Sunday, January 10, 2010

new phone HTC Hero - CDMA version

well it was time to try out Android. The Pre was a good tool for the past 6 months and it was highly usable. My customizations included installing homebrew (rooting) and adding a couple of the free apps.

As for the Hero - I love the larger screen. The battery is larger, than the Pre so it lives longer between charges. I recently disconnected from my exchange server account and it would appear that this alone has improved battery life greatly.

The sense UI makes this OS work well. The flip clock on the home screen is a welcome addition, nothing clearer than this. Having 5 home screens to position shortcuts and widgets is a nice touch.

The visual voice mail feature is nice as well. Makes one of the most archaic parts of cell phone use disappear. Just go into voice mail and all the voice mails appear on screen with the caller identified so you can listen to the voice mails in any order you want. Not a surprise for iPhone users but a nice addition compared to the other phones without this feature.

On a disappointing note, the capacitive screen does not have multitouch features natively enabled. This is rectified in websurfing by using Dolphin browser instead of the android browser. Just like the Motorola Droid and the HTC Nexus One - no multitouch. The Dolphin browser solution in addition to adding multitouch pinch to zoom adds tabbed browsing which is very handy.

The touchscreen keyboard is predictable. It took a bit for me to get used to typing without the buttons but the haptic feedback helps a bit. The word completion is pretty good, and helps on probably 80%+ of the time when typos are made. This is much better than other word completion systems I have used.

As for the applications management, coming from the Pre it is a weird thing to not be able to easily close apps. With the "card" interface of webOS on the Pre, it is very clear what you have running and closing applications is very easy to understand. Just swipe the card of the app that is up and the application is closed. No need for a task manager. With Android though, there is not an equivalent indication of the apps that are running.

Trust linux....well the advice from others who are Linux gurus is that it is not necessary to use a task manager, just close the apps you do not need, leaving the OS to manage RAM and keep the device running well. So far, I have not felt that it is that critical to manage the tasks as I have not had any lockup although there have been moments of slowness when I keep the NFL app up while the AFC playoff game is on right now. Closing the NFL app brings all the speed back.

Quality of the Radio - The voice quality of the Hero on calls is great. No problems there. While using an Aliph Jawbone bluetooth headset, no problems or lag on calls or hang up. While using a Jabra 700 bluetooth speakerphone, great audio with again no lag so that bluetooth stack seems very good.

Compared to the Pre, I would say voice calls are better with the Hero. Now, on to the data service. For some reason, the Pre just does not seem to run at full speed on the 3g service with sprint. With the speed test on both the Pre and the Hero here is what I observed:

Pre 1 Mb download: 307Kbps
Hero 1 Mb download: 1,162 Kbps

Some of this may be due to the PRL file for both - the Android PRL is apparently 60658 whereas the Pre's webOS PRL is currently at 60657. This should not cause such such a difference so it is likely that the radio in the HTC Hero is better.

Finally, the entire idea of using Gmail and the google apps is fantastic with both of these devices. With Google calendar, and contacts, the data set is not fully downloaded into the phone so that reliability of this data is high since this data is stored in the cloud. There is a slight advantage to webOS right now because the Synergy feature which ties the access of contacts into one interface is really a marvel. The simplification which this offers makes using a smartphone easy for everyone.

The Android implementation of contacts and the methods of connection are not horrible but not as seamless as it is with webOS. Likely there will be improvements to Android to enhance this simplicity.

I did a previous evaluation of these two phones and felt that the Pre was better back in October when the Hero first was released. Now after using the Hero for a week, I would say that both have advantages, but I am more impressed with the developments which are occurring with Android and the likelyhood that it will continue to improve with the amount of different devices from various manufacturers. This should in time create a large environment of devices deployed which will offer software developers a bigger target to sell into than the webOS base of customers.

This may change when the Pre and Pixi are released on Verizon and AT&T this year but the momentum of the Hero worldwide (was more in demand globally than the iphone) as well as the success of the Motorola Droid define a large amount of phones in use. Additional devices from Samsung, LG, Dell and others shows more potential growth.

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