The third-largest U.S. mobile operator had famously said previous versions of the Linux-based OS weren't "good enough," but firmware updates have apparently made Android good enough for the Sprint brand. The Hero is a feature-packed device that could be seen as a viable alternative to AT&T's iPhone 3GS.
The Hero has a 3.2-inch capacitive touch screen, and the accelerometer means it will automatically rotate the screen depending on how the user is holding it. The smartphone won't have the usual Android user interface, as HTC is layering on its Sense software to give it some visual flair, as well as one-click access to mail, Twitter, weather, and other Web-based information.
The Sprint version of the Hero will have some slight physical modifications from the international version, as it will be ditching the "chin" that was also found on HTC's Android-powered T-Mobile G1. Sprint has also added some carrier-specific applications like Sprint TV to go along with the more than 8,000 apps that can be downloaded from the Android Market.
"Sprint and HTC are helping to drive openness and innovation in the mobile industry with the introduction of the Android-powered HTC Hero," said Andy Rubin, VP of mobile platforms at Google, in a statement. "As the world's first truly open mobile platform built with the Internet in mind, Android provides to consumers the same Internet services they have become accustomed to on their desktop PC."
To stay connected, the smartphone has Wi-Fi, Bluetooth, and 3G through Sprint's EV-DO Rev. A network. The Hero has Exchange ActiveSync support, so it can receive corporate and personal e-mails over the air. The handset also has GPS, a microSD slot, a 5-megapixel camera, and a standard headphone jack. The Hero will cost about $180 after rebates and a new two-year contract.
The Sprint announcement is just the latest sign that Android is picking up some steam. Along with T-Mobile and Sprint, Verizon Wireless has publicly said it will offer an Android-powered smartphone soon. Additionally, Google said it expects up to 20 Android-powered handsets to be released by the end of the year, and this could include devices from Sony Ericsson, Samsung, and Motorola.
InformationWeek has published a 360-degree analysis of the first Android-based smartphone. Download the report here (registration required).