Sprint HTC Hero Review


Welcome to our complete review of the Sprint HTC Hero. I totally, 100% agree – as most sources have already noted – that Sprint’s version of the HTC Hero is for the most part the exact same phone as the original HTC Hero that launched in Europe a couple months ago. We did an extensive HTC Hero Review for that device and we’ll be referring to it throughout this review as well. But still, we aim to provide you with the most comprehensive coverage possible.

Shall we dive in?


Sprint HTC Hero – Hardware Review
Before we get into comparisons, we should just talk for a minute about what the HTC Hero hardware is about in and of itself. The build quality feels great and while clearly housed in a plastic casing, it has a solid feel yet isn’t too heavy. Combine that with the metallic look and you’ve got a very corporate looking phone that seems rugged enough to take some abuse.

The specs are impressive and boast a nice set of features. The display is a 3.2-inch capacitive touchscreen with 320 x 480 resolution. The 5MP camera with auto-focus (but no flash) and video recording does a decent job and the 3.5mm headset jack is an awesome touch that really should be standard on ALL smartphones. Glad to see HTC and Sprint include it in this rendition of the Hero. Combine that with 32GB of extendable memory via MicroSD and you’re good to go for your multimedia needs – note that it comes with a 2GB MicroSD card in the box.

You’ve also got 3G, Wi-Fi, Bluetooth 2.0 + EDR and a 1500 mAh battery. You’ll notice the battery size is different than the original HTC Hero which leads us nicely into a comparison that I’m sure many of you are eagerly awaiting.

Sprint Hero  vs European Hero vs Palm Pre
The obvious first topic of conversation in regards to the Sprint HTC Hero hardware comparison is the chin… or lack thereof. Some people like the chin. Some people hate the chin. I’ve always said that its just like the existence of a physical vs. touchscreen QWERTY – a complete matter of opinion. There really isn’t much to debate as you’re going to think what you think. I happen to like both versions but let’s put the stylistic differences behind us and get into the meatier stuff.

Larger Trackball (Improvement)
One big difference between the original Hero and the Sprint version is the hardware buttons and trackball. The trackball is noticeably larger and definitely provides a nice alternative for browsing, selecting and clicking. Without the chin, you’ll notice the Sprint Hero rests on the trackball when you lay it face down and I’m wondering if the increased size is for increased sturdiness? Either way – great trackball.

Hardware Buttons (Improvement)
Surrounding the trackball you’ve got 6 hardware buttons with an interesting twist: the Call and End key are “normal” keys that pop out with some bezel while the Home, Menu, Search and Back button are all just images on the brushed metallic mouthpiece. But they still “click” when you push them. I prefer the button layout on the Sprint HTC Hero to the buttons on the European Hero – it’s more of a definitive feeling that you’ve pressed a button. So +1 to this phone.

Larger Battery (But worse?)
Another big difference is the battery size as we alluded to above. The Sprint HTC Hero has a 1500 mAh battery while the European HTC  Hero only has a 1350 mAh battery. That being said, Sprint only lists talk time for the device at 4 hours while the GSM version enjoys a longer battery life. This is likely because the CDMA network is more resource intensive but this is just what I’ve heard and shouldn’t be taken as cold hard fact. I’d love to hear some official response about the battery life/difference and I’ll reach out to HTC for an answer. Even with a fairly large battery I found it to be average battery life at best.

Speaker Style (Me Likey)
Lastly the speaker on the rear of the Sprint HTC Hero appears to take up more surface area as the “grill” surrounds the camera encasing. I blasted some music on both and there wasn’t a huge noticeable difference but I feel like the Sprint HTC Hero had a little bit better audio quality as a result. Again, hardly noticeable and it could just be the whole “perception is reality” anecdote because it LOOKS more like a speaker. I think this is a nice touch style wise even if it doesn’t improve the audio.

HTC Hero or Palm Pre?
As for the Palm Pre: there are a TON of Sprint customers out there who are probably wondering what they should get, the Sprint HTC Hero or the Palm Pre. Obviously I’m going to have some bias – this being an Android site and all – but I’m completely confident in recommending the HTC Hero over the Palm Pre. From a hardware perspective the Palm Pre has a few advantages, most notably its size/feel, QWERTY keyboard (if you’re into that kind of thing), flash for the camera, polished/nifty UI and PRICE. But you get what you pay for… the price of the Pre has dropped for a reason and I’m sure you don’t want to spend 2 years figuring out what those reasons are.

The HTC Hero has some advantages of its own over the Palm Pre. With the Hero you can expand your memory to 32GB with a MicroSD card while you’re stuck with 8GB internal with the Pre. The Hero’s camera is 5MP as opposed to the 3MP camera of the Pre. And while the build quality of the Pre feels plasticky and has received a lot of complaints and problems, the Hero seems sturdy and solid. But make no mistake about it… the biggest advantages are with Android OS and HTC Sense.

WebOS is a young platform that has faltered early. The App Catalog is moving as slow as molasses while Android Market is moving at a pace I would call Oregon-Trail-like… grueling with large portions to eat (10,000+ buffalo aka apps). The initial buzz of WebOS has warn off, portions of applications are meager and while they may not die of a snake bite in the near future, Android is clearly the more robust, feature filled operating system. Palm has potential with WebOS but when you’re choosing between it or Android you’ve gotta go with the robot.

The one advantage WebOS has over Android is visual appeal and graphical UI. Unfortunately for Palm, HTC recently launched their HTC Sense software that not only skins Android with a brilliant look and feel, it also extends the functionality of the device in a way that competes with the highly praised management of social features on the Palm Pre. The bottom line is that the Sprint HTC Hero is the better phone and the Palm Pre is the more affordable phone… if you can afford the Hero, go for it.

Now that we’ve been talking about software, Sense, etc… shall we?

Sprint HTC Hero – Software Review
While the hardware discussion was centered around chins, the software discussion has been all about lag. When the initial reviews of the European Hero came out the consensus seemed to be that HTC Sense was powerful… but too powerful for the HTC Hero processor. As smartphones grow more capable and feature-filled, manufacturers need a larger battery and more powerful processors to fuel the enhanced performance. This was the Hero’s Achilles Heel.

But rumor had it that HTC fixed the lag problem with a firmware update and the new, snappier software would come packaged in the Sprint HTC Hero. So did it? After comparing the two side by side we concluded yes, definitely:

In the video I say something about the original Hero’s lag not being a big deal in the grand scheme of things. I’d like to take that back. Consider the screen lag an indicator of a larger problem. If the screen lags when you’re not running ANYTHING in the background, think of the potential issues when you’ve got a few things going on, syncing, updating, etc… luckily the Sprint HTC Hero at least offers some sort of UI speed improvement.

Now lets talk about the bigger picture of Android running HTC Sense. For all intents and purposes the software is THE EXACT SAME as what you’ll find on the initial HTC Hero. For that reason we suggest you check out the original HTC Hero review.

HTC Sense is pretty sweet – no debating that. If you’re looking for more in depth coverage, check out these YouTube videos we did in our first review of the Hero:

Sprint HTC Hero – Exclusive Sprint Applications
Android is a powerful operating system but manufacturers and carriers aren’t relying on the OS alone. They want to differentiate their products and help them stand out from the crowd. HTC did this by creating a great device design with solid specs and custom software with HTC Sense. Now it is Sprint’s turn to put a little extra mojo into their first Android.

I was incredibly excited to test out the 4 exclusive Sprint applications on the HTC Hero: NFL Live, Sprint TV, Nascar and Sprint Navigation. I thought they had an awesome opportunity to separate themselves from the pack, bringing an additional offering to their Android phones that other carriers couldn’t provide. Unfortunately, I was absolutely disappointed with their performance and it all started with NFL Live.

I’m a big football fan, so when the Indianapolis Colts took on the Arizona Cardinals, I thought it would be the perfect time to showcase the application’s awesomeness right there while watching the game. It didn’t exactly go as planned:

Great concept but severely lacking performance. I’m not sure if the underlying problem was:

  • The application itself
  • The wireless connection
  • My location (downtown Baltimore City)
  • The HTC Hero processor/hardware
  • Something else…

So in an effort to provide a better review, I changed locations (Columbia, MD – where FCC testing is done) and connected my phone to Wi-Fi to try to eliminate some of the question marks. I then put NFL Live, Sprint TV, Nascar and Sprint Navigation to the test under these new circumstances with almost no improvement:

I was really looking forward to giving these Sprint applications a great review – I was excited for them, especially NFL Live. Unfortunately I have to say it was the most disappointing part of the Sprint HTC Hero package. I used the service for several days with consistent problems, mostly in regard to streaming video. So I stopped trying to access video altogether over the next couple days and did one last minute review showing that text, images and audio could all be loaded with less difficulty:

And wow! Video even worked this time around… except for on Sprint TV which is kind of ironic. The bottom line is that the NFL and NASCAR apps are nice additions to your Android Phone and they’ll provide some great information – but I wouldn’t rely on them and certainly wouldn’t expect a very good video experience.

Sprint Navigation was the one bright spot of the 4 apps and it really is just Telenav with a different name. I used Telenav when it first appeared on Android Market with mixed results but this time around it performed fantastically. It’s pretty good navigation software that I can recommend. I would say its the best navigation software on Android Market right now…  whether its worth the price and whether you’re willing to spend it? That’s a different question/story.

I was unable to provide a full video review of Sprint Navigation/Telenav in a timely fashion but found a review and video that perfectly apply. Check out the PC Mag review of Telenav and watch the company provide a demo using the MyTouch 3G… yeah I know, ignore the fact that it’s T-Mobile and not the Hero – its essentially the same service:

Final Thoughts
The Sprint HTC Hero immediately becomes the best phone the carrier offers – that is the bottom line. The specs don’t blow you away but they MORE than get the job done. The build and design are solid and classy – not a masterpiece but visually appealing for sure. Android alone is awesome but HTC Sense takes it to the next level and the “lag” is gone. If Sprint could improve the performance of their exclusive applications I’d kick this a notch above the GSM Hero… for now it is just equal.

And “equal” isn’t a bad place to be when you’re talking about the best phone on the market. But for how long? There is lots of Android competition coming… but HTC has definitely set a solid bar. Regardless of what else launches, the HTC Hero comes highly recommended. Phones with bigger and badder specs might be in the pipeline, but given the price tag this phone will be hard to beat.

A few helpful links:

Rob Jackson
I'm an Android and Tech lover, but first and foremost I consider myself a creative thinker and entrepreneurial spirit with a passion for ideas of all sizes. I'm a sports lover who cheers for the Orange (College), Ravens (NFL), (Orioles), and Yankees (long story). I live in Baltimore and wear it on my sleeve, with an Under Armour logo. I also love traveling... where do you want to go?

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  1. PS: This is why news has been a little slow lately. It’s unbelievable how much time it takes to record, edit, organize and publish review videos. And then of course write the review!

    Hopefully you appreciate the work and apologies for the delay in news coverage. I really need a full writing team ;)

  2. How can you have a Hero without a strong, chiselled jaw-line? No chin, no win.

  3. Great review. Thanks.

  4. I wish I could help but I have no experience in writing stories but I love to send info to all my friends. Maybe something in the future. I’m from the chicagoland area.

  5. still old MSM7201A at 528MHz… i’m waiting for VZW sholes/tao/droid/whatever

  6. How? Ask Goku, Kenshin, Gohan and many other awsome heroes… Naruto, Gaara etc etc. Granted that’s anime, but you’re talking about a phone here. :)

  7. I’m pretty sure I read that HTC had a update for the sense so the european Hero should be just as fast.

  8. Thanks for the great review. Worth the wait!

  9. They seemed to up the speed with that processor, I’m happy. Besides, a higher processor would make it more battery hungry – don’t get the processor disconnect when I consider those facts… :(

  10. Great reviews, was looking forward to what you were going to be talking about and you did not dissapoint. I had similar problems with sprint TV on my blackberry that I used for a while, so I am guessing the blame is on Sprint as to how those applications are lagging. Hopefully they fix them, otherwise its not even worth trying to open up.

  11. Try comparing iPhone 3GS to
    hero and will see which phone is
    the best on the market…

  12. absolutely amazing :) this review seals the deal! i’m going to best buy when i get off work to pre order my HERO! :)

  13. Love the Oregon Trail reference!

  14. You mentioned in the review that it was running Android 1.5 but I was under the impression that CDMA support was being introduced with 1.6? Am I wrong or is HTC doing something funny to make it work?

  15. I keep seeing reference to the storage capacity of the HTC Hero being capable of 32GB using MicroSD.

    I can’t find anything higher than a 16GB capacity on the market, am I missing something? Is 32gb microSDHC coming soon?

    From Sandisk.com:

    SanDisk® microSDHC™

    * Available in 16GB, 8GB, 4GB capacities

  16. Great review. Really looking forward to this phone! I just hope my local Sprint store has it by the time I’m able to upgrade

  17. You should do a bit more research regarding the lag. The latest update for HTC Hero in Europe fixes the lag issues. The reason the Sprint version has no lag is becuase it has this update already shipped with the phone of course.

  18. Oh Emil, you should do a bit more research regarding your comments. Taken right from this page, above the video comparing Sprint Hero and Euro Hero:

    “But rumor had it that HTC fixed the lag problem with a firmware update and the new, snappier software would come packaged in the Sprint HTC Hero. So did it? After comparing the two side by side we concluded yes, definitely”.

  19. i got to demo the htc touchpro phone for about a week which was running WinMo. The SprintTV/NFLLive/Nascar etc, lag is definitely due to the Sprint Network – not the device. It makes absolutely no sense for Sprint or the consumer as to why these Sprint exclusive services aren’t available using Wi-Fi. Hopefully that changes but Sprint also has 4G on the way which would improve the cellular use of these services.

  20. does it support multi touch…i read some where that id did…then i read some where that it didnt.

  21. Dude, your European Hero is running the OLD firmware. Update your firmware!!!! You’ll see it’s easily as “snappy” as the Sprint Hero.

  22. @bill, yes, it supports multitouch thankfully. kinda wish i had sprint so i could get this phone, but then i remember im broke and dont pay for my phone so ill just have to wait till i make enough moneyz to get my own plan.

  23. ….easy with the phone-rubbin-on-the-table…. he..he..

  24. @kenny

    faster processors don’t necessarily use more battery

    some of the new chips that haven’t been used yet have more power saving features built into them

    i think the snapdragon is one such chip that is faster than the current chips and uses less battery because it can save more while idling

  25. Aaron: They got CDMA to work with 1.5.
    Though I think their 1.5 is more like a 1.5.5.
    With the current update to G1 and myTouch to 1.6 there are some kinks they will need to test out first with sprint.
    If you also saw/read the review it supports java lite which isn’t on 1.5.
    IMO I think this ROM is kinda half baked.
    Rob Jackson
    As far as the tv not working…maybe you were roaming on verizon?
    I looked for people reviewing it on youtube and saw people watching the football game w/o problems.
    They still do not have any at the local stores. I can’t wait to test one out.

  26. You cant use Sprint specific apps on WIFI. That is why your video is not working.

  27. It sucks you having that many issues. I’ve seen a couple other reviews using these app with great success.

  28. Hopefully we will also get this design (without the chin) in Europe soon….

  29. Nice reviews. I’m sold.

  30. That may be an UNFAIR REVIEW IF you didn’t UPGRADE the UK/GSM HERO with the PATCH that came out arlier this MONTH, ROB!?!?!

  31. @some1

    This is true! Good call, but is this energy saving/less power consumption technology being used on mobile devices? At any rate, the speed problem (which a fast proc would fix) is addressed with the update. Hero is hero!

  32. @Kenny

    If you do any research at all about the next gen phones coming out, there are two processors that they will be using, the snapdragon and the tegra, both of these are made to greatly increase the 3-D ability of the phone, and also prolong battery life, so you get more speed and you also get more battery life than the weaker processors out there have now.

  33. @Quantumrand

    That was the point. So we can see the difference between the Hero now and the way it was… Not intended to be USA vs Europe. Thanks for the video Rob!

  34. Dude, this is how to do reviews!

    Yeah, I can tell you are a bit of an Android fan boy but it’s all good… I am too. Loved the review. So damn in-depth and so many videos. I think you covered it all.

    Well almost all… just one thing. The buttons that are flush with the device (menu/back/search), are they touch or press? Amazingly no one has answered that and unless you actually have the phone in your hand to test, there is no way to tell.

    Thanks again for taking the time. I’ll def be looking out for your review on the Moto Cliq. Mad props.

  35. Great review… been looking up videos and information for a while now. Never used an Android phone before, but I’m quite looking forward to it. Your review was thorough and definitely made me a bit impatient. Lol. Thanks a bunch.

    PS: The Hero makes me cream my boxerbriefs. Can’t wait.

  36. James, The buttons are press. I have seen it in a couple of reviews.

  37. Thanks for your complete review Rob !

    htc hero integrates social networks well, but its user interface doesn’t blow my mind as the x3 rachael UI did in that video leaked in july. And the x3 will run snapdragon.

    I prefer waiting a little bit longer at this point to buy a new gen hardware. I heard bad things about qualcomm openmax support (is openmax used in android or only in winmo ?)

    My ideal phone would be a x3 with omap 36xx / tegra and a keyboard.

  38. So i’m pretty much sold on this phone, I’m almost obsessing over it. Though I’m curious about the apps and internal memory if you can’t save them to an SD card. How many apps would you say could be downloaded?

  39. very,very well done and honest. I can’t wait for my Hero. Someday we’ll have an AMOLED,1ghz,4G,super Android; and I’ll buy it…one step at a time.

  40. In case you haven’t seen it yet.. Best buy will have the Hero available on Friday the 9th for Reward Zone members who have pre-ordered the phone.

    I found a link to the flyer on another blog: http://farm4.static.flickr.com/3529/3978204804_5a29668621_o.jpg

    Glad to see the phone getting lots of love..

    HTC Hero named Stuff Magazine Gadget of the Year 09:


  41. So a couple of quick questions for everyone out there.

    1. Does anyone know which cell phone carriers are going to offer the biggest line of Android phones(other than ATT)? Right now T-Mo is the furthest ahead.
    -I have an iPhone, but I am not happy about the closed architecture, lack of customization, and weak phone features.

    2. Doe the HTC Hero have a proximity sensor like the iPhone, that will turn off the screen when the phone is close your face?

    3. Is it worth waiting for something better to come out? What would that be? Trust me, I have had it with ATT and I am ready to break my contract and sell my iPhone.

    I am really interested in the HTC Hero, but I am not sure if this is the phone I should get or if I should hold out a few more months for something better.

    Thanks guys.


    Does it have a SIM card slot?

  43. @john

    No, there isn’t a SIM card slot.

  44. @Rob,

    Great review. I’ve been waiting a while for Sprint’s Android. I’ve been running the Android port on my HTC Touch for over a year now.

    One thing I’ve been wondering. i understand that there is a 3.5mm headphone jack now, which is awesome. I also like to be able to dock my phone and have it charge and provide audio out from one port. Would you be able to comment on whether the Hero has audio out of the power port as in previous modesl (aka Touch, Touch Proc, Touch Diamnd, etc)?


  45. I haven’t read or heard anything about the touch screen and using the phone while against your face. Does the Hero ‘sense’ when you have the phone pressed to your ear and face? Can you describe how this feature works on the Hero?
    And with the internal memory, how many apps could you download if you can’t save apps to the Micro SD card?

  46. @KcRob

    The Hero does not have a proximity sensor (from what I’ve read). These are usually IR based systems.

  47. What about the teflon material present in white european heros?
    Does this hero feature that?
    I guess the big diff is the chin, but that is something which makes the feel when holding it much better. Your hands wont sweat for example

  48. criticizing the pre for its price drop is really odd reasoning. especially given the fact that the 8gb iphone is $99.

  49. Now that the Samsung Moment has been announced, it looks like the only reason to go Hero with Sprint is the Sense UI, which from I’ve gathered from this review is what makes the Hero great instead of average. My question is, having seen that “Sense widgets” are a completely different type of program from “Android apps”, can new Sense Widgets be downloaded, or are new ones included in firmware updates? Or are you just stuck with whatever widgets come on the phones when it ships (admittedly impressive though they may be)?

  50. @Oakland510: “Call Caddy” will fake a proximity sensor using the other sensors, just search for it in the appstore.

  51. I’ve read or watched somewhere cuz God knows I’ve been obsessed with finding information that you can silence this phone when it rings by turning it over. Is this true?

  52. cnet rates battery life at 5.75 hrs and another review states below…I think there’s confusion between the euro gsm that has a smaller battery…

    “The battery life of the Hero is fine on our end. At 1500 mAh, it’s bigger than previous Android phones and it shows. We put the Hero under some heavy testing and it didn’t tap out like the G1 would have (though is that even saying anything?). It’s not going to win any marathon races but I nearly got away with charging it every other day (it was more like every day and a half).”

  53. @Rob: Do you know if there will be a GSM Hero for US market? I would love to get one, however I am trying to stay away from CDMA.

  54. These relationships could be used for the system to establish the citation form for the work and associated expressions that can then be used as the linking device for collocation and navigation. ,

  55. I recently bought the bb tour from sprint and since im w/in the 30 days of purchase, i’m thinking of going into the sprint store and exchanging it for this. But i’ve read on the cnet/zdnet reviews that “Flash content didn’t always work from the Web browser.” – Were you able to access flash contents from the web browser? Also, I am not too happy about the Hero not being a worldphone. It would’ve added to the bar it set if Sprint made it a worldphone by adding an unlocked SIM device (like their TP2). Also hate that just like the TP2, they didn’t put a flash on the camera!…why not? It’s a really nice phone and I want to get it…but the things I mentioned that I would’ve wanted to see on the Sprint Hero is stopping me.

  56. Great review, you had me sold until this. If the phone does not have a face sensor on it how do you keep from hanging up on people… I currently have the Instinct (1st generation) and you have to slide the bar to hang up – that’s how they solved the issue. I noticed that you just press the end button on this phone. This may be a deal breaker for me. I frequently touch my face to the screen (I’m a mom) LOL. So did you have may hang up’s due to this?

  57. I wish someone would have addressed the issues with Hero and Mac. It won’t connect via bluetooth, something my lowly MotoQ even managed to do. I really thought it would be more compatible. I absolutely do not want to pay AT&T rates for cell phone service, which is why there’s no iphone in my immediate future. But geez, how hard it it to make these things talk to each other these days? Shouldn’t be such a chore. And the lag time on this thing is a drag. I hope they do get the upgrade out asap.

  58. Sprint doesn’t charge extra for sprint navigation. It’s included in the everything data plans which is a required plan when purchasing the hero. This should be changed in the review since it is misleading and is also a heavy factor when deciding on a phone.

    Other than that, WOW what an excellent review! Thank you for the time and effort. It is very appreciated.

  59. htc hero phone is interesting and i have not used all of the features, but I am currently disappointed in its bluetooth capabilities. The normal call features work fine, but when I attempted to listen to a “visual voicemail” the audio did not play through the bluetooth headset. This seems to be in sharp contrast to the “HTC Sense” that is just supposed to intuitively do what you think it should. I have tried several bluetooth headsets with the same problem–will the hero phoone be able to stream music to any bluetooth headset? Haven’t tried that yet.

  60. i just got the hero today and i’m having a problem. i’ve been on the phone with sprint, adobe and htc. i cannot watch youtube or flash content on my phone. i love my phone to death but this is severly frustrating me. please help me find out what’s going on. basic problem: flash player may not be installed in my phone, cannot watch videos or flash content. what do i need to do.

  61. I had a blackberry before my new hero and it had a option or automaitc turn off and turn on. I have looked in the phone and all thru the apps and I can’t seem to find it and I am really missing it. I would really appreciate it if anyone can help me..


  62. Hi, perhaps a stupid question, but can I use de Sprint HTC Hero (for the USA) in Belgium???

  63. i had a question can you lock messages and pictures?

  64. i love the hero but i hate that i have it for sprint? does it come in gsm?? I was looking at gsmallover.com and ebay but was kind of confused as to if they were sprint or gsm. i am switching over to tmobile and love the phone and their plans are better. anyways any help would be great thank you

  65. Get notified of updates to your HTC Hero at http://www.whendroid.com/htc-hero.php

  66. i am really considering this phone and i need to know alot about it

  67. i really hope this phone works really good ive had a the samsung moment and the palm pre and both wasnt all that great

  68. awesome phone

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