My HTC Hero for Sprint Phone Sucks Less

HTC Hero by Sprint

I am impressed with the new Market. But the phone makes my hand look HUGE.

You may recall an angry diatribe from a few weeks ago when I had just about had it with my HTC Hero from Sprint. It seemed both HTC and Sprint were coming out with great new Android phones on a weekly basis while my poor Hero languished in version 1.5 hell. From the beginning, Sprint had promised to update the phone to at least Android 2.0, then to 2.1.

After months of waiting, I finally got the update. I’m definitely happier, but it has only temporarily satisfied me.

It turns out the Hero – far from living up to its name – is not quite so powerful as to handle some of the more advanced features of the Android 2.1 update. I don’t really need the nifty animated backgrounds I’ve seen on the Nexus, but I have noticed that some apps – in particular, the new Twitter app built by Twitter – have a tendency to groan within the limitations of the Hero hardware.

Other than that, though, there is definitely a noticeable increase in the speed of the UI, and switching from app to app seems a lot smoother. Google Listen would occasionally drop to a crawl on 1.5, but I have very few issues with it in 2.1. The new menus are much cleaner and attractive and the new store and settings windows are far easier to use. It even seems that the camera takes better pictures, which is an odd thing as I assumed the problems I had with the camera were due to the hardware.

The phone function, ironically, still sucks. I still haven’t figured out how to negotiate two calls at once, and the screen goes black during a call, which is frustrating when I have to key in numbers using the software keyboard. Although everything seems a wee bit zippier, I can’t help but think the experience would be so much better on a more powerful phone, like the Evo 4G. In other words, the 2.1 upgrade definitely improved my experience, but it has also highlighted to me the real potential of Android if I had a better phone.

That still leaves a bitter taste in my mouth. I bought the phone in November. The 2.0 and later versions had already been announced by Google. Rather than build the phone with its full two year lifespan in mind, it seems that HTC cheaped out, built the minimum to support it for a while, then put all their focus on newer phones. I realize this is not unique in the mobile market and that they do it to create a certain built-in obsolescence, but it sours the experience. I like my phone, but I definitely don’t feel the fetishistic love for it that iPhone users feel.

I’m definitely sticking with Android for the long haul, though. It’s openness and support for developers guarantees that it will have longevity, and we’re already starting to see some amazing apps come out on the Marketplace. I’m in the process of completing a couple myself that may eventually get ported to the iPhone if they become successful. In the mean time, I’d rather develop the apps I’d like to see on the market without having Steve Jobs or anyone else breathing down my neck to ensure it fits their brand.

1 comment to My HTC Hero for Sprint Phone Sucks Less

  • I’m still waiting for an update to the also-by-HTC G1 (T-Mobile hasn’t flatly ruled it out yet), but it is an older phone than the Hero. Of course, the G1 has been on Android 1.6 since November.

    At this point, since I’m basically using a 2-year-old prototype, I’m thinking I may go for the Vibrant (TMO’s name for the Samsung Galaxy S) if I can give up the physical keyboard. The downside is that Samsung has a history of treating Android phones the same way HTC treated the Hero, so I don’t know if I’m setting myself up for more early obsolescence.

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