July 23, 2014

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.