Monday, November 02, 2009

HTC Hero vs Palm Pre

Below I compare two cell phones that I currently own: a Palm Pre and an HTC Hero. Both of which are on Sprint. I am trying to decide which of these phones to keep, and which to get rid of.  In June, I bought the Palm Pre.  And I've gone from being extremely excited about it to somewhat disappointed.

Sprint recently released the HTC Hero. And I thought maybe it would do a better job for me than what the Pre did.  So I currently own two phones.  The Hero will be going back to Best Buy before the 30 day no questions asked return policy expires. If I like it more than the Pre, I'm going to pester Sprint until they let me tradein the Pre in exchange for a Hero. I can be a real pest. Just ask my wife & kids.

Below are the notes that I've been taking while running this experiment. Some notation explanation.  A minus sign (-) means that in my opinion, the Pre wins that point.  A plus sign (+) means that the Hero wins it. And an = sign means that they tie.

- Virtual Keyboards (VK) suck. Hero's VK is better than Pre's VK by a Texas mile.  But it's can't replicate tactile feedback of a real keyboard.  Hero's calibration tool helped, but still can't compare to a physical keyboard.
- Virtual keyboard takes up too much screen realestate making the effective screeen size of Hero much smaller when typing than Pre.
- Hero has no proximity sensor to turn off screen when putting phone to face. Accidental button presses happen.
- Hero doesn't come with headphones in the box. Say what?!
- Hero's charging cable is not microusb. Nor is it miniusb. It appears to be proprietary to HTC. All other phones in my house charge on microusb making chargers interchangeable. Disappointing.
- Hero has no LED flash on camera. I (rarely) use Pre's flash for pictures. I have an app installed that turns the phone into a decent flashlight.

= Hard to get the balance right on Hero when trying to type while laying down in bed. Getting the right balance could be something I'll learn, like I learned it w/Pre.
= Hero's charging cable doubles as USB data cable, just like Pre.
= Apparently the Hero has a builtin hardware compass. Ok. I haven't figured out any uses for it.  It doesn't seem to impact orientation of maps in google maps like on iPhone 3GS. Not sure how useful it is.

+ Hero's battery is bigger than Pre's (1500mAh vs 1150 mAh). And Hero software does good job of managing battery by sleeping CPU when not in use.
+ Hero's dedicated buttons for menu and back work better IMHO than Pre's gestures. It's just too easy with the Pre to think I've executed the gesture, but have the phone not agree with me. This problem doesn't happen with buttons.
+ Trackball is brilliant. Pre should not get rid of center button, but replace it w/Trackball. Very useful for getting precisely to the character I want to erase and correct.
+ Hero feel's lighter in pocket than Pre, despite both being 135grams. Slightly larger distributes weight making it feel lighter
+ Hero has a much more solid feel w/o the slider action of Pre, at the cost of no physical keyboard
+ Back cover material feels great. Similar to touchstone battery cover. Much better than Pre's standard battery cover.

- On Hero, contact linking to facebook only imports birtday & picture.  No phone numbers, email addresses or other contact info that Pre dutifully collects.
- On Hero, pulling up standard app drawer and pressing search seems to bring up voice search - I can't type in app I'm looking for. Will be a big problem if I install a large number of apps, some of which I only use infrequently. Pre's universal search (including applications) works very well.
- Hero's autocorrrect seems to not work in every keyboard input situation. E.g. entering a URL into browser

- HTML email is readable, but images aren't loaded. Is there an option to turn on full HTML email?
- Calendar has no week view.
- Calendar doesn't compress unused time in day view - Palm has done this right for years.
- Applications are *HUGE* compared to Pre. I'd grown accustomed to seeing 50k & 100k apps in App Catalog. It was shocking to see 1MB & 2MB apps. This points to different application models in each phone.
- Pandora app has advertisements. Yuck.
- Pandora app can't go back and look at previous song to see what it was or rate it.
- Changing phone orientation is slow. Also it appears to only be able to do it in two directions.  Portrait mode only seems to work with trackball below the screen.  Landscape only works w/trackball to right of screen.
- None of the twitter apps that I've tried comes close to being as full featured as Tweed or Twee.
- Browser feels slower than on Pre. But may be related to the fact that it will load more data than Pre because it understands flash and Pre doesn't.
- Browser requires a home page. Why? When I start the browser, I reall don't want to wait for it to load some page that I didn't want, so that I can start typing in the page I did want. No option for blank home page.
- Mail app doesn't support IMAP idle. It sets defined polling tmes for determining new email.
- NFL / Nascar radio turns off when screensaver comes on.

= No default notes/memos app - lots of good & free option in Android Market - I like "Notes" by Yuli
= No default tasks app - lots of good & free options in Android Market - I like "Astrid Task/Todo List" by we <3 Astrid
= Automatic process management is IMHO, more advanced multitasking than swiping away cards. Unfortunately, it causes problems with 100% awake time as mystery apps can keep your CPU loaded. e.g. Messages
= Automatic screen brightness adjustment. I can't figure out where the light sensor is. Good idea. Mostly works well, but it's also pretty random when it adjusts, and I'd like to tweak the adjustments slightly brighter.

+ Widgets rock. WebOS has no equivalent and these are simply fantastic. And if you don't have enough screen space left, folder widgets, FTW.
+ People centric is really nice. Facebook status updates, email messages, etc notification of some communication from a person no matter where that comm originates.
+ "Locale" by two forty four am, LLC in Android Market has a *ton* of potential. It's an app to change your settings based on your location.  E.g. I'm at church, automatically turn on silent mode.
+ Awake Time Calculator
+ Calendar has built in agenda
+ Calendar is much faster than Pre calendar, making it actually usable.
+ Visual voicemail rocks
+ Ability to completely replace builtin apps (e.g. messaging & phone) is awesome
+ Notifications on Pre are very good. Notifications on Hero are even better.
+ IMHO, general OS responsiveness is better than Pre. It does get occasionally laggy - something that I've never seen on any iPhone - but no where near as frequently as Pre.
+ Voice google search is super cool and works really well. I suspect I'll use this more as I get used to the idea. But for now, I'm not using it much.
+ Voice control. Pre has no (zero, zilch, nada) for voice control. 'Nuff said.
+ Video. Also 'nuff said.
+ Browser understands flash. Can't play all flash, but can play some.
+ Browser text rewrapping based on screen dimensions is very nice. Makes for less "pan and scan" type reading of web pages.

My conclusion, at this point, is that I think I prefer the Hero.