There's also a trackball for navigating your way around. It could be useful with Web pages and text, but we think it's overkill when there's such a responsive touchscreen at hand. Overall, in terms of navigation, overkill is the name of the game, with way too many buttons on the front suggesting that the touchscreen can't be trusted. The Hero's nowhere near as over-zealous as the Nokia N97, but, compared with the elegance of the iPhone, the plethora of context-sensitive menus and options occasionally left us feeling exhausted.
The Hero has a 5-megapixel camera that takes decent shots in good light, but it's almost useless in low light due to its lack of sensitivity. It also shoots video, but it takes forever for the camera to get up and running. As with most phones, the camera on the Hero is fine for snapshots, but it won't replace your compact snapper.
Getting your snaps off the phone, and music onto it, is a different process from that of most phones, because there's no dedicated syncing software for the Hero. Instead, it connects to your computer via USB, just like a flash drive, so you can drag and drop the files you want or sync using most music software. We hate being chained to iTunes with the iPhone, but the lack of syncing software means there's no way to easily back up and restore all of your applications and configurations, and you must use over-the-air syncing with Gmail or Exchange to back up your contacts, although there are apps that can help.
Also, we didn't like that we had to 'mount' the Hero each time we connected it by USB before we could access it. It does help if you just want to charge the phone without it being detected as a USB drive by your computer, but we like to transfer data frequently, and it's an extra step we don't need.
There's plenty missing from the iPhone, like Flash support, but what's there works fantastically well. Android, like the Linux from which it was spawned, has always had a whiff of geekiness about it -- you're free to bolt on everything but the kitchen sink, but it's not a perfectly polished jewel that's always a pleasure to use.
The HTC Hero smoothes many of those rough edges, with a shiny new UI that covers Android in widgety goodness. Additions like multitouch zoom, lovely Flickr and Facebook integration and a great keyboard make the Hero the best Android phone yet, especially since it's not as ugly as we feared. In fact, we've grown to like its jutting jawbone. If only it were slightly faster and slicker, we'd consider it an iPhone killer. As it is, we'll class it as an iPhone peer.
Edited by Charles Kloet