HTC’s Hero – An Android-Based iPhone Challenger

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Hero from HTC is a multi-touch, social-oriented Android phone with a keyboard version apparently planned. That should make the iPhone sit up!

HTC has made a new phone, the Hero, which runs a new overlay interface called Sense on top of the Android operating system (Cupcake version), and adds many features designed to meet or exceed what’s in the iPhone, and there is apparently a keyboard version in the future.

The customisable Sense overlay will appear on other HTC phones, and is similar to the TouchFlo interface it has already added to some of its Windows Mobile phones. With its addition, Hero gains some features that make it look more of a challenger to the iPhone, for instance multi-touch for pinching and stretching windows.

The interface links up the user’s contacts with all sorts of social media, including Flickr photos, Facebook status, tweets, calls and texts. It also allows seven customisable home screens, and a “weekend” mode that switches from business to off-duty applications.

It also has things the iPhone doesn’t have, such as a Flash player in its browser, a 5Mpixel camera (albeit with no flash) and expandable SD card memory – which is just as well, as it has only 512MB on board. Other details include a 3.5mm headphone jack, and a 3.2inch touch screen with an anti-smear coating, as well as a teflon coating on the back of the phone to keep it clean. It also has GPS and a digital compass.

Update: One surprise is the fact that there are apparently two Heroes: while HTC showed off the basic one, the web produced stories about a version with a slide-out keyboard known as Memphis or Lancaster.

The keyboard version has apparenlty not seen the light of day, but early reports on a couple of websites (including ours) suggested T-Mobile had it. This was based on a mis-labelled photo.

T-Mobile is branding the Hero as the HTC G1 Touch.

Like previous HTC Android phones, including the HTC Magic (review), it has an angled bottom to fit the face.

The Hero will be available in July in Europe, and in Asia later this summer, with a version for North America coming later in the year. T-Mobile is giving the keyboard version for free on Flext contracts of £40 or more.

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