The HTC Hero is the first Android device to pack any Flash support. The browser will run animated banners, Flash games and other web content just like on a regular computer. We had no problems with the desktop YouTube either except for the naggingly choppy playback, regardless of the god Wi-Fi connection. That again hints us of some underlying software video playback issues.
HTC have even gone further adding multi-touch support for the popular "pinch" zoom. So, the Hero is not only the first Flash-enabled Android, but also the first with multi-touch support.
The Hero's browser is fast and the interface clean. The application is based on the same open source WebKit platform as Mobile Safari and the browser of S60 and recent S40 Nokia phones. You can bet that promises some nice user experience.
Pages load quickly, and thumb navigation is just as smooth and easy as on the iPhone.
Zooming is as easy as on the iPhone and just as fluid. There is almost no lag and the browser handles the changes to the page view very smoothly. There's even a form auto complete functionality, password manager much like desktop browsers (and a certain phone made by Apple).
Finally, there's the option to have multiple web pages open at the same time. If you hit the Windows button in the browser menu, you will see all the currently opened pages and you can choose which one of them to view. Switching from one page to another involves nice smooth transition effects.
The web browser handled perfectly most of the pages we threw at it and we are very satisfied with the results. The capacitive screen securing the browser's fluid response along with multi-touch make surfing on the Hero a real pleasure.
The Hero web browser may as well bid for current best-mobile-web-browser title. It's probably the first time we see a full touch web browser match the iPhone and thanks to the Flash support and the nice download manager, it even outdoes the iPhone Mobile Safari browser.
There's still some work to do though, and we hope the promised Flash 10 update will come soon.
HTC Hero's elder, the T-Mobile G1, was condemned for the lack of a document viewer - a must for every smartphone, especially in this price range. Since the Magic though, the available free Quickoffice and the PDF viewers make sure you can read office documents stored in the phone's memory, the microSD card or received via email. Editing isn't possible at this stage but this is still a step forward for the Android OS.
Once all the files supported by the viewer are found and displayed everything goes extra smooth. You just have to wait a bit until the file indexing is finished.
Unlike HTC Magic, where e-mailed office documents or PDF files can be displayed and forwarded but not saved, Hero does it all (including saving attached documents and images on the memory card). Attaching saved files is possible as well.
The calendar has four different types of view - agenda, daily, monthly and today. Adding a new event is quick and easy, and you can also set an alarm to remind you of it.
There is also a calculator available (almost the same as the one we found in Magic). It is nicely touch optimized - the buttons are big enough and very comfortable. The only difference from the Magic's calculator is the missing landscape support but it's not that much of a loss.
Another improvement over the predecessors is the now preloaded voice recorder. Its interface looks nice and is simple enough to make voice recordings a breeze. Files are saved in .amr format. You can browse, hear and delete previous recordings. This application isn't capable of sending files directly after they have been recorded but there are enough alternatives just a few clicks away in the Android Market.
The HTC Hero features a decent alarm clock application which allows a huge number of alarms to set, each with its own start time and repeat pattern.
The alarm clock is accessible right on the homescreen - just tap on the clock. There you'll also find the stopwatch and the countdown timer.
Although the Hero lacks a preinstalled To-Do app you can download one of the many found in the Android Market. It won't take more than a minute.