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Sprint announces Android HTC Hero

The HTC Hero is the first Google Android phone for Sprint. It offers HTC Sense and a full range of features.

The Hero is Sprint's first Android phone. Sprint

Just a few days after we caught a few glimpses of a Sprint HTC Hero, the carrier surprised absolutely no one by finally announcing that it would carry the smartphone beginning October 11. Sprint's first Google Android phone will cost $179 with a $100 mail-in rebate and a two-year Simply Everything plan.

With a large touch screen, a few physical controls, and a trackball, the Hero more resembles the T-Mobile MyTouch 3G than the GSM Hero available in the United Kingdom. It also has a few unique characteristics, of course, but the design isn't a rapid departure from previous Android devices. However, in an exciting change, the 3.2-inch capacitive touch screen will support pinch-to-zoom capability. The last we heard, multitouch wouldn't be available until Android 2.0.

You can expect it to have a loaded feature set with HTC Sense front and center. In fact, the Hero is the first U.S. device to have Sense, which offers seven home screens and a broad degree of customization. CNET U.K. got a chance to play with Sense in its review of the GSM Hero, and they loved what they saw. Another first (at least for Sprint) is HTC Footprints. It's a feature that lets users create digital postcards with photos, an audio clip, and GPS coordinates.

Other goodies on the 3G (EV-DO Rev. A) handset include a 5-megapixel camera with video recoding, Bluetooth with a stereo profile, an accelerometer, visual voice mail, Sprint TV, a microSD card slot, NFL Mobile Live and Nascar Sprint Cup Mobile, a speakerphone, personal organizer options, messaging and e-mail, a music player, Wi-Fi, and integrated GPS. Two especially welcome additions are a 3.5-millimeter headset jack (previous Android devices had only proprietary connections) and Outlook integration with e-mail, contacts and calendar (the MyTouch has e-mail only). Naturally, the Hero will support the full range of apps from the Android Market.

Though the Hero won't go on sale until October 11, you can preregister today at Sprint.com. Simply Everything plans start at $69.99 for 450 anytime minutes plus unlimited nights and weekends, data, messaging, and e-mail.