HTC Hero - is it better than the iPhone?
APPLE are famous for making mobile phones of Quality. They make the best and sexiest computers, laptops and MP3 Players on the planet. Not to mention their brand new Touch screen Apple device, the iPad! (but that's for another Hub.) Their Mac OS X is the nearest thing we have to computer operating system perfection. So it would take a mobile phone of some serious quality to beat Apple at their own game. Cheeky Girl has owned many mobile phones in her lifetime. The iPhone is hard to beat. Samsung have tried, and they are flooding the market with Touch-screen mobile phones. Nokia have done almost as much, with dozens of mobile phones available, as have LG and Sony Ericsson. (The Sony Experian is a cool phone.) Blackberry have their penchant for Qwerty keypads designed for children’s fingers. The amazing looking Palm Pre can’t decide if it’s a Blackberry or an iPhone. It’s interesting. It’s neither. (Keep working on it, guys.) Motorola need to get back in the game. They each have their specialty areas and idiosyncrasies. GPS, or Music playability. Movie playback capability. Social Network connectedness. Twitterability. Stephen Fry loves his Twitter. We all do. All very cool. Whatever.
But a new player has entered the arena that can do all that, and the iPhone has a serious competitor. A famous Brand from Taiwan called HTC (hitherto unknown in Europe) have put the “Hero” on sale, and it simply dazzles! And people are saying it is better than the iPhone.
Is this a sacrilege? How did this happen? What is so special about the HTC Hero?
This Asian Mobile Phone maker is renowned for previously making competent high tech mobiles that were feature-laden and bestsellers in Japan. They previously sported the Windows Mobile Operating system, and had many cool innovations. Things that some others copied, even! HTC are respected in Asia for making good mobile phones. Apart from Samsung, they are the only company to ever really challenge the hegemony of Apple. LG don’t quite cut the mustard, although they are trying, and Nokia are still working on perfecting that formula of Smart Phone, having made the Blackberry clone, and the slider / Qwerty keypad-styled phones, and others besides. Too many perhaps. (The 6310 is a classic.) Nokia are at least now waking up to the fact that - if you make a Smartphone, then you have to have Apps. And as Smartphone rely on Apps for that downloadable added functionality, Apps are the way to go. The HTC Hero has some good ones, thanks to it's Google Android system that powers it.
Okay, since appearances are everything, let’s start here. Both the iPhone and Hero are Touch-screen Smart phones. They do a hell of a lot more than just make phone calls. The iPhone really is the mobile phone to beat. In Europe, the O2 network monopoly is expiring and Vodafone (and Orange) in the UK and Ireland are to add the iPhone to their networks. Good news for Apple. It will be iPhone’s second wind. Good mobiles can make massive money for phone networks. (HTC Hero will appear on Meteor in Ireland.)
Smart Phones - an explanation please!
Is it an all in-one computing device that also makes calls, or a clever mobile that relies on convenient downloadable apps for added
functionality? Well, it is a mixture of
GPS, push e-mail (Rim-style) and a fat memory are all fine and increasingly becoming the standard on the better phones. But if your smart phone cannot download apps, it looks and feels somewhat redundant. In April, Samsung will be the newest big name manufacturer to launch its own app store. It's previous iteration wasn't really an App store anyway. Its platform, called ‘Wave', will join others like Nokia, Rim / Blackberry, Google (ala Android), Microsoft (Windows Mobile), Vodafone and Apple in the queue to get your apps custom. So far - Apple are far ahead with Apps development.
Now the other platforms are creeping slowly forward. Google's Android Market, which
is now available on more than a dozen handsets, including the HTC HERO - is now the biggest rival to
Apple's App Store. Blackberry's App World, although "Gulliver-like" in it's smallness - by comparison, has quite decent apps that are available.
Nokia has tossed and turned with its less-than-perfect Ovi App Store, but at least is realizing the competition is out there and they don't want to lose this battle for the Smart Phone User market. Microsoft has its "Marketplace" for Apps, and Vodafone has its 360 App Shop.
In short, Apps are an essential part of life in a Smart Phone. This is why - with the Android system in place, the HTC Hero is so appealing.
For elegance, the iPhone is designed to perfection. The Hero is similar, yet is different. It has a small curve at the very bottom of the screen, where the touch screen ends. On the bottom of the Hero is a feature that could be taken from the Blackberry Pearl, namely the small mouse-like ball that allows users to move around the screen. This feature is found on the HTC Hero. The screen is a serious standout feature, since it uses the same Capacitive Screen feature as the iPhone. Some touch-screen mobiles suffer from “miss-touch”, that thing where you tapped the screen but nothing happened and you have to tap again, use another finger or at best, there is an annoying delay. I even found this happening to the Palm Pre, with its touch screen. Apple cured the iPhone of this problem by spending time and money and effort using Capacitive screen technology. HTC did the same. Nokia, LG and Samsung would do well to learn from this, as it makes for an altogether better phone experience. On non-capacitive phones you are better using a stylus, rather than tapping with fingers. LG offer a stylus on one model, and it’s good, it works. The screen on the iPhone and Hero is designed for fingers and not stylus or fingernails. The Screen on both these phones really looks good even in strong sunlight and picture quality is superb. In screen appearance and personalisation, the HTC Hero is ahead, offering many options to change the navigation view or the appearance of the background. On the iPhone, no matter now many damn icons suffocate the screen, the whole thing never lets you alter or personalise it. Is it for security or safety reasons? (We know about a Worm that infected some iPhones by messing with graphics, changing them. There’s already a fix for it.) What about all the downloadable Apps then, if that’s the case. Maybe that’s the way Apple want it. Every iPhone looks the same. Why – is anyone’s guess. What you get is what you get.
To switch it on and just get stuck in, the Hero is a pure joy. It is simple, clean, uncluttered and elegant. Hell, it is even polite. Dialog boxes and alert notices or mini “windows” all do what they were intended to do. They cascade neatly behind one another. No fuss. No hassle. The HTC Hero is a HTC PDA! Just as sophisticated. The Android system really shines here. This HTC Smartphone is designed to impress. There are a growing number of other mobile phones emerging that use Android; it’s Smartphone / PDA territory and this may worry Apple, because only iPhone’s use the Apple Mobile OS, so far as I know. The Symbian OS is unique to Nokia and is excellent. (It started with a UK firm called PSION.) Windows Mobile and Android are growing in popularity, and offer benefits. And lots and lots of satisfied users. As do Apple.
Apple have a brilliant feature called the APP store, (almost like iTunes) which is where you go to download all your favourite mobile phone applications (ranging in cost from zero to £5 to £10). Translate to Dollars as necessary. Great software that is cheap. There are thought to be at least 200,000 applications on sale or free for download. This is insane. In the last 12 months, Apple made $2 billion on this App Store, proving yet another revenue stream could be eked from a mobile phone. Oh how far we have come. Apple only make one model, with 3 memory configurations. Same 3.12MP camera. The average phone maker has dozens of models available. Apple believes in making one thing the best way possible. The results speak for themselves.
Nokia have their own store, called OVI with close on 1,000 applications available there. And actually, they are very good. (My girlfriend uses the iPhone and Nokia N97, a good mobile.) Samsung are getting in on the act with their own software Application store. So naturally HTC have their own Application Store. Android call this “Market”. I didn’t see as many applications in the store when compared to Apple, but there are excellent applications available, many for free. They work and function well, and look like fun. The Hero’s built-in utilities have more cleverness and complexity to them, and they do much more. It’s a mobile phone that begs to be challenged and have its fast processor do some serious tasks. We are almost heading into netbook speed here. We have now arrived at the stage where, if you can’t download useful software on your mobile, then it’s a piece of crap. The Hero has Twitter and Facebook and can synchronise with MS Outlook. I didn’t see if Skype is available on it, but if it is, this could be a deciding factor. (My idea of Heaven is an iPhone with Skype.) Like the iPhone, the Hero can be a business mobile or a personal mobile if you wish. And it’s a damn good PDA. It threatens to be all things to all comers. By simply holding a finger over some screen controls, second menu features appear for you to choose from if needed. It all flows along smoothly.
The HTC Hero sports a 5 megapixel camera, and the charger is a mini-usb charger, similar though not identical to other mini-usb chargers. And the quality of the phone calls? Actually it’s better than the iPhone, voices are loud and punchy even in noisy areas. And the mic is good quality, possibly helped by the curve at the screen bottom. This is what it is all about, people. The iPhone call quality is just a teeny bit above average, as even some cheap Nokia phones for under £50 sounds better than it. (Sony mobiles also have fantastic sound quality, thanks to their music heritage.)
It is hard to be a Jack of all Trades in this Smart Phone world, and these two top quality phones are very evenly matched. The Hero has few downsides to it. The phone is very slim and the battery is thinner still, yet gives a long battery life, and charges fast. If it is not quite as stylish as the iPhone, it is more ergonomic. It manages to be light weight yet solid. Reading an eBook on the HTC Hero is a pleasure, and never tiring on the eyes, and easy to “turn” pages. The iPhone can also allow eBooks to be read. Being a 3G phone and with Bluetooth and Wifi, the Hero can download straight from the internet. It will download anything readable and available on Amazon. Music on the Player feature is excellent, and video and Youtube content is fluid in appearance. Same with the iPhone. Navigation is easier on the Hero thanks to the rolling mouse ball at the bottom of the phone. The mobile phone market is one of the most intensely competitive markets in the world. Here, you don’t get rewards for resting on your laurels for too long. There’s a lot of hungry wolves in these cash-stricken times vying for our attention. As long as Apple constantly innovate, they will survive and grow. And they have proved to be adept at staying ahead of the game. (See iMacs, iPods, and iTunes to understand what I mean.)
If HTC end up matching the sheer amount of quality Applications that Phones have at their disposal on their App store, then Apple will have its single biggest rival yet. Nokia have still to iron out issues on some models such as changing to wide screen mode (shaking the N97 tends to fill me with fear, and why do I always have to open the slider Qwerty keypad to achieve changing the view from portrait mode to landscape? You do this on the iPhone by just turning it and it changes to landscape view. Nokia need to Up the screen resolution picture quality, as do Samsung. Grrrh!) The HTC Hero is a phone that knows what it wants to be. As an iPhone owner, that is what worries me. This new kid on our block is trouble. The Hero is that good. (No doubt it was a killer Christmas gift!) Somebody obviously very clever designed it. Be afraid, Steve Jobs. Be very afraid.
Text (c)2009 Cheeky Girl
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