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...
- 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:
- 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!
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 jackwallen.com.