HTC officially took the wraps off of Hero, their next-gen Android handset, at a launch event in London this morning. Our own "Android John" Walton was on hand for the event, and I'm eagerly awaiting his first-hand impressions of the device, since he's my - and hopefully your - go-to person for all things Android.
I actually got to play with a pre-production version of Hero not so long ago and I came away wanting one. Too bad for me it's launching on European carriers this July, right around the same time that T-Mobile USA will launch myTouch 3G, which is basically a rebadged version of the HTC Magic that launched this past February. In other words, T-Mo USA gets the last-generation HTC Android phone while T-Mo customers in Europe will get the shiny new Hero, renamed "G1 Touch."
Why does it matter, if both the US "myTouch 3G" and European "G1 Touch" are HTC-made touchscreen phones running Android? Several reasons:
- The European version gets HTC's custom Android UI, dubbed "HTC Sense." I saw it, I played with it, and it's cool. Imagine HTC's TouchFlo 3D system but for Android and with more social networking and online contacts integration (somewhat like Palm's WeOS/Synergy system). The US version will run a standard Android install.
- The European version gets a multitouch display, a 5MP camera, a micro-USB born, and a 3.5mm headphone jack. The US version has a standard touchscreen, 3MP camera, and HTC's proprietary USB/audio port. A little birdy told me that HTC is phasing out the custom USB jack in favor of micro-USB and 3.5mm audio from here on out. Too bad T-Mo USA is still giving us the old stuff.
- The European version is sleeker and a bit more nicely built than the US version. It also comes in several colors and features some kind of crazy Teflon coating and anti-smudge display.
Hero/G1 Touch is the Android phone that T-Mobile and Google should have launched instead of the original G1. It's sleeker and sexier than G1, and HTC's Sense UI can easily be marketed to first time smartphone buyers because it puts all sorts of information right on the homescreens without any customization needed on the end user's part. Weather, stocks, twitter and Facebook feeds: they're all right there, right out of the box.
Sure, it's easy enough for a savvy Android user to download some widgets and long-press them onto the homescreen of a G1 or Magic/myTouch 3G running OS 1.5. But T-Mobile needs to sell Android phones to mainstream users, and not just to geeks. New users see iPhones full of app icons and Pres full of cards and get excited. Android's getting there, but Sense makes Hero look much more like a futuristic information appliance than does the stock Android install on Magic/myTouch.
I'm not saying myTouch 3G will be a bad device or won't sell. I'm just saying I wish it was based on Hero and not a re-branded Magic. Especially because I'm really hankering for an Android phone with a 3.5mm headphone jack built in so I can make it my personal device for awhile. I listen to music on my phone all of the time, and I can't stand stereo Bluetooth or dongles.
I wonder who I know in the UK who might ship me a Hero?