iPhone

HTC Hero with Android superior to iPhone

Jack Wallen champions the Android mobile platform and announces the iPhone has been "i-owned". Will the current heavy-weight champ be overtaken by the open source underdog in the future?

A week ago I finally got rid of my iPhone in favor of the new Sprint HTC Hero. When I mentioned what I was planning, most everyone said I was crazy: "Why would you get rid of the iPhone?" "Why don't you like your iPhone?" "What's the HTC Hero?" Every question imaginable was hurled my way. But I marched on. I even signed up for a pre-release at Best Buy, so I could avoid the lines that inevitably wouldn't exist. That's right - the phone I had been waiting for was going to arrive in the US with zero iPhan iFare.

That is a shame, because the Hero is, by far, the most exciting mobile phone, with the strongest, most robust mobile OS I have ever seen.

Before I get into what it is about the Hero and Android that I love, let me tell you what I do not like about the iPhone.

  • Platform lock: You must use OSX or Windows if you want to do ANYTHING with an iPhone or iTouch. Yes there are new tools arriving (such as ifuse) that give you READ access to an iPhone/iTouch.
  • iTunes: I hate iTunes. It is the bull in the china shop of media managers. It's big, bulky, clumsy, prone to untimely death, and only works on OS X and Windows (WINE doesn't count, because it doesn't work).
  • Customization: Or should I say "lack thereof?" With the iPhone you get what you get. If you don't like the look and feel of it...tough. If Apple says it's hip and stylish, so be it.
  • Not truly multi-tasking: There are over, what, 85.000 "apps for that" of which you can run...

one.

at.

a.

time.

Yawn.

  • Battery: Battery life is not bad in the iPhone but you only get one battery. When that goes bad - send that iPhone in so Apple can do the honors.
  • No expansion: You get 8, 16, or 32 gigs. That's it. Oh sure some might say, "That's plenty of room!" But wait until you have crowded your phone with music and apps and your phone is full and you have no choice but to go through and start removing things.

I could continue with what I don't like about the iPhone, but you get the idea. Now, let's talk about the Hero.

I want to start off by saying that, yes, I do know the kernel source has yet to be released. But I did hear from a developer over the weekend (via Twitter) that the source is to be released soon.

With that out of the way...

The OS running the Hero is everything the iPhone is missing.

  • 100% customizable
  • True multi-tasking
  • Works with any platform

The Hero itself also has everything the iPhone is missing:

  • Expandability
  • Removable battery

But, let's face it, you can read bullet point after bullet point and it still amounts to nothing if the technology doesn't work well. So how does this phone stack up?

I was an iPhone user for about two years. When I first got my iPhone I seriously thought it was the way the PC interface was moving towards. But ultimately the sleek and shine of the product was undercut by how poorly it performed and how little the user could customize the interface. After two years of use I felt like I had a solid litmus test with which to judge all other mobile platforms.

The Android platform far surpassed any expectations I had. Not only is it sleek, stable, and reliable, it is a geek's dream phone. You can customize the phone in just about any way you want, and you can do with it just about anything the iPhone can do - only better. You can add apps from the Market. So far I have played around with:

  • Amazon: I shop a lot.
  • AndroidVNC: A VNC client - it's pretty cool to be able to interact with your desktop.
  • Ebay: Did I already say I shop a lot?
  • Two different browsers: Opera Mini and another browser with tabbed browsing. I'm waiting for Firefox.
  • Movies by Flixter: I watch a lot of movies.
  • Note me: Better note-taking app than any on that "other app store."
  • OI Shopping list: See "Note me" above.
  • OpenHome: A replacement desktop (I eventually went back to the Sense desktop - it's just that good).
  • Y5 Battery Saver: Shuts your wireless off when no Wi-Fi access is available.
  • Zombie Run: Probably the most fun I have ever had playing a mobile game.

I haven't even scratched the surface of the Market. You get the picture.

I could seriously go on and on about how much better the HTC Hero is than the iPhone. But ultimately, for me, it was all about Android and the fact that it is (or soon will be) open source. From my perspective, this phone is only now starting to pick up steam. Once the source is released, things will really start to get interesting. Imagine having the globe's open source collective mind making improvements, writing better apps, you name it.

I hope Apple is concerned about this phone overtaking their golden child. It could happen. Maybe not this year or the next, but Android is already an amazing mobile platform. Marry that platform with more hardware and you can see how the mobile market is going to expand and engulf Apple.

If you haven't had your hands on an HTC Hero - give it a try, you will find yourself with phone envy!

About

Jack Wallen is an award-winning writer for TechRepublic and Linux.com. He’s an avid promoter of open source and the voice of The Android Expert. For more news about Jack Wallen, visit his website getjackd.net.

45 comments
cosmos
cosmos

Does Anderoid come with a RemoteDesktop client? Something I use a LOT with my HTC Mogul (Windows Mobile) to remote access servers etc w/o having to add other software on the server side (eg WindowsServer2008, etc.)

cosmos
cosmos

Stylus? Can you use a stylus (non-finger) on the screen... i LOVE being able to grab my HB pencil and use it as a stylus (I seldom need to yank the skinny little one out, but use my pencil A LOT)... something that really irritates me with an iPHONE (you MUST use your finger... and NO choice (no external keyboard)

cosmos
cosmos

Replaceable battery? (Can you pop out and stick in a replacement battery easily?)... my HTC Mogul does that easily now, and I always carry 2 spare batteries in my pocket (seldom need, but VERY handy WHEN I DO)!!

rgilaard
rgilaard

What about connectivity to your Linux box? I will NEVER buy a closed source mobile phone again. I lost my Nokia this summer due to hardware issues and lost all my friends and birthday reminders. Therefore I'm waiting for a phone to emerge, where I can synchronize the contacts and calender events with my Linux Desktop. I've been toold that even Android phones can't sinc with my Linux Desktop, so I'm waiting.....

hardeep21
hardeep21

Customization, platform lock, expansion ...etc. points are valid points that iphone lacks... but how many people do really care about it maybe 5%... that wouldn't be enough to make a dent in iphone's market. Although I personally miss the above features, but the lack of it isn't motivating enough to loose the convenience, security and effectiveness of the using other apps on iphone.

mike151984
mike151984

How could you do a comparison to the iPhone without including its biggest downfall? What am I referring to? ATT as the only carrier of course.

bblackmoor
bblackmoor

It's about time the tech media caught on. Well done.

cbader
cbader

Fans of Apple tend to be pretty rabid, you are going to have a tough sell getting them to change, especially if Apple drops the contract with ATT and allows the iPhone to be used on any carrier.

tinyang73
tinyang73

think the iPhone stands a chance, but droiddoes.com! Actually I've been waiting all this time for Verizon to come out with an Android phone as my contract has been expired for a long time. Now I eagerly await the Sholes!

swilsonw
swilsonw

Time will tell how good it is....an whether it is the testbed for the Google desktop OS.

cesjohnstone
cesjohnstone

i disagree after using a palm 750 upgraded from win mobile 5 to mobile 6 with custom front end the iphone interacts seamless with outlook 2007 and windows 7 compared to the palm our office now has 5 out of 17 mobile users the single blackberry user looks very sad with lack of applications

billytude
billytude

Sprint drops calls where I live and T-Mobile is in the same boat from what I have heard. I would like to see Verizon come out with one of these 'touch' phones armed with Android (is there one?)

ralph60
ralph60

They're just another toy in a mind boggling world of gimmicks that are wasting time that could be used any way that would be better than playing a game or texting someone. I have a desktop that I play games on and text using messenger and oh yeah they are free so far anyway. I love playing with gadgets but they are truly a big waste of money. What we need is a better walkie-talkie thats all. Then we could do all those things free.

piet
piet

I don't even have a view on whether Android phones are better (or worse). All I can say is, until you come up with a list of advantages that appeal to the unwashed masses (with the money), you are going to struggle against the competition. So: Customisation -- nobody cares iTunes -- they love it Can't change the battery -- nobody cares Open Source/Open development -- Dunno. Whazzat? Multitasking -- I can listen to music while I play Seduko. Is that Mutltitasking? No? Then I don't care. Expandibility -- Sounds nice. Maybe I want some of that. By the way, it's a "benchmark", not a "litmus test".

The Groffer
The Groffer

I'm not knocking the hero. But it's just whomever's current favorite phone. You may like it better then the iphone, but it's all on perspective. If you want to connect to exchange or you happen to like itunes and you know have a mac or windows like the majority of the world an iPhone will seem like the bees knees. Feature for feature comparisons are pointless because if you require one feature that's missing from the other device that's a deal killer. Personally I'll still stick with a Black Berry because it's got the features I need. Besides in 2 years when your Hero Contract is up I'm sure you'll be waxing poetically about the next Hero killer.

bruce.carter
bruce.carter

Well my experience with an iPod touch was so negative that I won't buy Apple technology again Take this scenario. I have a few home videos on my iPOD and went to see my 85 year old mother. Unfortunately I didn't take my AV leads. No problem. I can tranfer the files from my iPod to my laptop, burn a DVD and watch them with Mother. No such luck. What Apple technology is tellng you is that once you heve transfered your files to an iPOD they belong to Apple and it's digital rights regime. Even though they are my videos they are not retrievable onto another machine. So unless under Windows or Unix the device doesn't come up as a mass storage drive I am not buying. I don't need software primarily designed to preserve the wealth of Steve Jobs, George Michael or Sony Corporation.

Justin James
Justin James

Jack - Before you champion the Android OS as "open source", you might want to take a look at Google's recent treatment of people who customize their Android phones. J.Ja

Forum Surfer
Forum Surfer

I really, really detest iTunes. It seems to self destruct, it is infuriating to back up and I just don't like it. It's also a bit of a resource hog. Give me a blackberry, windows mobile or an android any day.

jkiernan
jkiernan

Jack, did you ever jailbreak your iPhone? It removes most of the limitations you mention, though iTunes is still required for sync. iTunes is the reigning champion of bloatware on my PC. Android looks to be a compelling platform - I'm curious to see how Verizon will screw it up. The buzz I've been reading touts the Moto Droid over the HTC Hero.

cacorderoa
cacorderoa

For me is like for example trying to take market from Microsoft Windows... It has been a difficult task, people still using it, even all the complains... One of the problems is the same always, the apps (the most used) support!! Also it takes long time and constancy to beat these big brands. Firefox already did!!!!!! I know the article is about Superior, and in that way I agree.

JaynesC
JaynesC

I am just tired of just because it looks cool and all of the rest of the sheep is sporting the icool phone, I rather have something that can run multiple things at once. One of the reasons the instinct has it moments, but a key thing....it's EXPANDABLE!!!! Even the Pre runs good and they started the PDA craze in the early 90's....

Michael Kassner
Michael Kassner

Is it fair to compare two different things? As for multi-tasking, I am glad the iPhone does not support it right now. It prevents crimeware like Zeus and URLZone from executing.

rmerchberger
rmerchberger

A couple years ago I went online & found a "new in box" unlocked Treo 650 with no camera (I go places where they're frowned upon, so I didn't want the hassle) running the Palm OS. I've used a Palm since my mono III, so I prefer the "minimalistic" OS. Customizable? Sure, to a point. I haven't crossed that point yet, it seems, so I guess I'm happy enough with it. Music? It's got it, but I don't use it. Pictures? Nope. Expansion? Yes, up to 8G or so... I haven't passed 10% on my 1G card yet. How much space do you need for phone numbers, anyway? (remember, no camera. ;-) ) Sync with my Linux desktop? Yup. Using good ol' JPilot. Backs up & restores everything I need. Even sets up alarms on the Linux box to bark at me if I forget something impotent. And now onto the important stuff, and the main reason I got this particular phone: Signal quality!! Best I've come across. I hand my phone to iPhonies & Crackberry users all the time when my phone can get bars and theirs can't. What good is bells & whistles if you can't make a dang phone call? That said, I wouldn't mind trying out an Android or Palm Pre phone, just to see how (or in my area: if) they work. ooOOoo... shiny! Laterz!

jlwallen
jlwallen

you can sync your music using the Banshee music player. you have to be using Banshee >= 1.4 (they rolled in Android support at that release). with Banshee it's drag and drop music. pretty simple. there is not yet any syncing with Evolution or any other calendar/contact tool yet. but Google will make for a good tool until Linux syncing is available.

heymull
heymull

This new phone - like all Android devices - comes built-in with the ultimate synchronizing tool. It is a "your" google device. It turns on and it has all your contacts automatically. If you update your contacts on the Android phone, your desktop (google account accessed anywhere else) also is updated. Drop dead simple. Were you referring to other data that you'd like to synchonize? Or are you using Yahoo's address book for storing your contacts? Or Thunderbird? Android's answer is: use Google.

Forum Surfer
Forum Surfer

I know of many people, including myself that have poor at&t coverage in thier area. Freedom to choose any carrier would be a smart move, but who am I to question the great Steve Jobs. :) I still wouldn't own one due the iTunes requirement.

KB9QCD-Ron
KB9QCD-Ron

iTunes Bites. Unable to replace battery, Bites. Unable to add menory via SDHC Micro, BITES. Apple is stuck in the 1970's Sony Think. Beta is better, they will pay more for it. It was better, People refused to pay through the nose for a Beta Max. ($600+ when VHS was under $200) I own and use an iPhone, but only after they went under $100. It is an ok phone, A decent time waster, but all in all it will eventually go the way of the Apple Newton, Commodore 64 and all of those other "must have" devices of the past. I dislike Apple Corporation, but I have to admit, this is a good device, for me.

Another Canadian
Another Canadian

This iTunes is not stable at all, I have win amp, media center and they all work, iTunes just break and make duplicate of all my files without any reasons, I know it is the fault of Windows and they other player are not cool that I mentioned above. Welcome to windows world mister here we are use to bitch and demand in windows world we are not saying yes but it is pretty... it break for no reason but yest it is pretty. My computer is not pretty thank you very much it is PC and it is very stable and it don't break for any reasons. This is my evaluation of my iTouch combined with iTunes, iTouch is very good, iTunes is crap is my own assessment when it come to reliability and I have paid for all my upgrade since 0S 1 to the 3.x something, impress with iTouch not at all with iTunes.

jkiernan
jkiernan

All the people I know that own PCs are not pleased with the requirement of iTunes installation. Mac users don't seem to mind as they had it before they had an iPhone. Battery life can also be a deal killer, but an external battery extender is available for $30. What is Seduko? Do you mean Sudoku?

wmiller
wmiller

I jailbroke my iphone the first week I had it but thats not the point. You have to jump through hoops and circumvent Apples protection just to change the background. Not only that but Apple is trying at every turn to STOP people from jailbreaking.

wcollar
wcollar

It's really hard to attach must credibility to an article that reads like a transcript of the TV ad I saw for the Android last night. Fortunately since you're praising their product, they probably won't go after you for plagiarism.

daniel.clarke
daniel.clarke

I have one of these phones and I do adore it. The fact is that there are a huge number of applications available for the iPhone, just like there are a huge number of free applications available most OSs - but surely there has been a time when you wanted a couple of them to run in the background, continuing whatever 'cool' function they were designed to do, while you carried on with whatever convenience task you wanted? On the Hero I have a handy app that automatically backs up my SMS texts to my gmail account (so I will never lose a message and I can search through them online, anyway, even if my phone is not with me). I doubt that you could do that on an iPhone, unless you hack it to pieces (which is something I imagine the majority of mainstream users would never want to do). Also, just because something can be customised - it doesn't mean that it has to be. In fact the Hero is set up from the box in that manner that is completley useable from the outset. It lays out and highlights a lot of it's features, over time though, you might think that it would be handy to have X app on your main screen... well you can do that - and it is child's play to do so. However, you do not need to customise it if you don't want to. Synchronisation: where one of my phone contacts is a friend on my Facebook account, they're linked up on my Hero and it uses their Facebook 'facepic' on their contact. It also lets me know when they update their wall, etc. All very cool. It also lets you sync up with photo sharing website and twitter. There are numerous little features that have made my user experience with it a happy one, too many to list. I am a very happy Hero user and since I am actually using it, I wanted to share those experiences here.

CZakalwe
CZakalwe

I think Jacqui Cheng at Ars Technica nailed this here - most people don't DO multitasking, don't CARE about the O/S, and don't WANT to have to switch the desktop of their telephone. I am enough of a geek that I am personaly interested in getting an Android phone, but I'd never give one to my Mom/Mother-In-Law/Sister/Brother/Etc. They just aren't interested in those things, and I know that because they don't care about them on their regular computers. I will even cheerfully extrapolate that out to the masses, who are in large part happily ignoring the manifold benefits of *nix and Open Source software in general. Asking those folks to choose a phone that is FOR THEM no better than the iPhone while being more confusing (due to the very flexibility we enjoy) is a non-starter. All those other things would be better accessed via a nice netbook, with a full keyboard and a larger display. That's my $0.02US, anyway.

Forum Surfer
Forum Surfer

"I love my iWhatever, but I really hate this iTunes thing." Heard that one a gazillion times.

jlwallen
jlwallen

just an impressed user who suffered through the problems of having an iPhone for two years.

cmol
cmol

ditto. i use a hero and can't be happier.

tupsy0
tupsy0

Most people will change their ring tone and mabe change their wall paper and thats about it. They got ther iPhone because of what it brings to them with out any effort on their part. Where was the smart phone market before iPhone? Exactly... Apple understands how to do this, thats their business. People who don't want this who want more control resent Apple for not giving it to them. But Apple understands flexibility and to much control for the minority spells conflicts trouble and frustration for the rest. Thats why Linux hasn't taken over the world. Android will no doubt increase it's user base as it develops but don't under estimate Apple that would be a clasic mistake. Every one bemoned iPones lack of cut and paste or mms. One update later guess what iPhone can cut and paste and in a way thats better than the rest. iPone os 4.0 might see multy tasking yet. I hope the Android os does really well because be in no doubt Apple is watching.

mmcever
mmcever

I think most people dont do multitasking because they can't, not that they dont want to but that is a nice way to look at it. Look at your blackberry users everyone of them is a multitasker and it is secure go figure.

rkuhn040172
rkuhn040172

I have an iTouch not an iPhone. To me, it is about doing certain things (check email, eBay, Facebook, Twitter, weather, sports scores, stock market, etc) anywhere, anytime really fast and easy all in the palm of my hand. If I want to get any serious amount of work done or will be doing something for an extended period of time...off to the PC I go. I don't want or need tweaking, customizing, etc. It's a product of convenience for me.

edmicman1
edmicman1

He already implied he's on Linux, so has no desire to use iTunes or iPhoto. And I believe the upcoming Android release adds (if it's not there already?) Exchange support. To me Android phones are a much-needed option for those of us who want a next-gen smartphone but don't want Apple's or BlackBerry's lock-in.

cappiels
cappiels

unfortunately, people who are eager to see a phone superior to the iPhone will realize that nothing can touch the iPhone until it has ecosystem support as the iPhone does--- my iPhone syncs with Exchange, iTunes and iPhoto.. it all works so beautifully together. also.. i very rarely need or want multitasking on a handheld.... but when I do, I run backgrounder 3g i will admit, it sucks that you have to jailbreak the iPhone to get this sort of functionality.. but, for the time being, the iPhone will be my device of choice.. Android has potential and the handsets offer some cool features.. but in totality, I really don't think i would be happier with one of them over my iPhone at this point.. I could be wrong.

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