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HTC Hero hands-on photos (aka T-Mobile G1 Touch)

There's a hero, if you look in your heart...or in your pocket, thanks to HTC's new Android phone, the Hero. It's got a new user interface and we took this Teflon touchscreen for a spin

Flora Graham
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We don't need another hero...oh wait, yes we do, especially if it's a sexy new Android phone and a gateway to a while new world of phone puns.

HTC has obliged with the Hero, its third handset to sport the Google Android operating system, which makes the score HTC: 3, everyone else: 0.

The Hero also debuts Sense, HTC's new user interface for Android, meaning that this is the first phone that doesn't fall into the Google-phone category, since it's doing its own thing with a bunch of custom UI tweaks. 

We liked what HTC did with its TouchFLO user interface, which make a valient attempt to cover the horribly disfigured Windows Mobile 6.1 on phones such as the Touch Diamond2. And we loved the HTC Magic, HTC's second Android phone, so much that we gave an Editor's Choice award andmade idiots of ourselves over it.

So we've got high hopes that this can be our hero, baby, it can kiss away our pain. Especially our battery pain, since the Magic needs charging more than Green Lantern's ring. HTC promises that the Hero will offer 420 minutes of talk time on 3G, compared to 400 for the Magic and 350 for the G1. Standby is rated at 750 hours, compared to 660 for the Magic and 402 for the G1.

The Hero will be available in July on T-Mobile -- where it's being called the T-G1 Touch, as a follow-up to the G1 -- and on Orange. 

Click the picture to see us get our hands on the Hero's oddly curved body and find out more about the features of this powerful touchscreen smartphone.

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Hey, that doesn't look like the Android we've come to know and love! It's the HTC Sense user interface, which gives Android heaps of customisability and usability features. For example, you can have several 'scenes', or custom configurations, set up so that your phone looks different for work and on the weekend, for example. That means different wallpaper, widgets, and shortcuts on any of the seven homescreens in each scene. The lock screen is also customisable.
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John Wang from HTC showed of the heaps of widgets that are available for the HTC Hero. That's 12 different clocks, people...although a few of them look pretty similar to us. The Hero has location awareness so that when you land in a different time zone, your clock and weather widgets automatically update to show the local deets. If that's not enough, you can download more Android widgets from the Android Market.
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You can choose full-screen or smaller widgets to fill up your screen, and switch between them with the swipe of a finger. We liked the full-screen widgets showing live updates from things like Twitter and Facebook, which gave the Hero a Palm Pre-like feel and took advantage of all that home screen real estate. Social networking is integrated all over the UI. For example, your address book not only shows each contact's email, text and call history, but also shows their Facebook updates, profile photo, photo albums and Flickr albums. In the photo gallery, your phone photos are side-by-side with your Facebook and Flickr photos, too.
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The Hero has Flash support, and on our demo model, it looked great. You can see Flash in Web pages, so you'll never have to miss another snazzy ad again.
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There's a full-screen Flash player -- this is a YouTube video that we clicked on, which was embedded in a Web page.
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Amazingly, the Hero also makes phone calls. You can dial by number or name to reach out to the one you love.
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There's a choice of on screen keyboards, with full Qwerty or alphanumeric available.
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The Qwerty keyboard works in portrait or landscape, which is handy for the fuller-fingered lady or gentleman.
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The Hero is the first Android handset with a standard 3.5mm headphone jack, so you can plug in your own headphones. We think this is a big improvement over the Magic, which didn't even have an adaptor for its proprietary socket. We also saw how you can control the music player without unlocking the phone's touchscreen, which is another handy feature for music lovers.
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The Hero is covered in Teflon, which makes it feel a bit softer and less shiny than the iPhone, for example. HTC says that the screen also has a grease-fighting coating, although we had no trouble getting a few fingerprints on there when we tried. We weren't so sure about the Hero's jaunty 15-degree curve, especially since we've seen it on the ugly T-Mobile G1. But the Hero feels much slicker and sexier than the G1, and the bevels and curves do feel comfortable in your hand and against your face. HTC says that the curve also slightly improves antenna reception, but that it's mostly there for usability reasons. But what about usability IN OUR PANTS? (Many of you may not get this joke, which has to do with a fortune cookie or something.) We'll have to test whether it creates an unsightly bulge in our skinny jeans when we do our full review, so stay tuned.

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