Smartphone showdown: HTC Hero vs iPhone 3GS

Has the Google Android-based HTC Hero got what it takes to challenge Apple's iPhone 3GS?

Can HTC's Hero challenge the iPhone?

Can HTC's Hero challenge the iPhone?

The Google Android operating system is still in its infancy. However, HTC's latest smartphone, the HTC Hero, looks like it's got what it takes to challenge Apple's iPhone 3GS.

Featuring HTC's all-new Sense interface, the big appeal of the Hero lies in the fact that its focus is very much on the user. As HTC's Australian and New Zealand marketing manager Anthony Petts explains, the technology in HTC's smartphones isn't the key focus.

"We are very much focused on UI, technology is second place and the specifications are left until last," explained Petts. "The HTC Hero is very much about making it yours and from a customisation perspective a person can make the device anything they want."

This level of customisation is common place in smartphones running the open-source Android platform, and the closed environment of the iPhone OS means it's somewhat of a chink in Apple's armour. For example, full level multitasking isn’t currently available on the iPhone, and third-party applications supporting push have only been available just recently.

In anticipation of HTC Hero's launch in Australia, GoodGearGuide was lucky enough to get a hands-on sneak preview of the HTC Hero before its release (which will be "between now and October"). So, how does it stack up against the iPhone 3G S?

Design

The HTC Hero is slightly longer and thicker than the HTC Magic. Don't be fooled by the press images though: the Hero is slimmer and more compact than it looks. Although the angled design has raised a few eyebrows, it impressed us. The microphone is closer to your mouth when you're on a call, and the design is distinctive. Both the HTC Hero and the iPhone 3GS come in white and black versions. Despite the improvements to the HTC Hero’s design, it doesn’t quite match the iPhone. The iPhone is unmistakably sleek, stylish and well built.

HTC Hero

The angled part of the HTC Hero’s body houses the trackball and navigation keys.

Display

The HTC Hero features a 3.2in TFT touch-screen display, which is slightly smaller than the iPhone’s 3.5in screen. Colour, clarity and viewing angles are similar and we really didn’t notice the smaller size when using the Hero. Both of these smartphones use capacitive touch screens (so a stylus isn’t required) and both support multi-touch technology, allowing users to pinch and squeeze the screen with two fingers to zoom. The iPhone 3GS has an oleophobic coating on the display to help make fingerprints and smudges wipe off easier, while HTC has confirmed the Hero will receive a similar “screen protection coating”, even though the exact type hasn’t been confirmed.

HTC Hero

The HTC Hero’s 3.2in display is slightly smaller than the iPhone 3GS', but the different isn’t enough to detract from the overall user experience.

Operating system

The iPhone 3G S naturally runs Apple's proprietary iPhone software. A big part of this is the App Store, offering access to tens of thousands of applications, all specifically designed for the iPhone. The iPhone OS is also lauded for its ease of use and design, and it's not hard to understand why. These days, a great phone is just as much about its software as its hardware, and the iPhone is a great example of this.

Competing directly with Apple’s App Store is Google’s Android Market. The Android Market is still only in its infancy so it's hard to compare to the App Store, but there is great potential for improvement and a wider range of apps. The Android OS allows multitasking, and there is much more scope for personalisation and customisation — not only from an end user's perspective but also from a developer point of view.

User interface

Using the iPhone feels natural; transitions between screens are superb, animations are excellent and the overall ease of use is outstanding — and all of this has only improved with the iPhone 3.0 software update. The iPhone 3GS also features a faster processor than the iPhone 3G, making it the fastest and most responsive iPhone yet.

The HTC Hero will certainly give the iPhone a run for its money, though. Live widgets are one of its impressive features. The Hero has seven home screens available that can be accessed by swiping your finger left or right. You can have the native Twitter client on one screen, the clock and calendar on the other and your e-mail on the next. Because they are all live widgets, there is no need to open applications to access them.

HTC Hero

The HTC Hero has seven fully customisable home screens that house live widgets. These include contacts, calendar, clock, Twitter, music, e-mail, messages and stocks.

Multimedia

The iPhone's iPod integration is one of its outstanding features. Music and video playback is simple and easy, and the iPhone 3GS adds video recording and MMS messaging. The HTC Hero has a slight edge over the iPhone, with a 5-megapixel camera (though still no flash). It is one of the first HTC smartphones to feature a standard 3.5mm headphone jack. About time! We had a quick play with the Hero’s music app and it looks impressive, even if it will be hard to top the iPhone’s iPod integration and ability to synchronise with iTunes.

HTC Hero

The HTC Hero’s music application looks impressive and, as it's a live widget, music can be played directly from the home screen with a quick swipe of your finger.

Features

The iPhone 3GS and HTC Hero have very similar specifications. Both phones are 7.2Mbps HSDPA-capable, both have GPS, Wi-Fi and a standard 3.5mm headphone jack. The iPhone holds a slight advantage with options of 16GB or 32GB of internal memory, though there is no external storage slot. On the other hand, the Hero has just 512MB of internal memory, but a microSD card slot theoretically allows 32GB microSDHC cards to be used. Neither of these smartphones offers FM radio capabilities, though the iPhone does offer TV-out with the purchase of an extra cable accessory.

A feature not available on the iPhone is scenes, part of HTC’s Sense UI. A scene is basically a configuration of the Hero’s home screen: users could have a scene for work, where they could have e-mail and calendar widgets on hand, and a scene for home, where music, photos and weather could be used.

Who do you think will win the battle between the iPhone 3GS and the HTC Hero? Tell us on the PC World Forums.

For more information on all things iPhone, visit our iPhone Centre.

Follow GoodGearGuide on Twitter: @GoodGearGuide

Tags AppleHTC HeroGoogle AndroidiPhonesmartphonesiphone 3giPhone 3GS

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Ross Catanzariti

Ross Catanzariti

Good Gear Guide

16 Comments

Anonymous

1

OMG...

WOW, This will make apple a run for its money!!!! Damn sexy too, to bad no physical keyboard!

Anonymous

2

iPhone offers TV Out

Greetings Ross Catanzariti,

I noticed towards the end of the comparison article between the iPhone 3GS and the HTC Hero (which I admit is a good comparison touching all the vital key points that these two smartphones can be compared on), that you have mentioned that neither of the 2 smartphones offer TV-Out capabilities, I'd like to point to you that the iPhone does and has always offered this capability and also in fact it does so in widescreen.
How to get there:
Go to: 'Settings>iPod' and at the bottom of this screen you have the option of choosing 'Widescreen' TV out and also the format between NTSC or PAL....
Thought I'd bring this to your notice...

Regards,
Sid....

Ross Catanzariti

Staff

3

TV-out

Hi Sid,

Thanks for the feedback. I have corrected the review to reflect your suggested changes. I've also included a direct link from Apple regarding the TV-out capabilities.

Anonymous

4

iPhone Bias

Hi Ross

I have noticed that alot of your reviews lean favourably towards the iphone. I own an iphone and whilst they are an excellent device and as much as i like to hear about the greatness of the iphone, i think that you can somewhat tend to downplay the limitations of the iphone, whilst placing greater emphasis on the limitations of the competition (for example the Nokia N97 review). I was just wondering is there any reason for this 'bias'? or do you believe that the iphone is simply in a class of its own? (which i personally do not believe it is).

Roy

Ross Catanzariti

Staff

5

Hi Roy,
Personally I wouldn't

Hi Roy,

Personally I wouldn't say my reviews lean favourably towards the iPhone any more than most other tech writers. I also own an iPhone and I think you'll agree that Apple has set the benchmark when it comes to an excellent combination of hardware and software, albeit its not perfect.

I completely agree with you that the iPhone has plenty of limitations, but I have commented on most of them. I've even written an article bemoaning the 3.0 software update for missing critical features like Bluetooth file transfers and true multitasking, just as an example. In my view, there are plenty of frustrating things about the iPhone but the user interface, simple software and App Store is usually enough for most iPhone users to live with these issues.

In regards to the Nokia N97, I believe it is a great piece of hardware, but its let down by terrible software. Symbian is in major need of an interface overhaul and the touch interface is lagging well behind most of the competitors, not just Apple.

Anonymous

6

Switching from iphone

I am an iphone owner since january 12th, 2008. I have the first gen iphone with 8gb memory, but it's time for something new....so i decided to switch to HTC Hero. In my opinion it's the first phone on the market that deserve attention since the iphone launch.

Anonymous

7

multitaking

The simple fact that you don't have to close one app to access another makes android a killer os. Iphone is too limited. Its for people who just wanna listen to music and do basic things with their phone. Android takes it on another level but you do and probably will always have to restart it every once in a while depending on what apps you are running.

Anonymous

8

iPhone 3GS...

...is the best phone, IMO. Call me a fanboy or whatever. I really don't care.

Anonymous

9

what about flash

one thing i noticed wasn't included in the comparison, is that the Hero is the first phone to allow you to view flash web pages as they're meant to be seen....

Anonymous

10

Hero or Iphone

I have had both Iphone and Hero. Both have their limitations and advantages. I dislike the fact Hero has a 3.2" screen perhaps because I'm used to Touch HD which has a 3.8" screen. IPhone wins screen size. Apps IPhone. Looks Hero definetly. Interface Hero hands down winner. Functions Hero again. Features Hero again. Camera Hero.
For me Hero is definetly the winner and if it had a bigger screen it would be even better. Iphone is more popular but Hero is definately better phone.

Anonymous

11

Insider Info

I'm not sure if anyone here is aware but the Hero has an Ambilight sensor which means that the brightness of the display will vary automatically.

Concerning the fact that there is no physical keypad on the hero - I can tell you that the hero's new UI means a much better onscreen keyboard than the G1. In fact, the biggest problem the Hero has is that it is nothing like the G1 (in terms of response times, usability etc.).

Another feature of the hero that goes unmentioned is the sliding lock that you have when you turn the phone on from standby. I guess this is similar to iPhone's system where you slide your finger across the screen to unlock the phone.

Hero is a winner hands down.

Anonymous

12

Sorry, but could you explain...

...that is, explain what the Hero doesn't "match" the iPhone in, in terms of design? You seem to leave the point completely undefended, especially after playing up the Hero's distinctive angled design. What about the iPhone is "sleek and stylish"? You also neglect to say anything about the Teflon coating (on the white Heros, rubberized plastic on the other varieties), which is a fairly major oversight; Gizmodo found the iPhone feeling like a cheap piece of plastic in comparison (http://gizmodo.com/5302637/htc-heros-teflon-coating-makes-the-iphone-feel-like-junk). Add to that the fact that the iPhone's battery is *not* user-replaceable, and it doesn't offer any removable memory - I'd say the Hero is a sure winner in design; though I'm sure it's mostly taste, I just can't see any good reason why you'd declare the iPhone a "winner" in that category.

Thanks,
Kris

Anonymous

13

TV Out

Again old news, had it on my N95 so its not an Apple thing. To be truthful barely anyone actually uses it, so don't flag that as some 'wow' iphone factor feature. HTC hero outshines the iphone in 90% of areas. This is HTC first attempt, its Apple's third attempt. First time winner HTC for the android corner! I'm sure Apple put things in peoples water, they are so brainwashed about app store its silly.

Anonymous

14

Iphone vs Hero

I think we should realize the fact that the iphone has completely changed the way a smartphone looks and feels.. From the old days of pulling your hair out on the ever crashing windows platform, it has set a bench mark for the smartphones.. everything from now on is just a buildup / variation of what the iphone has done and the truth is- you can only compare but never match the orginal..

Only something radically different from the iphone OS's feel, can beat the iphone. Palm has already seen the results and I am sure many more will follow, unless they come up with something unique and pathbreaking..

Anonymous

15

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Anonymous

16

Hero vs iPhone

I had an iPhone 3Gs 32Gb. While the iPhone has some nice features, I found it severely lacking in areas that to me are very important. After a week I decided that the con's outweighed the pro's and returned it and got the Hero.

While the iPhone has a slick interface I feel that the Hero's interface is superior. The ability to create multiple scenes of 7 home screens each is just the start. Having live widgets that push information right to you can't be beat. Add to that the ability to create folders to store similar applications and widgets and iPhone is left beaten and bloody.

The real deal breaker for iPhone for me was its insanely lacking and useless event alerts. Sure, you can set a ringtone for incoming phone calls, but for other very important events you can't do anything but turn them on or off. The alert for a calendar event is 3 short quiet beeps 3 short quiet beeps and that's it (you can't even hear it if the phone's in your pocket). I missed every appointment that I had put into the calendar. To some people this is a small issue, but for me it's huge as I count on my electronic calendar to get my attention and ALERT me of appointments. And it's not just the calendar, incoming text and e-mail have the same restrictions. The actions I'm talking about are called Alerts and Notifications, not gentle nudges. I want to know when something has happened. SMS is supposed to be real time, so what good is it if I don't know about a message until an hour later when I pick up the phone and check. The Hero lets me set whatever I want for alerts and notifications. On the Hero I use songs and have them play loud for up to 45 seconds and now I don't miss alerts and notifications. This lack of useful event alerts is simply Apple be arrogant and dictating what every iPhone will sound like. If the software has the capability to set a ringtone for phone calls then it certainly is capable of doing the same for all other types of alerts.

If you just want a device that can't be customized to your liking and that you can just take out of the box and use, then iPhone is for you. That is if you like paying $800.00 (32Gb 3Gs) for something that you have to use as is. For that price, the iPhone should have a decent level of customization available. And don't tell me to jailbreak the iPhone. Again, for that price I shouldn't have to jump through flaming hoops to get it to do something that it should have done in the first place.

Anyway, I could go on for pages about why I like the Hero over the iPhone but I'll stop here.

HTC Hero the iPhone killer? For me, Yes!!!

Don

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