posted by Thom Holwerda on Wed 24th Jun 2009 18:28 UTC
IconWe've been talking an awful lot about the Palm Pre and iPhone lately, but what about Android? Sure, we've mentioned Android a number of times when it comes to netbooks, but what about phones, you know, what Android is designed for? Well, today, HTC annoucned its 3rd Android phone, the HTC Hero. This is the first to include a custom UI, as well as Flash 10 right out of the box.

The HTC Hero takes a few serious cues from the Palm Pre and its webOS with "Perspectives", a technology that ties together contacts, emails, and social networking in a manner supposedly similar to Palm's Synergy. It will be interesting to see how well it works, seeing as Synergy still has some bugs up its bum.

HTC Hero with custom UI Sense.

The Hero does not come with the default Android user interface, instead preferring HTC's homegrown Sense UI, which will also appear on Windows Mobile phones from HTC. It uses something called "Scenes", where each scene is a customisable homescreen with different sets of widgets and information. The other big thing is that the Hero will come with Flash 10 out of the box, which probably could be seen as a competitive advantage over the iPhone and (currently) the Pre (the Pre is supposed to get Flash as well).

From the press release:

With its 3.2-inch HVGA display, the HTC Hero is optimized for Web, multimedia and other content, while maintaining a small size and weight that fits comfortably in your hand. It also boasts a broad variety of hardware features including AGPS, digital compass, gravity-sensor, 3.5mm stereo headset jack, a five mega-pixel autofocus camera and expandable MicroSD memory. HTC Hero also includes a dedicated Search button that goes beyond basic search, providing you with a more natural, contextual search experience that enables you to search through Twitter, locate people in your contact list, find emails in your inbox or search in any other area in Hero.

The Hero will be available in Europe starting July, Asia later in the summer, and North America later in 2009.

I'm not entirely sure if these custom user interfaces are a good idea for Android. While the openness and customisability are obvious strengths of the open source Android platform, having the same Sense UI available on Windows Mobile will mean that people won't really notice a difference when going to the shops to buy a phone - they won't see the benefits of Android because it's all tucked away under a UI that's completely cross-platform.

It may look better than the default Android interface, but since I'm not even sure if it's open source (no word on that one), it seems like no other manufacturers - or even Google itself - can benefit from HTC's work, which seems kind of counter-productive for Google.

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