17
Apr
Sprint HTC Hero Android 2.1
Last Updated: April 21st, 2010

Introduction

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).

Other phones kept getting 2.1 upgrades but our favorite Hero saw only promises after promises with release dates pushed further and further back.

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.

Note: Some features listed here may not match the final version exactly when it's released due to optimizations done by damageless and other contributors or Sprint/HTC making last minute changes to the code.

Another note: I may point out some features as new compared to 1.5 just to realize later that they've always been there. Since I only have one Hero, I don't really have a quick way to compare 1.5 and 2.1 side by side, so please bear with me and call me out on things.

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 2.1

  • 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.

Android 2.1 on HTC Hero Android 2.1 on HTC Hero Android 2.1 on HTC Hero

Android 2.1 on HTC Hero Android 2.1 on HTC Hero Android 2.1 on HTC Hero

Android 2.1 on HTC Hero Android 2.1 on HTC Hero Android 2.1 on HTC Hero

Live Wallpapers

  • 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.

Text-To-Speech

  • 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.

Android 2.1 on HTC Hero Android 2.1 on HTC Hero

Keyboard

  • 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.

Android 2.1 on HTC Hero Android 2.1 on HTC Hero Android 2.1 on HTC Hero

Sync Points, Accounts

  • More than one Google account is supported!
  • Supported accounts are:
    • Google.
    • Weather.
    • Facebook.
    • Facebook for HTC Sense (thanks - way to confuse a first-time user, no idea what the difference is).
    • Flickr.
    • Twitter.
    • Exchange ActiveSync.

Android 2.1 on HTC Hero Android 2.1 on HTC Hero Android 2.1 on HTC Hero

Contacts

  • Pressing on a contact's picture now brings up a quick menu for faster dialing/texting/emailing action.

image_thumb[1]

Market

  • 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.

Android 2.1 on HTC Hero Android 2.1 on HTC Hero Android 2.1 on HTC Hero

Android 2.1 on HTC Hero Android 2.1 on HTC Hero Android 2.1 on HTC Hero

Applications

  • 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).

Android 2.1 on HTC Hero Android 2.1 on HTC Hero Android 2.1 on HTC Hero

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
    • Measure
    • Buzz
    • 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.

Android 2.1 on HTC Hero Android 2.1 on HTC Hero Android 2.1 on HTC Hero

Android 2.1 on HTC Hero Android 2.1 on HTC Hero Android 2.1 on HTC Hero

Android 2.1 on HTC Hero Android 2.1 on HTC Hero Android 2.1 on HTC Hero

Android 2.1 on HTC Hero Android 2.1 on HTC Hero Android 2.1 on HTC Hero

Calendar

  • 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.

Android 2.1 on HTC Hero Android 2.1 on HTC Hero

3D Gallery

  • 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.

Android 2.1 on HTC Hero  Android 2.1 on HTC Hero Android 2.1 on HTC Hero

Browser

  • 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.

Android 2.1 on HTC Hero

VPN Support

  • VPN support was definitely not present in 1.5
  • PPTP, L2TP, L2TP/IPSec PSK, and L2TP/IPSec CRT supported

Android 2.1 on HTC Hero Android 2.1 on HTC Hero

Security

  • 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.

 Android 2.1 on HTC Hero

Camera

  • 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?

Android 2.1 on HTC Hero Android 2.1 on HTC Hero

Visual Voicemail

  • 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.

Android 2.1 on HTC Hero

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
    • World
    • US
    • Business
    • Sci/Tech
    • Entertainment
    • Sports
    • Health
  • You can make a custom topic (how about "Android")?

Android 2.1 on HTC Hero Android 2.1 on HTC Hero  Android 2.1 on HTC Hero

Desk Clock

  • 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.

Android 2.1 on HTC Hero Android 2.1 on HTC Hero

Android 2.1 on HTC Hero Android 2.1 on HTC Hero

Lock Screen

  • Shows date, time, next set alarm, and exact battery percentage.

 Android 2.1 on HTC Hero

Miscellaneous

  • 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

Android 2.1 on HTC Hero Android 2.1 on HTC Hero

Conclusion

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.

If you liked this review, you can make sure you will see more of them by following us on Twitter at @AndroidPolice and subscribing to our RSS feed.

Don't hesitate to leave us a comment with your thoughts. Go right ahead, tell us what you think.

Artem Russakovskii
Artem is a die-hard Android fan, passionate tech blogger, obsessive-compulsive editor, bug hunting programmer, and the founder of Android Police.
Most of the time, you will find Artem either hacking away at code or thinking of the next 15 blog posts.

  • April

    omg, can't wait for this! so many new features i want.

    • http://www.AndroidPolice.com Artem Russakovskii

      Just a few more weeks!

  • FustyLuggz

    The quiet ring on pickup option works on mine, it just takes a good bit more force than simply picking up the phone off the table.

    • http://www.AndroidPolice.com Artem Russakovskii

      Hrm, I just tried again and it still didn't quiet down. Does it lower the volume by a considerable amount?

      • FustyLuggz

        It gradually fades to a very low volume. Takes about 5 seconds.

  • AndroidMania

    Thanks for the review. I liked this site especially because I was looking for one stop shop to know wat it means to root, take nandroid backup & restore and then Step by Step procedure on how to install custom rom on Sprint HTC Hero. Other sites have it too but they don't explain terminology and assume u know some steps. And those steps are all over the place. You have done a good job.

    I have a question about Market on 2.1. In 1.5 we cannot delete market history just like how we can't delete suggestions from user dictionary (all or nothing). Is this fixed in 2.1? Can I delete the individual search terms from market history?

    • http://www.AndroidPolice.com Artem Russakovskii

      I couldn't find an option to do this but there are ways of doing it on a rooted phone (which DamageControl gives you) - just google it but it will require deleting a file on the phone via your computer.

      Oh, and thank you - I always try my best to explain everything the same way I'd want someone else to have explained it to me.

      • superlinkx

        My favorite way is Cachemate (requires root) there is a free version and a $2(?) version. I got the paid version. Basically, you select which apps you want to be able to clear the cache on and then press the big delete button. Really useful and can free up to 10 mb if your caches are large. This deletes market history. If you want to do it manually (without root), then go into manage apps (under applications in settings), look for the market app and select clear cache.

  • Crispin Casimir

    Good, clear and accurate article !
    Sense is good and better than Google's UI by far. It's a shame that there are only 7 screens though ....

  • Kleany

    hey, i just installed this myself right now! thanks for all the information you provided.

    One question though, i cant seem to find the SPEECH TO TEXT button ANYWHERE at all. You mentioned its available anytime theres a keyboard....its only available for me when i go to an address bar, or google search...

    Help please, i definitely wanna check out this feature.

    • http://www.AndroidPolice.com Artem Russakovskii

      Hrm, I see it everywhere, just like in the screenshots. Did you do a clean install or somehow flash it on top of 1.5?

      Also, try going to the Keyboard > Touch Input menu and see if some of those extra hacks work for you (such as "Swipe right for voice").

      Of course, if things don't work at all if you've done everything correctly, go to the xda-forum page for DamageControl and ask there.

  • Bob Jones

    Mine gives me a haptic feedback everytime I use the keyboard, even though I have that option turned off. Anyone else have this problem.

    Also where is the option to turn on the keyboard clicking sound when using the keyboard?

    • http://www.AndroidPolice.com Artem Russakovskii

      You're right, mine still has feedback even if it's turned off. Let's hope the next version and the final will fix it.

    • Mike

      Its a keyboard specific setting. click the gear icon on the keyboard (hold down the smiley/mic button for a few seconds) and you can turn it off in there.

      Look under Text Input once in keyboard settings

      • http://www.AndroidPolice.com Artem Russakovskii

        Actually, that setting is not there, at least not on the Hero 2.1. The haptic feedback is in the Sound & display menu and I already turned it off.

  • DG

    stuipd questions, but where can i find how to flash this onto my phone?

  • Foo

    Wow, that was a very thorough review and a great read. Thanks for doing all the donkey work and documenting it all!

    • http://www.AndroidPolice.com Artem Russakovskii

      That's what I do :-]

  • PhoenixtheII

    Which live wallpaper is that use using in the screenshots? (These with the blue/lightblue swirls...)

    • http://www.AndroidPolice.com Artem Russakovskii

      That's not a live paper actually - just a static background.

      • PhoenixtheII

        Ah right, ofcourse now that I think of it twice. Moving the screens moves the background a bit too making it look like something happened to the wallpaper.

        This made me suspect that it was a live wallpaper at first :P

  • http://www.full-motion.co.uk Nick Jones

    Wow I can't wait for this ROM now. So glad to hear that it's really fast, all the custom 2.1 ROMs I have tried have been laggy as hell.

  • deralaand

    Can all of this backup and ROM flashing be done from Linux (Ubuntu) instead of Windows?

    • http://www.AndroidPolice.com Artem Russakovskii

      Absolutely - in fact, you don't even need a computer to do any of it - you can do everything on the device itself.

      The only thing I can think of that you may need a computer for is rooting, and, while I haven't tried it, I'm 99.5% sure that you can connect to your phone in Linux - just install the Android SDK for Linux and you should be good to go.

  • bkatt

    Can you give details on burning the damagecontrol ROM. It is different from the backup.

  • Dk

    This post sounds very exciting, just one question. does this ROM support Chinese? like where Locale & Text, does it have Chinese as selection? which means that i can type chinese and also read Chinese? thank you

    • http://www.AndroidPolice.com Artem Russakovskii

      No, mine seems to only have English. Perhaps someone will (or have) release a language pack but I wasn't able to find any.

  • stephen

    i have a htc hero 200 generic.it is cdma and not on sprint network[mobi pcs].phone looks identical .has 1.5 firmware,software verison 1.62556.1,will this rom work on my phone?

  • steve

    What specific 3rd part application did you load to make the microphone appear in all the keyboards lower left corner. I have updated my HTC Hero to the official 2.1 release and the microphone is NOT there. HTC also stated that you need a 3rd party app to put it there.

    • superlinkx

      There are several ways to do it. One that's fairly popular, is the XDA hacked version of the Sense keyboard. Basically, it adds voice support and finer tuned settings for the keyboard, but uses the HTC skin. You can find it here: http://www.xda-developers.com/android/htc_ime-keyboard-v19/. There are also many keyboards that offer this functionality, even in 1.5, on the market. I use uber keyboard, which is a really good one, but I hear better keyboard also works well.

  • kris

    Hopefully someone here can help. I'm having an issue with my phone displaying 1X when in an EV-DO network. Any workarounds? An HTC rep told me that the phone will always search for an EV-DO connection, but what's up with the display if that's the case? I've also searched around for the menu to change mobile networks from 1X to EV-DO (or hybrid), and I can't find it. Is this just a change from 1.5 to 2.1 that I have to deal with?

  • DV

    A nice feature would be an apointment button added in the menu bar for contacts. This could allow you to set time and dates for dotor, buisness, and personal meetings, then layer it to the calendar. Then, in calendar mode pick the date and add the contact with all info, with a drive-to button for address info. (Just a thought)

  • DV

    Help, is there a way to add contacts and apps to SD-card not to take up phones mem.. (any response)

  • mark

    how to download the zip file? the link is empty......plz help.

  • henry mccann

    do i retain my local gsm service after rooting?

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