In addition to these, HTC has developed two apps worthy of a special mention; Peep and Footprints. Peep is HTC's take on an always-live Twitter client, and it offers a pretty good range of functionality including a live, updating widget and the ability to filter posts by mentions, direct messages and favourites. Footprints is a geo-tagging photo album, which takes the fuss out of geotagging, letting you map your travels on Google Maps and send your Footprints via email to other HTC phone owners.
Strangely, the Hero doesn't ship with the latest version of Android, but instead ships with version 1.5. For standard phone use this doesn't pose much of an issue, but for people who want to take full advantage of the Android Market, this is a bit of a problem. Google released an updated version of the Android Market in the 1.6 version of the OS, and more recently gave access to turn-by-turn directions in Google Maps to owners of phones with 1.6 and up. This also means that some apps created since the 1.6 SDK became available may not be compatible with the Hero until HTC pushes out a firmware upgrade (which hopefully occurs sooner rather than later).
We're not sure if we'd describe the Hero as a "race horse duct-taped to a Scud missile", but it does operate at an impressive pace. From a cold boot, the menu navigation is silky smooth, moving between the seven home screen panes is seamless and scanning the list of available apps is almost lag-free (though you will see some mild juddering). We have noticed that the Hero can get bogged down after you've opened and closed a few apps. Android doesn't truly multitask, but instead saves instances of the apps you've used when you leave them and this process can bog the system down slightly after some use.
Web browsing is the real treat. Whether you're googling yourself, tweeting a friend or commenting on your Mum's Facebook status, the online experience is fantastic. Google's services (Gmail, Maps, Google Talk and the Android Market) are a highlight, with excellent interfaces designed for use on a small mobile phone screen. Calling and messaging are also solid, with HTC's auto-correction when typing messages working at least as well as similar software on the iPhone.
Battery life has been a concern with HTC's Android phones to date, and while our experience of battery life with the Hero wasn't outstanding, it was a marked improvement on what has come before it. With push email, Twitter, weather, Gmail syncing on constantly, a moderate use of calls, messaging and web browsing we easily got through a day with the Hero, and often through most of a second day as well.
We love this phone here at CNET. It looks and feels great, and offers one of this year's best touchscreen experiences. For basic phone use plus email and web browsing, the Hero stands out as one of the few phones capable of challenging the iPhone at making these everyday tasks much easier on a mobile device. Video playback is limited, and the Hero's lack of internal memory will put off hardcore users who plan to pillage the Android Market and take full advantage of the 10,000 apps available.
It's nice to know that HTC is so far committed to updating the Hero to keep it in line with phones it intends to release in 2010 (at least to Android 2.0). This future proofs the Hero for a short time, which is nice to know in a world where new phones are launched every other week.