- Android 2.1 On HTC Hero
- HTC Hero With Android 2.1 - New Features And Improvements
- Responsiveness, Lag, Speed, Battery
- Sense 2.1
- Live Wallpapers
- Sync Points, Accounts
- Google Maps And Navigation
- 3D Gallery
- VPN Support
- Visual Voicemail
- News And Weather App
- Desk Clock
- Lock Screen
- DamageControl ROM Specific Things
Us, Hero owners, have been waiting for an OS upgrade for a loooooong time, since the phone got released last October with Android 1.5.
At first, we were hoping for 1.6, then 2.0, and finally 2.1 was promised ("Totally for real this time, yo" - said Sprint and HTC but we saw nothing).
Android 2.1 On HTC Hero
Therefore, when a Hero Android 2.1 build got [inadvertently - oh, the drama with these leaks!] leaked online, and an Android ROM hacker by the name of damageless (hi damageless!) incorporated the code from the leak into his ROM, called DamageControl, we knew the finish line was near.
But who wants to wait for Sprint to push us to the finish line when damageless has already done it?
So I grabbed my Hero, did a full backup which I described in great detail here, downloaded the latest version of the DamageControl ROM, and flashed my senile and laggy 1.5 Hero to 2.1 in 15 minutes, not knowing what to expect and praying for a miracle. And let me tell you - it delivered beyond my expectations.
Having played with Android 2.1 on my Hero for the last couple of days, I have come up with a list and a whole barrage of screenshots showing what you can expect when you finally upgrade yours.
Here we go.
HTC Hero With Android 2.1 - New Features And Improvements
Responsiveness, Lag, Speed, Battery
- The phone was immediately blazing fast. And I mean BLAZING, as in 0 lag - I've never seen my Hero like this, it's as if someone replaced its guts with those of a Nexus One.
- I'm not sure how much 2.1 itself has to do with it and how much the absence of most of my apps does (though not that many used to run in the background when I had 1.5), but the user experience has improved vastly and my frustration pretty much disappeared.
- The biggest improvement I noticed was in the area that needed it the most - the Dialer. My biggest complaint about the Hero was the most annoying lag in the Dialer, which made me
- miss incoming calls when the phone was too busy doing f!#*-all,
- misdial people after I hang up because the Dialer would take 3-5 seconds to update the recent caller list
- take ages to hang up or switch to speaker
The Dialer is lightning fast now! This includes picking and hanging up, switching to speaker, and seeing how fast the recently dialed list updates.
- The default browser still chokes on complex pages, doesn't cache properly, and in general sucks speed-wise. As always, install Opera, Dolphin, or another browser for better experience.
- The keyboard seems more responsive but still lags at times more often than I'd be OK with.
- Battery life is excellent, definitely better than before but this could be because I haven't set up my 4 mail accounts yet.
- Sense still comes with 7 home screens - not much has changed.
- Finally the cool weather effects on top of the home screen are enabled. To see them, just turn the screen on and don't touch anything. You can see the clouds starting to spread over my home screen in the 2nd screenshot.
- There is a new 5-block widget called Power Control that controls Wi-Fi, Bluetooth, sound, sync, and brightness. No airplane mode or mobile network control on the widget - meh, I prefer those individual Sense widgets that let me do this instead.
- Settings now include colorful icons.
- There is a new Sense feature called Leap. Leap shows you all 7 screens at a glance, so you can quickly jump to the one you want. Check out the screenshots of Leap in action in the 2nd row below.
You can trigger Leap 2 different ways:
- use the zoom out multitouch gesture (pinch in) on any of your home screens or
- press Home when you are already on the main home screen.
- They were included but damageless stripped them out of DamageControl for performance reasons, and I am kind of glad he did. Live wallpapers are notoriously taxing on the battery, so I wouldn't want to use them anyway.
If you really want live wallpapers in DamageControl, you can download a patch from here.
- More voices are supported - Android 1.5 only supported the robotic male voice, I believe. In Android 2.1, both American English and British English are female voices that sound a lot more human. Finally - everyone around me was starting to get sick of a robot announcing incoming phone numbers.
- The speech-to-text option is now present everywhere. Whenever a keyboard appears, you can dictate. I love doing this to SMS messages and emails, for example.
- You can finally edit, delete, and add words into the user dictionary! In Android 1.5, you could only clear the whole dictionary - all or nothing.
- The smilie face button here is a custom option on this ROM which can be disabled (see the DamageControl Specific Things section below).
- The keyboard is snappier than on 1.5 but still lags sometimes.
Sync Points, Accounts
- More than one Google account is supported!
- Supported accounts are:
- Facebook for HTC Sense (thanks - way to confuse a first-time user, no idea what the difference is).
- Exchange ActiveSync.
- Pressing on a contact's picture now brings up a quick menu for faster dialing/texting/emailing action.
- An updated, white UI to replace the black gloomy one of the 1.5.
- App thumbnails are now present - 2 per app!
- Featured sections now change and slide around by themselves.
- There are now 3 ways to browse the Market:
- Top paid
- Top free
- Just in
- You can have the phone notify you of updated apps - I don't believe this option was available in 1.5.
- Search works the same way, except the search button is present on every screen in the Market.
- These 3 screens show all pre-installed applications, plus a few extras that I've added.
- The Goggles app was not included by default but Facebook was (though it may be specific to this ROM).
Google Maps And Navigation
- There is an app called Navigator that loads the menu you can see in the first screenshot. It looks very pretty.
- Google Maps now includes Navigation with voice prompts and street view images. You pretty much use the Maps app the same way as before, except now there is an extra button called "Navigate" above the directions.
- There are extra layers now, such as Gas Stations, Restaurants, and even Google Buzz.
- Each layer can be selected individually - this way you can have multiple layers enabled at the same time.
- There is even support for Labs with the following apps:
- Scale Bar
- Terrain Layer
- Popular Categories
- Layer Button
- Traffic with Labels
- My Location Button
- Bubble Buttons
- Dark Map for Buzz
- I just tested this and yes, the Navigator does pause background music if it's playing when it needs to speak, then starts the playback again when it's done giving instructions.
- The calendar got a new look for the month view that shows a "busy bar" for each day.
- All added Google calendars are supported - I don't remember if 1.5 supported this many.
- Build by Cooliris which specialize in cool-looking fluid galleries.
- Unstable - crashed on me and failed to generate thumbnails for 2 of the 3 photos I took. I am not sure if I should blame the application or the ROM for this.
- If it works, it's very slick - you can drag the slider on the bottom to fast forward or rewind very fast. Sliding the folders around and clicking on them is very fluid.
- Slideshow is available.
- There is multitouch in the default browser - I'm fairly sure we already had this in 1.5.
- Laggy and slow on even medium sized pages - meh! Get an aftermarket browser, such as Opera or Dolphin.
- Nothing else exciting - obviously no Flash support, yet.
- VPN support was definitely not present in 1.5
- PPTP, L2TP, L2TP/IPSec PSK, and L2TP/IPSec CRT supported
- You can now set a master password to protect stored credentials. I am not sure if this was present in 1.5 but I don't remember seeing it.
- An updated UI.
- Umm, in the vertical view, all menus slide sideways. I understand if this was only happening in camcorder mode but hellooooo, HTC, ever heard of vertical photos?
- A new interface.
- A new feature to send a voice message back to the person who left you a voicemail (2nd button on the left). I believe this will only work with customers on a supported network, i.e. Sprint but I'm not 100% sure.
News And Weather App
- Comes pre-installed and refreshing every 6 hours. I recommend going to the settings and turning it off if you're not planning on using it.
- Has weather powered by The Weather Channel.
- Also has various news topics you can select, such as
- Top Stories
- You can make a custom topic (how about "Android")?
- Clicking on the clock now brings up something called Desk Clock, which has a more polished look and 2 additional buttons.
- These buttons make your phone into a desk clock in either day or night (dimmed) modes.
- The rest of the clock app - timers, alarms, etc are exactly the same as before.
- Shows date, time, next set alarm, and exact battery percentage.
- The phone now vibrates briefly when your call connects.
- The keys in the Dialer still have haptic feedback even if you turn haptic feedback off. This "feature" came in the previous Hero upgrade and seems to have stuck around.
- There is an option called "Quiet ring on pickup" to reduce ring volume automatically when you move the phone. I tried to use this option but it didn't work for me.
DamageControl ROM Specific Things
- The DamageControl ROM comes rooted (read about what root is all about here) by default, along with the Superuser Permissions app pre-installed.
- The Superuser Permissions app lets you control which requests that require elevated permissions should be allowed by displaying an "Accept, Accept Always, Reject, Reject Always" dialog.
- Send Bug Report and Log Collector apps that allow you to send bug reports and related logs to the ROM author - damageless.
- DC Updater which allows updating to the newest version of DamageControl with one click, without losing any data.
- There are a whole bunch of custom tweaks that can be enabled. These tweaks can be found in Settings > Language and keyboard > Touch input. Here are some of them:
- enable space bar in url keyboard
- a smiley button instead of the hide keyboard button
- swipe down to hide keyboard
- disable capitalization (a lot of people have been asking for this option)
- swipe left to delete last word
- a whole bunch of prediction options
- no auto add words to dictionary
- custom vibration length (in ms)
- swipe right for voice input
- export/import user dictionary
Well, that was a lot to take in, wasn't it? I've discussed pretty much every new feature in Android 2.1 on the Hero, so now all you have to do is wait till 2.1 officially arrives or go flash the DamageControl ROM right now.
Don't hesitate to leave us a comment with your thoughts. Go right ahead, tell us what you think.