The HTC Hero mobile phone—cell phone for Americans—pictured below has been voted "Gadget of the Year" for 2009; which really means "Phone of the Year" (as all of the gadgets in the line up seem to be phones; at least the top ten are and I have no idea what follows after the 10th).
The image at left is from the HTC Hero pages at Phandriod (an Android fan site), which are here if you want to check out their review.
After seeing the article in the UK Telegraph about the HTC Hero being the top gadget for 2009 I decided, as is my usual habit, to do some research into it. The obvious question for me was, “Considering the world-wide sales and massive media hype how could some gadget other than the Apple iPhone—which came in third—be awarded Top Gadget for 2009 ?” . . . I decided to find out.
I won’t go into everything I found. Anyone who is that interested can do their own Google searches and find the hundreds of pages written about the HTC Hero. I am just going to quickly touch on the deciding items that pushed the HTC Hero up to the top of the pack.
Speaker Quality: From the various reviews I looked at the on-phone speaker stands out as one of the deciding factors. The Hero’s speaker is good enough to listen to MP3 playbacks with reasonable bass and good midrange reproduction, plenty of volume, and good clarity—for a phone. This obviously also makes it more than sufficient to play your favourite ring tone in full glory.
Battery Life: Battery life is a tricky one. Battery performance depends on what connectivity options you have enabled on the device and how you use it. Using it for average daily usage (which includes leaving it on standby overnight) the HTC Hero provided three days of usability before going flat. This was double the average for all ‘smart phone’ category gadgets tested, which was about 1.5 days.
Camera: The HTC Hero’s 5 megapixel multi-zone stepped focussing camera with macro was rated one of the best phone cameras across all smart phones tested. Quoting engadget: “The Hero’s 5 megapixel camera is pretty darn amazing . . . While the image quality isn’t up there with dedicated [digital cameras] it’s certainly leaps and bounds better than the nearest [smart phone] competitor”.
At right is an example picture taken using the HTC Hero camera. This picture was selected from a collection of HTC Hero photographs posted on Flickr (www.flickr.com) and was taken by “he&lei”. Note that this picture has been cropped, down-sampled, and then compressed by 30 percent (by me) before being posted—so the original image is actually somewhat better than the one shown here.
Do Ctrl+Click on the photograph to open the original picture on he&lei’s Flickr page.
As I have put the better part of a day—on and off between eating and taking a short nap—into researching the HTC Hero and crafting this blog entry I feel I should probably make a quick note of the two main downsides I came across.
Laggy: User feedback across the sites I reviewed was consistent in relation to the HTC Hero becoming laggy (slow) when there are a number of things going on. More laggy than one would expect with a phone of this quality.
Cell reception: Another consistent gripe from users of the HTC Hero is that it does not seem to work as well in 'grey' reception areas—areas on the edge of the cell range or areas where reception is reduced (elevators, basement car parks, shopping centres that do not have internal cell drops, etc.,)—as other phones they have experienced recently.
Having a quick look around at the various sales sites in Australia the HTC Hero is around $650 to buy outright. I have not checked for any plans.