The HTC Hero can handle all common types of messages - SMS, MMS and email. Google Talk is in charge of instant messaging. Email support is excellent with support for Exchange out of the box and social media buffs will be pleased with the level of integration of that content as well.
The on-screen full QWERTY keyboard in the HTC Hero works in both portrait and landscape modes. The individual button size is decent and sensitivity is better than the Magic, though there are still problems with the edges of the screen - often it takes several taps before it registers a press.
Like on other Androids, if you have only one SMS message, a line in the notification area displays the sender and part of the message itself. If you have two or more messages, you are simply informed of the number and the SMS section is opened once you hit the icon.
The SMS and MMS section is quite straightforward and simple at first glance - there are no folders here, just a new message button. It doesn't stay like that for long - under that button is a list of all your messages organized into threads. Each thread is labeled by the names of the recipients and shows the number of messages in the thread and part of the last message.
When viewing a thread, the most recent message is placed at the bottom, just like with the iPhone.
At the bottom of the display is the tap-to-compose box and the send key of course. There is a counter on the right which is displayed once you have 10 or fewer characters remaining to the 160 limit. It also shows the number of parts the message will be split into for sending.
Composing a message is a little frustrating as,the text box only takes a small part of the screen even if you hide the keyboard, which really only gives you little to work with.
To add recipients, just start typing a name or number and choose from the contacts offered. In the Magic, the list of recipients was kept in a "Name
The Magic way was better because if a contact has several numbers you can see which one you're about to use.
Unsent messages are marked with a warning sign, but draft messages that used to stay in the thread with a red "Draft" label next to them, are now kept separately in the dedicated Draft section. This makes continuing drafts harder. In the Magic, text in the compose box was kept right there instead of forcing the user to go back to the Drafts folder.
If you wish to manage a specific message in the history, you can press and hold a message to bring up options such as forward and delete as well as view details. The options to copy the text of a message or edit a message have been removed.
When you get a new message, your whole messaging history with that person is pushed to the top of the messaging menu, no matter when your last conversation took place.
A press-and-hold on the text box gives you access to functions such as cut, copy and paste. You are free to paste the copied text into any other application like email, notes, chats, etc. and vice versa.
Converting SMS to MMS is logical and easy. When you add multimedia content to the message, it is automatically turned into an MMS. You can just add a photo or an audio file to go with the text, or you can choose to go into a full-blown MMS editor, depending on your needs.
Gmail is one thing that you can't expect to have changed much since the Magic. There are a few HTC add-ons, but nothing major. Batch operations, which debuted on the HTC Magic, allow multiple emails to be archived, labeled or deleted.
The user interfaces of both the Gmail and Mail apps have been slighly polished with several icons in the menus changed. The scrolling speed has also been increased compared to Android v1.0.
The extended Gmail features include spam report and of course conversation-style email view mode.
When replying to an email you can opt for either Gmail or HTC mail, and set one of the two options as default.
By the way, it's kinda hard to talk native / non-native email clients on the Hero as Gmail is native to Android and HTC Mail is native to well, HTC. Anyway, the coexistence of a Gmail and a standard HTC email app is no news since the Magic and the reason is the added corporate Exchange ActiveSync support.
The standard HTC Mail app has been tweaked up compared to the Magic. The general Inbox displays the last sync time, the sort order, the current email account and of course the actual messages. At the bottom there are three virtual buttons that change the inbox view to display conversations or only the emails with attachments.
The conversations view tries to mimic the original Gmail client threaded view, which is otherwise missing in the standard inbox. The option to only display emails with attached files is a good one to have on hand. Attachments are not automatically loaded by default.
Email sorting is possible (in either ascending or descending order) by date, subject, sender and size. The chosen filter is displayed in the top right corner of the display.
There's hardly anything the HTC Hero lacks in terms of email capabilities. What you basically have is a local copy of your Gmail account bundled with its main functionality plus a Microsoft Exchange compatible alternative client, which can manage multiple POP and IMAP accounts.