It’s the mobile platform with the might of Google behind it, but with only a few devices on the market Android’s hardly been a stellar success. While the G1 and the new myTouch from T-Mobile are both excellent, both have a lot to be desired from a UI and feature perspective. The Android native UI wasn’t overly interesting and the devices were missing basic features like a standard audio jack. With the introduction of the Hero this morning, HTC offers a compelling Android design along with some very nice UI enhancements. (HTC for the last two years been working on taming Windows Mobile with some excellent UI features called TouchFlo, it’s excellent to see them at work on Android).
Specs include a GPS, digital compass, a gravity-sensor, 3.5mm stereo headset jack, a 5 mega-pixel autofocus camera and expandable MicroSD memory. The Hero also has a dedicated search button that allows search through Twitter, locating contacts, find emails or search for any data that’s on Hero.
Most important though is HTC’s UI for Android called HTC Sense. The Ui is fluid and worked well in hands on and really updates the rather dull Android UI into something that looks and feels modern. The ability to set widgets to display “glanceable” information screens is both useful and powerful. It was easy to switch between things like Twitter views, weather, calendars and time zones. It’s the home screen concept for information done right. The Sense UI also allows for integration of data stream into one view (not unlike Palm’s Synergy in concept). HTC showed Facebook status updates and photos along with Flickr photos alongside text messages, emails and call history in a single view. Excellent and nicely done.
Downside? The Hero will be available to people across all major European carriers in July and in Asia this summer. A North American version won’t be available until later in 2009. That’s a shame because this is the Hero looks to be the first device that really begins to unlock the Android potential. Full hands on once I get some quality time with a device in the near future.