Friday, November 6, 2009

HTC Hero on Sprint: A Week in Review

About a week ago I bought a new CDMA HTC Hero with Sprint service. Prior to buying the phone, I checked the reviews, watched some You Tube videos, etc. While the reviews were less then stellar, I failed to see examples of any of the issues people complained about on the You Tube videos. Specifically, one YouTuber stated the phone was slow but failed to show any example of this in his video. Later in the video he launched a task manager only to show about 15 different processes running simultaneously! I think my Core 2 Duo laptop would run slow with 15 apps running concurrently!

Many reviewers feel the need to complain about a product, or they somehow aren't doing their job. I plan to simply serve up the facts and observations I've gained with a week of actual use:

First, some background.  I was a happy Alltel customer until they sold to Verizon Wireless.  Besides Verizon's patent troll attacks on Vonage, their plans are expensive and, at least in the past, their customer service has been less than stellar.  While Verizon allowed Alltel customers to stay with Alltel plans, I just didn't want to fork any money over to a company I didn't choose in the first place.  So, I voted with my dollar and headed for Sprint.

I was initally going to buy the HTC Hero on Oct 11 when it came out, but shortly before the release, Sprint announced the Samsung Moment.  The Moment's spec sheet looked impressive: 800 MHz processor, optical track-pad, slide out keyboard, etc.  I didn't mind that they only offered bone stock Android 1.5 vs HTC's Sense overlay.  So I waited until I could read some reviews of the Moment.  Low and behold, Samsung doesn't have a good reputation for supporting or upgrading their phones.  Not a good thing with a smartphone!

So, off to Best Buy I went to pick up the HTC Hero without having to deal with a mail-in rebate otherwise necessary at a Sprint store.  In addition to the lack of mail in rebate hassle, Best Buy also offered a $50 coupon to their Reward Zone members (free membership).  Sprint is also currently offering a referral bonus to both the new customer and the referrer.  Even though nobody referred me, I still dialed #REF from my new Sprint phone and put in the phone number from one of my friends also on Sprint.  I will get a $25 VISA debit card in the mail, as will she.  This brings the price of the phone down to $111.74 total with tax.  With Verizon's announcement of the HTC Eris (an ugly Hero) at $99, I'm feeling pretty good about my choice, also considering I will save $360 per year on my Sprint plan vs. a comparable VZW plan.

The Good
  • Ultra loud speakers, both on the earpiece and speakerphone
  • Works well with my Jawbone Bluetooth headset
  • Seamless integration with email, SMS, Google services, and Twitter
  • Excellent web browser with multi-touch zooming
  • Excellent contact management built into HTC's Sense UI
  • Great battery life - with heavy use I can only drain it to about 40% in one day
  • Amazing GPS receiver sensativity - on the first floor of my two story house I can get a GPS lock in about 3 seconds
  • Visual voicemail - doesn't consume airtime while checking voicemail
  • Very nice album app with multi-touch zoom
The Bad
  • No task/todo list functionality built in
  • Lacks camera flash
  • No belt pouch included
  • Built in SMS app is weak
  • Built in mail app messes up my IMAP folders - not configurable
  • Can't remove stock apps... Don't care about the NFL or Nascar!  Give me my megabytes back!
For most of the "bad" above, I've found some solutions. 

To add todo list functionality, I've downloaded Astrid from the android market.  A free app, it handles most of what I need, but falls a little short in some areas.  Please, HTC or Google, just rip off MS Outlook's task functionality and include it in Android market!

The fact the camera doesn't have a flash doesn't really bother me.  Usually if I try to take a friends picture in a dimly lit situation, the flash just makes them squint.  Incidentally, the Hero's camera does pick up infrared.   The thought has crossed my mind of creating a hand held IR LED light for just such an occasion.

The lack of a belt pouch is just a cheap out on Sprint/HTC's part.  Where am I supposed to put this thing?  I my pocket?  Really?  Fortunately, eBay has plenty and I found one that fits well for $9.95 delivered.

One of the first things I did was install Handcent SMS from the Android market to replace the weak included SMS app.  Handcent is free and has way more features.  Nuff said.

I have a number of email accounts, all hosted at Google Apps.  I wish the built in Gmail app could handle them all, but alas, it only deals with the default account used to setup the phone.  Hopefully  the upgrade to Android 2.0 will fix this, because the built in mail app is a little weak.  While it does work, it creates its own IMAP folders and I have to routinely log into the Gmail web interfaces for my accounts and clean out the Sent and Trash folders it created.

Finally, I hate having apps on the phone that clutter up the menus, and take up space.  I realize Sprint wants to subsidize Nascar, but I really couldn't care less.  Give me the option to delete that junk!  NFL too.

While there are some things I would change, none are deal breakers.  And not once have I had an issue with the phone being slow.  I don't know what others are running or asking their phones to do, but I find that if I remember that it is a phone and not a desktop computer, I'm fine. 

In summary, to put it in eBay vernacular: Would buy again! A+++++++++