Sunday, November 22, 2009

One Week With my HTC Hero Android Phone!

I’m going a different direction for this post because I wanted to share my thoughts on my newest toy. I’m “one of those people” who can’t live without my cell phone. Not that I really make or receive that many phone calls but I do text, tweet, and surf the web from my phone.  I became eligible for a phone upgrade this month and have been with Sprint for years. I have had a Samsung Instinct for the past year and I have been very happy with it. However I was not very happy with the limited number of apps available for it.  I researched for a month before narrowing it down to the Palm Pre and the HTC Hero. In the end I went with the Hero which is an Android based phone developed by Google. I mean who’s better than Google? Ok, maybe the guys who put the fruit on their phones but that was not an option with Sprint. You can read about the features of the Hero online but I thought I would list my favorite apps that I’ve downloaded in the past week.

The apps are downloaded from the Android Market right on your phone. You can search the market for the apps you want and read reviews about them before downloading. You set up your account to withdraw funds using Google Checkout for the paid apps, but there are TONS of free apps available. There is an online version of the Android Market that you can browse apps on your PC but there is no way to search it by name, etc.

Alternately, you can browse apps and search the Android Market from your PC via the AndroLib site. The coolest thing about this site is that each app has a QR code associated with it. You can use a barcode scanning app (my favorite is ixMAT Scanner (Free)) and scan the code with your Android phone. The code links up to the app on the Android Market and will connect you to that app in the Market so you can download it on your phone. You can also use the scanner app to scan regular UPC codes. If the code is found you can follow a link which will take you to Google search for that product.

Email: When you first set up your phone you are required to associate a gmail account with it. I have two Gmail accounts, two AOL accounts, a Comcast account, and a Yahoo account. I was frustrated that I could not “push” my other email accounts on the Hero. There is a nifty program called Seven (not in the market – download from site - free) that is in Beta right now that will allow you to set up all your email accounts and it will notify you when you receive a new email on any of the accounts. It’s still a little buggy but for right now is the only way to push my web based email accounts and I have found it invaluable. Don’t quote me but I’m pretty sure that Seven is the same program that came with my Instinct. It looks the same anyway.

Web Brower: With my old phone I could not set a different default web browser so each link I clicked would open up the Instinct’s (very crappy) browser. I much preferred Opera Mini on my Instinct and used it almost exclusively but could not set it as the default browser. Opera Mini is also available for Android and I’ve got it on my Home page but there are several other free browsers available.  I actually prefer the Dolphin Browser (FREE). What is very cool about this browser is you can set up “gestures”. This means that you can just “draw” a symbol with your fingertip and the browser will execute whatever command is associated with that gesture. Want to bookmark a page? Just draw an M on the screen and it is saved to your bookmarks! Dolphin also has tabbed browsing and the ability to sync Google Bookmarks and RSS Feeds from your Google account. I’ve been very impressed with Dolphin so far and have made it my default web browser.

Twitter: The Hero comes packaged with Peep, which is not a bad little Twitter app. I downloaded Twitroid (Free but a Pro version is also available to purchase) and have not had much chance to play with all of the features yet. Most of my tweets so far have been sent via SMS, which leads me to my next favorite app..

SMS: My favorite SMS app is Handcent SMS.  Wow, this is cool! There are so many features to this app but the one I love is the speak SMS function. Press the little microphone and you can speak into the phone to compose your text message. Now I don’t condone texting while driving. (It’s VERY Dangerous and illegal in many states!)  But I’ve found this pretty handy while I’m curling my hair or doing makeup at home and only have one hand available.

Task Manager: There are a bunch of great free and paid Task Managers in the market used to kill background programs and free up memory. I paid .99 for Advanced Task Manager and have found it quite useful. You can choose from your active programs a list you want to “exclude” from killing. Then open up the app and shake your phone to kill all the programs not on the exclude list.

File Manager (free) – Astro file manager allows you to see/move/delete files on your SD card.  You can also backup your free apps on the SD card, which is handy if you need to reset your phone.

Backup: I use Skydeck Phone Backup (Free). It syncs all of your contacts and saves your call history and SMS messages online so you can access them from any pc. You can also add/edit your contacts from the site on your PC which is much easier than using the phone’s tiny keyboard.

Radio: Pandora(Free). Pandora Rocks! I had it on my Instinct and am thrilled it works on Android also. The awesome app Shazam (free) is also available for Android, which will tell you what song is playing on the radio or TV and provide a link to purchase and download the song on your phone!

Ringtones: Ringdroid (free) is the coolest little app of all so far! You can edit any song you have stored on your SD card and create a ringtone from it. Just drag the sliders to select the portion of the song you want to be a ringtone and it will save as a ringtone and allow you to assign it to a contact or make it the default ringtone.

Speaking of personalization, there are a number of wallpaper library apps you can download that are searchable and have thousands of different wallpapers. I created my own for my Hero in Photoshop but have downloaded AndroLib Wallpapers and Backgrounds (both free) and have used several of the photos to assign to individual contacts for those I don’t have pictures of.

Miscellaneous apps: Other apps that I have downloaded or purchased but haven’t had the time to really play with yet:

Camera Zoom FX (about $2.00) – customize your photos and take pics with your camera using special effects. After  you pay for the program there are a lot of different free add-on packs of frames, effects, etc. you can download from the market.

Cardio Trainer (free) – if I ever decide to start running again I will definitely get some use from this app. It tracks your distance, calories, history, etc. and you can view your workouts on your pc.

Widgets – I have found a number of useful widgets that I’ve placed on my home screen:

Pure Calendar (About $2.00) syncs with your google calendar and displays your schedule. Several different formats/sizes of calendars to choose from. My Pure Calendar widget replaces my google calendar widget and I’ve reserved a whole screen for it.

Battery Widget (free) – Place this little widget on your home screen and it displays in percentage exactly how much battery you have left. If you press the widget you will get a pop-up that lets you toggle off/on wifi, bluetooth, and GPS or will take you to the display settings screen which saves time because you don’t have to search through your settings to do this.

Well I’ve rambled too long but I haven’t mentioned the most useful (to me) app that comes packaged with the Hero – Google Voice Search. Start it up and speak into the phone.  The browser will start up with a list of google results from your search. You can then get directions with google maps, call the business you are looking for, purchase a product online, etc. The one thing I miss that I had with my Instinct is LiveSearch though. Similar to Google Voice Search, Live Search would give you an option to give you turn by turn directions with Telenav. Telenav is included with the Hero but it is not accesible from Google Voice Search (you must start it separately – an extra step but not a huge pain).

Anyway, if there are some apps that I have missed (I’m still overwhelmed by the huge number of apps in the market), please feel free to comment with your favorites. So far I’ve been thrilled with my new purchase and love my Android!


Anonymous said...

Thanks for the in-depth review on this fun-sounding toy!!

Jo said...

I heard the HTC phones were really nice, I think you confirmed this. :-)

Dawn said...

I have a My Touch which is also an Android phone. My favorite fun app is GoogleSkyMap. My favorite functional apps are Wheres My Droid and AntiDroidTheft. Thanks for all the suggestions. I hadn't heard of a few of them so I'll have to check them out.

sdwrdt said...

thanks for the recs! We have Sprint and I can't wait til I'm eligible for a new phone. Sounds like I would LOVE this and saved most of your recommendations!

LianeZ said...

I wish that task manger app was available for laptops, I would love to just shake my laptop and have all those crappy unneeded programs just die without having to kill each one. I have a dying laptop and all the crap that tries to start-up and fails slows me down getting to what I want to use and then the thing dies because the battery over heats. I'm down to about 15 minutes before I have to put it into standby and let it cool off with the chill pad running. Heres hoping Santa brings me a winning loto ticket so i can get a new laptop! - LianeZ

Unknown said...

WOW was this ever helpful!!! how did you know i was eyeballing this little baby for the last 2 weeks. I have sprint too and i got the little flyer in the mail. and i am eleigible now..but my husband has the htc touch and we werent sure if we wanted to go with this one for me or the the htc pro thingy. i think you confirmed that this is the new phone for me!

LEDesign said...

thanks for the review.

I'm looking for a new phone, is this phone good for any Sprint plan or do I need to pay extra?

Scrappincop said...

LEDesign - You have to be on the Sprint Everything Plan.

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