HTC Hero update…….keyboards….podcasts

Now then, that is now more than 2 weeks since the Hero arrived and so far it has been a good experience. This is a nice phone which is easy to set up and use and the Android operating system is stable. One of my concerns is that we are starting to see a Windows Mobile scenario which may end up diluting the whole Android experience for users as HTC have slapped on their very good “Sense” interface, Motortola are launching their Android phone just about now and that also has a different interface, T-Mobile have some Android phones too and again they are different. It may become difficult for developers to make the most of their applications as they will surely not be able to make them work the same way across each different unit from a different manufacturer owing to quite a few phones working in different ways. This has been a problem with Win Mob over the last few years as each manufacturer has striven to make their WM phones different and unique and in the end it may be that the end user suffers from the lack of uniformity.

Of course, the Hero is another keyboard-less smartphone and I was interested/concerned to see how I would get on with it. Having used a similar set up on the iPhone for close on 2 years now I am familiar with this type of text entry and although I wouldn’t say I relish it at all, I have become reasonably proficient with it. I’d give myself a 6 out of 10 on the dexterity front on the iPhone. In comparison, I find the Hero keyboard a bit more fiddly in normal landscape and portrait modes as the device is not so wide then the keyboard obviously is not as wide either when in normal use. The keys are a bit closer together and I make more typing errors. Having said that, the auto correction on the Hero is a better set up and kicks in sooner with word suggestions. One of the annoyance for me with the iPhone version is that you can be 95% of the way through typing long words before it deigns to offer a suggestion.

The Hero also has haptic feedback which sounds great but personally I don’t find it helps me to be more accurate at all. There are also two other keyboards to use. There is the normal T9 text entry and then the BlackBerry-esque two letters to a key set up. The latter makes the keys much bigger and I may well give it a run out to see whether I can get on better with it. Oddly, when I go back to the iPhone and enter text the keyboard seems much bigger, the spaces between letters appear much bigger too and I make less mistakes.

I also did something I have never done before and this may be symbolic….I have started to use the Hero to listen to podcasts on my walk to and from work, finally breaking free of the reliance on the iPhone/iPod scenario. It is just as good as the Apple devices and the free Google “Listen” application is pretty darn good for podcast managing. It offers a search facility to find them, you just tick the subscribe box and you can then set the Hero up to just download new episodes of your favourite podcasts via wifi. It is nice to be able to do all that within the one app and without having to jump between different apps, as you have to do on the iPhone, or sync up via iTunes.

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