Holdin’ Out… For a Real Hero

Shrek - Holdin' Out For A Real HeroThe release of the highly anticipated and much praised HTC Hero on Sprint left me nothing but underwhelmed. After writing my post about making a decision between Sprint’s first two Android offerings (see The Great Debate), I came to the agonizing decision that I just wasn’t ready to commit. No, I’m not saying that I’ve given up on Android, heaven forbid… but, I just can’t bring myself to buy the Hero.

A mere day after the Hero’s release, I moseyed on over to my local Sprint store to get my hands on this sweet li’l piece of hardware. Here are my thoughts…

[begin rant]

1. The “back” button
For something that’s used more frequently than a urinal at Wrigley Field, I can’t fathom why HTC and Sprint decided to put the back button where they did. It’s in the hardest possible position to reach. Unless you control your phone with two hands (which, to me, is just weird, unless you’re typing), the back button could give you arthritis of the thumb in a matter of months. My cousin says, “You get used to it.” Well, I don’t wanna get used to it! I don’t want the problem in the first place! You don’t buy a bed that hurts your back just because you’ll eventually get used to it. That would be moronic.

Why is the search button above the back button? That’s where the back button should have gone. I don’t know about you, but I use the back button far more than the search button. It has to be closer to the bottom of the screen. It just has to. This is a huge design flaw. Way to go Sprint. Maybe next time, you could look at the other Android phones in our universe before you evoke your, self given, right to sit on your lazy butt and ignore the problem with the original Hero’s terrible back button position. Most other Android phones were done right… MyTouch 3G, Galaxy, Tattoo, Cliq, Moment,  Xperia 3, Liquid, and Droid. Why not the Hero?

2. The browser
Okay, so I don’t really have the right to complain about this since it’s the same on all Android phones, but why can’t you pull up the address bar by scrolling up to the top of a web page (like on the iPhone)? Wouldn’t that be easier than having to click a hardware “menu” button, and then making another selection?

Not only that, but the lack of an on-screen “back” can make someone mad. It’s not that hard to implement. Maybe they could add gestures to the browser. That would be nice. A fast swipe to the right or left could be used to easily navigate your way across the Interwebs.

The multi-touch was also kinda slow, but I think that was because the Flash content never fully loaded, causing pages to respond like a comatose turtle. I’ll be nice though… at least it has Flash. Kudos there.

For the most part, this is an Android problem, and not really the Hero’s fault, but that doesn’t make it any less annoying. I just figured that if HTC is going to make improvements to the browser, they might as well do it right. I also figured that after Sprint decided Android wasn’t good enough for them to use, maybe they’d have taken the time to spice it up a bit more. Hear what I’m saying?

3. The processor
What in the blazing saddles of Hades was Sprint thinking when they released a phone with a 528 MHz ARM11 processor right smack in the middle of Snapdragon (and Hummingbird) phones being announced? Don’t you dare say they didn’t know those phones would be announced, because they have people who are paid to know these things. Don’t they realize how badly they need to attract new subscribers? Don’t get me wrong–I love Sprint; but this is just a dumb move. Sure, the Moment will be much faster, but it’s still no Snapdragon. It’s just a faster ARM11. Come on guys…

After seeing Verizon’s Droid phone (running a 600 MHz ARM Cortex-A8), I wonder what the future holds for Sprint’s Android line. According to people who have used Droid, the thing is barely thicker than the iPhone, yet it still manages to pack a QWERTY keyboard, 5 MP camera with flash, and is crazy fast. That’s pretty insane! If Verizon didn’t want me to take out a second mortgage to pay for their ridiculously overpriced phone plans, I would for sure switch over. Droid does. The ads don’t lie.

For Sprint’s sake, I really hope they have some Snapdragon or Hummingbird based phones in the pipes because I’m growing impatient. I need to have a phone that can handle future upgrades–and handle them well. The ARM11 processor (in Hero and Moment) just doesn’t cut it. It’s outdated (designed in 2003, by the way). It barely seems capable of handling the Hero’s robust interface. 2010 will usher in the faster droids, and I don’t know about you, but I don’t have the money to upgrade twice.

To understand more about the processors, see… Engadget – Core Values: The silicon behind Android

[end rant]

I’m not saying that the Hero isn’t a good phone. I think it has a lot going for it. In spite of all the above mentioned problems, I still really like it. If I had one, I would love it, cherish it, and brag about it to all my friends, making them feel as if nothing else can compare to the amount of coolness that it bestows upon me. It’s feature-packed, fun to use, and not to mention, a slick lookin’ li’l devil.

I just don’t get Sprint’s strategy. Shouldn’t they be trying to raise the bar? Isn’t Android their chance to do that? Why settle for the Hero? Why not release a phone with a little more juice and a better design? Why not storm the market with the best of the best? Hey, Verizon’s doing it. Even shots of their version of the Hero (yet to be confirmed) have the back button in the right place. My money will continue its slumber in the dark depths of my pocket until Sprint releases a phone that’s worth me giving up my $30 SERO plan. Sprint, it’s your move. Don’t let me down.

And yeah, I may need a hero… but this just ain’t it.

  • Nedjo

    really don't understand why you rant on Sprint, and all you do is speak about HTC hardware?

    Sprint doesn't decide where do buttons go, or what type of processor does manufacturer puts inside!

    Regarding the processors, in the article youre mentioning you can find clear explanation why does HTC uses Qualcomm MSM 7201A – it's indefinitely cheaper than any Cortex-A8 chip out there, and one more thing – Qualcomm doesn't have Cortex-A8 processors, and HTC only uses Qualcomm!

    Yes HD2 uses Snapdragon, but that's completely another league when it comes to prices + I reckon that proper Snapdragon optimization with in Android will arrive only with 2.0, and that's not an option for Time-to-Market goals that Sprint and HTC had for Hero!

    Finally Hummingbird is Samsung's customization of Cortex-A8 core (actually done by Intrinsity for Samsung) , and we're yet to see proper SoC based around Hummingbird…

    hope these explanations bring some peace to you 😉

    • Benjamin Rubenstein

      Look, I'm a huge Sprint fan. In my opinion, they are, hands down, the best cell phone provider in the US. But we have to look at facts. To say that Sprint doesn't have a say in the designs of their phones is bull. Sprint chose to have their version of the Hero redesigned, that much is obvious. They could have done it however they wanted, and they chose a terrible button layout.

      Regarding the processor, you make a very good point that I didn't even think about. Thank you for bringing it up. I learn something new everyday, but that doesn't change the fact that the Hero can barely handle Android with Sense a few apps running. Sprint didn't wanna release an Android phone until it was ready for prime time. Yet, they released the Hero, which is clearly lacking in many areas (for whatever reason). That's why I "rant on Sprint." They failed in what they set out to do. Maybe they shouldn't have went with HTC if they couldn't get enough juice outta them. That's a whole 'nother debate.

      I agree with your points, but these are the issues that bothered me after my initial encounter with the phone. I have been waiting for a SprintDroid for a long time now, and sadly, the Hero let me down. Sorry, but I had to let it out somewhere… Thanks for listening 🙂

      • Stefan

        I think you're mistaken – the Hero isn't a sprint phone. It's been out in europe for like 6 months now, and is basically an attempt by HTC to make itself seen as real phone designer, as opposed to a cheap provider for carriers. Looking at pictures I don't see differences between the euro version and the sprint one…

        Not really related, but I think the arrangement where the carrier designs the phone is the real bull. They're a carrier ! They carry your bits ! What if your internet provider tried to design and sell you computers ? Or the post office tried to design and sell pens and office furniture ? That would be bad, that's what :p

        Sure, we get subsidies and that was good for a while, but … you see where I'm going. Something like, don't want to give up your plan ? Buy your own phone !

  • aversusb

    The article was well presented until you brought up the SERO plan. I am SO tired of SERO legacies complaining. I understand you like your great rate plan…but you have to get with the times if you want the top of the line phones.

    • Benjamin Rubenstein

      I agree 100%. I'm totally cool with upgrading to a more expensive plan, but for me, someone on a tight budget, I'd like to keep my SERO until an upgrade worthy phone comes out. For me, the Hero isn't quite there. I wish it was…

  • YungFavor

    Exactlyyy!! and why is the Droid so superior to the cliq??? moto gave the Droid a faster proccesor, bigger screen, flash (camera), and 2.0 donut?!?!?!?!

    • Benjamin Rubenstein

      My point exactly. If Verizon can do it, why can't Sprint? After all, Sprint needs it much more. Don't they?

  • The hero isn't a new phone, it's been out in Europe for almost as long as the G1 has been out in the US. My point being HTC didn't release a new phone with a 528Mhz processor, it's just the first time the Hero has come across the pond.

    There are also other browsers. Although not exactly what you're looking for, Steel is a big improvement in UI over the default browser.

  • The phone is plenty quick. It benefits greatly from the 288MB of RAM.

    In addition, most people don't pay attention to processor speed when purchasing a phone. Only people like us. That is why Sprint released a phone with the 528Mhz ARM 11 processor. Nobody knows any different.

  • Matt

    Had to comment: that's one terrible Photoshop. -1 for the picture.

    • Benjamin Rubenstein

      LoL. Thanks. I didn't think it was THAT bad. I actually thought it was pretty good 🙁

      -1 for your comment. Wassssup!!!

  • Vale

    Oh come on. You call this a rant? Give me a break! You only complained about three things and one of them is Android-based, not exclusive to the Sprint Hero. The first complaint is trivial. Sure, they could have placed it on the upper-right where the search button is — it would have made much more sense. But yeah, you get used to it in MINUTES.

    You want a real rant?
    1. Sending text messages using the native Messages app kills battery life. When you send a text using the native app, your phone never goes back to sleep even when the screen is off. Battery life is quickly depleted. The solution? Download a third-party SMS app, turn off notifications for the native Messages app, reboot your phone and never use Messages again. Total BS that one has to do this in order to conserve battery life and make sure the phone is genuinely sleeping during sleep mode.

    2. The phone is "awake" and not in sleep/standby mode when it is charging, whether the screen is on or off. I mean, seriously? Way to eat into resources.

    I could go on and on, but this is a comment I'm writing and not a blog post.

    • Benjamin Rubenstein

      I know I didn't go all out with this rant, but that's because this is just my first impression based on a half hour in the Sprint store fiddling around with the phone. If I had used the phone for an extended period of time, my rantings would have probably caused a temporarily shutdown of the entire Interwebs. Yeah, that bad… Good thing for everyone that I didn't have enough hands on with it, right?

      My cousin has been complaining a lot about the Hero since he got it a li'l over a week ago. He's been saying the same things you are. I'm surprised that Sprint allowed the phone to be released in its current state. The battery life thing is a huge problem. You'd think, the larger battery would at least get you through the day (regardless of the fact that CDMA uses more power than GSM). Oh, and his texts are screwed up too.

      Next rant is all yours buddy… Good thing your 30 days aren't up yet.

  • Macj

    Ahem – One word that will wake you up from Verizons Droid – LAG.

    I played around with it a few days back and the thing's lag is so friggin irritating.

    Sprint's Hero isnt the greatest but its miles better than Verizon Droid.

    Good luck combating lag issues on your droid.

    • Benjamin Rubenstein

      For real? Everything I read about it says that the lag is virtually non-existent and that Android 2.0 runs ridiculously smooth. Oh man… That stinks.

      Wait… how'd you get to use it? Was it a prototype or the final model? That could make a difference. Do tell…

      Oh, and I don't need luck. I ain't getting the Droid. I hate Verizon. Oooo, next rant topic. [evil snickering]

      • Macj

        I work for a company that writes help manuals, we specifically asked them if this was the final product being shipped to customers and the answer was it was.
        Sorry but both the cliq and droid have lag issues, you can take a look at the video on youtube, you'll see lag just swiping between screens, it gets worse when you try to multi task.
        The other writer had one that would not get back from home screen#3 you had to turn off and turn on again , that was certainly a bug.

        • Benjamin Rubenstein

          Wow, that's pretty messed up. BGR seemed to love it. It just goes to show you how desperately the world needs Snapdragon and Hummingbird processors. Is Android 2.0 nice though? Do you find it to be more polished and feature rich?

  • Rich

    My HTC Hero review and comments to the reviewer!!!!!!

    One thing you might be overlooking is that in nearly every application including Browser, When you press the menu key….there is a pop-up menu, with forward and back arrows and other options including bookmarks.

    Hit Menu in nearly every app and "voila"….more options…fast and just what you need….like a genie in a cell phone.

    Too many reviews with too many fly by night people that seem to only know half of what the device can do.

    I have spent over a week 8 hours a day loading apps, trying fixes for improving battery life, (thanks to countless posts on Sprint discussion forums and others) including getting rid of any Advanced Task managers because the phone manages apps fine and app conflicts with the Droid functions.

    Switching to Handcent or Chomp and killing Wi-Fi, Bluetooth, GPS and mobile data….not only save battery life but after doing a reset (i.e. turning the phone off with the end call button and then turning it back on will reset the awake tine……so you can monitor IF the phone is actually turning off……I am getting 9-20% awake time depending on usage now.

    Go to Menu, Settings, scroll to About Phone, tap, taps on Status, scroll to bottom and compare Up Time to Awake Time to monitor your battery drain. Note: you can hit end call after noting the “awake time” and check it in a few minutes..and if it doesn’t change….then your Hero is sleeping like it should.

    Also, adding too many apps at any one time WILL overload the memory temporarily and eventually KILL the phone function and begin a series of force close tabs….You will not get the phone back without deleting apps…and may not be able to access a forced reset.

    Get X-Uninstaller and delete the last 5-6 apps you downloaded…and the phone comes back….give it a rest for a day and then slowly add a few apps at a time.

    So far, I have over 75-100 apps and my Hero flies…..no widgets except "Quick Settings'…an "all in one management" app – with all the widgets in one – that need to be turned off when not necessary to save battery life…….I also have Handcent, Fast Call, Voicemail, and a screen dimmer APP called Brightness Level on my main page and that’s it.

    Also, My Backup Pro is pretty powerful for saving data and apps to the SD card and restores after resets if they are absolutely necessary.

    Flexillis Mobile Security is an extremely good app to keep your device safe. It has anti virus scanning/protection plus a firewall. Its backup function will backup your contacts, photos, call log, mms, sms's and pretty much anything else you want it to their online site. And there is a phone locater also as part of this app.

    Continued below

    • Benjamin Rubenstein

      Re: "fly by night people"

      I hear what you're saying, but just because I only used the Hero for 1/2 an hour doesn't make me a n00b. I know my way around Android like you know your way to the bathroom in the middle of the night. True, this review touches on some issues that are Android problems and not specifically Hero related.

      Re: "Hit Menu in nearly every app and "voila"….more options…"

      I don't like using the Menu button to pull that stuff up. Why can't there just be an on-screen back and forward button when browsing the web? Why does it require 2 clicks? I just don't get. Sure, the Menu button makes sense for other options, but for basic navigation? Come on… I just felt that if they re-made the browser for Sense, then they should have re-made it right (with 1-click, on-screen, buttons).

      Re: All the rest

      Why should I have to do all of that stuff in order to get decent performance out of a phone that I just paid $180 for? Shouldn't a smartphone be intrinsically better than a dumbphone? I don't think performance and battery life are a fair trade-off for looking cool and running lots of apps. The fact that you have to spend a million hours optimizing your phone is ridiculous.

  • Rich


    Power Manager is great for battery monitoring.

    There's so much this phone can do and it seems that way too many novices flying by the seat of their pants are in a rush to get on you-tube with their video reviews, in addition the bloggers and so called tech journalists offering VERY limited knowledge of EVERYTHING the HERO does.

    And comparing it to the IPhone. The IPhone is great, but droid just may challenge Apple to reinvent themselves. And we benefit from the tech wars. Something new has come along and bashers and defenders are slinging their opinions and more. Why not just do comparisons, take the high road and lay off the slams. You don’t and I DO! Tech is as diverse as people, We are all different. What a concept. Diversity!

    Verizon’s Motorola Droid will have a bigger screen and 2.0 firmware, but will not be that much faster. The Moment will please some desiring a real keyboard. And then the differences get into personal preference.

    As more people start adding apps and crashing due to what I have already mentioned, they will either give up or exchange for a simpler phone……or stick with it and "get it"! Play with it for a few weeks and then read the MANUAL. And then start researching on Google. There’s a ton of droid info. Opps, did I say GOOGLE? Yes my HTC Hero says that on the back, made in mid September. Rev A.

    Have fun. It took me 3 phone lockups and hard resets to "get it' and then two more phone lockups….BUT this time I started deleting the last 5 or 6 apps I installed and now I am back up in 10 minutes instead of days…..ALL that to get to where I am now. Cruzin' with a killer phone and sticking with HTC and Sprint.

    A slightly bigger screen and faster processor would be nice in a Gen 2 phone, but I can wait. So much to do with this amazing piece of technology, it will take months to exhaust the possibilities" and push it and the addition apps to the max.

    By the way, I am one torqued off Palm Treo 650 user who was abandoned when they went stupid and lost the PDA/Smartphone race several years ago. The Pre is promising but too small a screen for my 59 year old eyes. I wish them well, but are they listening to what the market wants? NOT!

    I was so close to an IPhone, researched everything for weeks and then researched the Hero and android operating system. WinMo lost. They're dead and need a new mission statement and goal.
    Just a few thoughts from someone who's lived with the Hero and decided to stick with Sprint like I have for the past 7 years.

    And I am not a paid reviewer, endorser or even work in the tech industry. I just played with, crashed and kept on looking for answers till I feel like I am the master of my HERO, and NOT the other way around!

    Best of luck to all the "Droid" pioneers. Droid DOES!!!!

    • Benjamin Rubenstein

      Well written and well said. Being a master of your own phone is a great thing and I commend you for it.

      The thing is, many people out there want to enter the smartphone market but aren't tech-savvy enough to master their own devices. These people are controlled by their technology, leaving people like you and me to assist them. The iPhone works for these people because it's fool-proof and simple to use. It's locked down to the point where any simpleton can use it.

      Perhaps this is where Android is still lacking. It's still a power user's phone OS. Maybe that's the underlying problem. Hmmm… I never thought about it that way.

  • Wow, I've read some interesting postings here, I could spend half a day just reading the comments here! In Europe the Hero has ben welcomed with pretty much the same skepticism. The main complaint is that because of the Sense UI the phone is just to slow which is because the Hero's processor is just not fast enough. So what people do, the make use of the recently opened source code, and remove Sense so that the htc Hero runs a little faster. The next step will probably be adding a 1GHZ (or even more at that time) processor and making use of the enormous HD2 touch screen.

  • JustHadtoSay

    MacJ, just played with the Droid today. No lag whatsoever. Fastest phone I have seen out there, even with multiple apps open, such as Google Sky, maps, and browser.

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