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First Impressions With Sprint's Android Phone

Sprint's first Android phone, the HTC Hero, goes on sale in just a few short weeks. I was able to spend some time with it recently. The hardware feels great and HTC's Sense user interface gives the system software a bit of pinache.
Sprint's first Android phone, the HTC Hero, goes on sale in just a few short weeks. I was able to spend some time with it recently. The hardware feels great and HTC's Sense user interface gives the system software a bit of pinache.The HTC Hero was first announced several months ago. The GSM version that was first unveiled had some personality, with a very angular "chin" jutting from the bottom. Some liked it, some didn't. Apparently, Sprint didn't.

The Sprint version of the Hero completely loses the chin, and, in fact, sees a complete redesign of all the buttons at the bottom of the phone. For my money, these buttons and controls are far superior on the Sprint version. They are easier to find, easier to use, and have better feedback. Other than that, there's not much to say about the hardware. It's a slab-style phone with a large touch screen. This style of device is getting harder and harder to give a unique appearance. The Hero is light-weight and feels good in the hand. There's nothing uncomfortable about it.

As for the software, well, it runs Android. The base underpinnings of Android are unchanged, such as the sub-menus and the way the phone organizes its systems. The big deal is that the Hero runs SenseUI, the new custom user interface overlay that HTC has created for the Android platform.

SenseUI essentially has seven "home screens" that can be reached by swiping left or right on the Hero's screen. The main one is pre-populated by a clock, weather widget and shortcuts to other apps such as the browser, Android Market, email and so on. Sprint and HTC have put content on five of the seven screens, but this is all user customizable. It is easy to arrange and re-arrange all the icons and apps, and adding your own widgets or shortcuts is a snap.

I find SenseUI to be a much better UI when compared to HTC's other custom user interface, TouchFLO 3D.

One thing to note. The original Hero was really sluggish. So sluggish, in fact, that it was borderline unusable. By sluggish, I mean the user interface was slow to respond to user input and seemed to "hang" from time to time. The Sprint version of the Hero makes some small improvements on this front. I won't say it is the speediest phone around, because it isn't, but it is incrementally better than the original hero.

To get a better idea of how it all works, feel free to take a look at the video below, which shows the Hero and SenseUI in action.