterthought.
  • Flash sucks. I get it that I’m lucky to have Flash at all, but I’d say that two thirds of the sites I have tried to access using the built-in Flash player are incompatible. So why bother with Flash at all?
  • The camera sucks. It takes a good minute for the camera application to load, then it takes about a second after hitting the button for it to actually capture the image. Often times, the subject has already moved by then, so most of my pictures are either blurry or have not captured the moment at all. Not a problem with still lifes, but trying to photograph my fidgety 18 month old is all but impossible.

When – or, I’m beginning to think, if – HTC updates the Hero with Android 2.1, I’ll revisit this list and let you know whether they’ve met my expectations. At this point, though, I can no longer recommend the HTC Hero for Sprint to anyone – or any Android phone, for that matter. Until I can see what 2.1 can do, my recommendation for buying a new phone is to just keep whatever you have. I strongly believe in the Android platform as the long term winner – an open interface is always better than a closed garden, and Android will only get better with time – but I’m decidedly against anyone dumping a beta product on an unsuspecting public and calling it production ready. This is clearly what HTC did with the Hero, Moment and every other phone they have released with a pre-2.1 Android OS, and I feel deceived. That’s not the best feeling you want to leave with your customers.

1 comment to My HTC Hero for Sprint Phone Sucks

  • Dan

    This is spot on! I am on the chat with Sprint right now to try to get back to my Rumor and take out the data charge. It’s not worth it. The quick touch just to call my wife is a45 sec delay. It’s an accident waiting to happen. It is the least responsive phone I have seen. My kid’s lotus is better at navigating the net.

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