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Alright, I was really excited to get the HTC Hero. REALLY. I had extremely high hopes for the Hero (those are long gone) and Android (which I still do - I even began developing for it) but the Hero has so many ridiculous bugs that I am *this* close to bringing it down to the Pre level (I'm not going to dare though - Pre still leads in the "I Want To Smash This Phone Into A Wall" category).

HTC, first of all, what. the. fuck. The idea of a more attractive UI was great, by all means, but did it really have to come at the expense of lagging down the whole phone? And by that I mean LAGGING. I would much rather have no added pwetty fluff than to literally be amazed when using my Garmin GPS because its UI is so responsive (until I got the Hero, this thought would have never crossed my mind).

Why is it that I have to miss phone calls because the Hero only gives me one or two rings before they go to voicemail? And half the time, right as I pull down the message on the screen that tells me that's what I have to do to answer the call, it doesn't pick up. Instead, I'm staring at a missed call.

Before I go on, I'd like to clarify that I'm still enjoying the Hero, mostly for making me feel a lot more connected on the go. However, the experience could have been a lot more enjoyable had HTC done a better job on the polish of the Hero core.

Some of these issues might be caused by Android, some might be caused by the fact that even though Android 2.0 has been available for a few weeks and 1.6 for a few months, the Hero is still running 1.5 - all thanks to the Sense UI.

But let me organize my thoughts in a nice numbered list. Everyone likes those, right? Be prepared - when a device affects me so much, I've got a lot to say.

Some of these problems, including some of the lag and battery life issues, have been solved by the recent HTC firmware update. See the details of the update here: Sprint And HTC Release The First HTC Hero Firmware Update 1.56: Fixes Major Bugs, Adds Small Tweaks
I realize the title of the article may be a bit provoking and can be misconstrued for something it's not.

To set the record straight, the title was meant to be simply a description of what the article is about - it's not meant to be read as my full opinion on the Hero. Think of this post as a "Hero's Problems" one, with a 2nd "Hero Is Awesome" post coming in the future.

My List Of Problems

1. Lag

Update: the lag situation has been significantly improved in the 1.56 firmware update, although still noticeable, especially in the dialer and browser.

This phone lags. At least the Sprint version of it, running Sense UI. And by lags, I mean most of the time it's worse than the Pre. Yeah, I went there. If you love lag, you will adore the Hero.

I'm not going to argue about rooting it or not using Sense. No. This is what HTC is making thousands of consumers use - and most of them won't ever consider touching the underlying OS. If you have an underpowered processor, HTC, don't you think the best thing you could have done is to try to compensate for it by making things faster instead of bloating it with garbage? Sprint, you didn't help either with your force-fed Nascar and NFL Mobile Live that we can't remove.

The browser lag is just beyond bearable. 16 seconds on average to load my plain homepage (not even iGoogle - just That's 10 seconds of staring at a blank screen, 4 more of staring at "getting sign-in details" and 4 more of loading the webpage. This is compared to 4 seconds on the Motorola Droid, side by side.

The keyboard lags. Often. Both typing and flipping.

Flash (the Adobe one) is cool but its performance on the Hero is pretty much unusable most of the time.

The lag is everywhere but this one takes the cake - the lag operating the dialer and the phone in general. Because each button press is unpredictable and can take between 0.5 and 5 seconds, there is no way to tell if the screen just didn't register the click or if it's just lagging behind. Thanks to this, I've dialed wrong numbers, hung up, and performed wrong functions multiple times.

My favorite is that it takes about 2-3 seconds for the last dialed number to show up in the recent numbers list after I finish the call, which means it then pushes all of the recent numbers down by one. So if I click a number I want to dial during that period of time, after the lag settles I will find that I actually just pressed a number above the one I wanted.

This list goes on.

2. Bad Battery Life

Update: I was able to double my battery life by adjusting the email polling settings that were set too aggressively. While I realize it's obvious that polling more frequently will run down the battery faster, I was shocked to find just how much faster. The battery life is now a lot better, though I would still love even more juice.

I thought the 1500mAh battery would give me plenty of juice. How foolish of me.

Between such battery draining bugs as letting your phone go to sleep when first turning it on, simply sending an SMS message, and using the Hero for email a few times a day, I'm left with 0-15% battery life by 10pm (even after applying known fixes).

In the morning, between the time I wake up and the time I get in the car, my battery would sometimes run down to 85%. Sometimes, however, it would still be at 98%, without doing anything differently. Does that make sense to you?

3. Long Bootup Time

There's nothing better than staring at the bootup screen for good 3-4 minutes before the phone becomes usable. If you think the Pre load time is bad, check out the Hero for some added fun.

Fine - it loads a pretty complex Linux based OS, I get it. But damn - it sure takes its time doing so.

Well, at least it doesn't say "Droid" in a robotic voice.

4. Application Chaos

Update: the first 2 issues have been fixed in the 1.56 firmware update.

Some applications' names change to their Java versions (such as com.p1.chompsms). Without me touching or updating them - it just happens over time. Some examples include Unit Converter (FCs upon start), Astro File Manager, Estos, ChompSMS, and Voice Caller ID.

Some applications' icons are randomly changed and mutilated (for example, Remember The Milk and Flixster).

Some applications stop working and start force closing (for example, Flixster, WP To Go, Unit Converter).

Some applications say "shortcut is no longer available" when clicked from the home screen or the All Programs list (for example, Twidroid). This seems to sometimes go away after a restart but surely comes back upon the next program update.

Not sure who to blame for all these but it seems like non-Hero owners don't seem to be experiencing such issues.

And the solution? "Without rooting, the only workaround for the issue is to uninstall the app and reinstall it. Still, after rebooting, you may have the same issues. Again, a reinstall is the only fix," suggests a post on AndroidForums.

Someone on the XDA-Developers forums provides more details - this is, apparently, due to a mismanaged boot cache.

5. Voicemail/SMS Problems

Update: these issues have been fixed in the 1.56 firmware update.

Problem - "after Internal Memory reaches a certain low level of free space (one user heard around around 40MB free from HTC Support), you may stop receiving SMS messages and voicemail. No amount of clearing space will allow messages to resume" - description credit AndroidForums.

Solution? "The best method of prevention currently is to ensure adequate memory is available on the device to prevent the flag from being set" - SprintUsers forum.

On a related note, the following bug has also been reported: "Over time, Internal Memory free space dwindles and no amount of clearing apps frees the space. This will also cause the above issue of SMS & Voicemail messages not being received once a critical amount of free space is reached".

I stopped getting my voicemail notifications a long time ago. Texts are still getting through somehow but they should definitely be afraid of stepping on these landmines any day now.

There are 3 ways to get your voicemail - are you kidding me? You can use the visual voicemail app (mine doesn't work anymore), you can dial your phone number (which is the same as pressing on the envelope or holding the 1 key), or you can dial some 408-970-0000 number (which seems to be for voice SMS but yet handles my voicemail). Did you just hack voice SMS to do visual voicemail, HTC and Sprint? This is a job not so well done.

6. The Keyboard

Let me say this - the keyboard on the Hero kind of sucks. It is very inaccurate, even after calibration, and doesn't guess letters nearly as well as the iPhone does.

To be fair, the Hero shines at the spelling correction. I can type 5 letters wrong in a single word, and the Hero will still suggest the right correction most of the time. My complaint here is that it doesn't detect missed spaces at all, so 2 words run on each other would not be recognized and corrected.

Now, the keyboard flip - it is uncomfortably laggy (see point #1 again). 2-5 seconds per flip is not good enough.

7. Calendar Notifications Are Broken

Sometimes I'm alerted about a calendar event a day early.

Update: the daylight savings time (DST) issues have been fixed in the 1.56 firmware update.

Sometimes an hour early (that's what happened after the daylight savings time shift).

Some users reported that their Hero shifted to daylight savings a week early.

How in the world does this even get through QA, HTC?

No remind me on time option? A 5 minute reminder is as close as I can get. Bleh.

8. GPS Randomly Thinks I'm All Over California

At times, my Google Maps app can no longer lock onto the GPS signal and starts jumping all over the state. Last time it first told me I was in Sacramento (one of the turn directions next to it had a misspelling "Socramento", wtf?), then Santa Rosa, then as I kept driving and pressing My Location, it switched to a random street about a mile away, then dumped me in the ocean.

During this time, the GPS icon kept blinking and didn't stay solid. Also, once it picked up a location, it didn't continue to update it as it should do.

Only a phone restart solves the problem but not for long.

Sometimes, the Sprint GPS can no longer get a lock on my location at all and any route calculations get stuck.

Sometimes, the blinking GPS icon stays on all the time, thus, I'm assuming, draining the crap out of my battery.

9. Usability: No Easy Way To Switch Between Running Apps

Alright, here's where the Pre has everyone beat - the card switching is superior to any app management I've seen. Here I was thinking Android would have a decent way of switching between apps - at least as good as Palm's.

Imagine my surprise when I found out that switching between running apps is completely impractical on Android. You simply can't do it. Ever use Alt-TAB in Windows? Feel like you feel powerless without it? That's how I feel on the Hero.

The closest things I figured out so far are:

  • hold the Home button, which brings up a list of 6 most recently used apps. Not only is this longer than I am comfortable with, but it also fails to actually accomplish what I want - and that is switch between running apps
  • get a task manager app, such as Advanced Task Manager. This works but this is even slower than the previous method and requires even more clicks
  • go back to the home screen/app list and run the program I want again. Chances are, this would summon the sleeping program from the background. Not the best approach either.

Of course, this is not HTC's fault - Android really let me down here (take note from Palm on this one).

10. The 5MP Camera - It Sucks

Update: the camera quality has been reportedly improved in the 1.56 firmware update.

The Hero has a notoriously bad camera, which doesn't even have a flash (a big drawback). It does a pretty bad job at autofocusing. Both the camera, the camcorder, and the albums take uncomfortably long to load (see point #1 again).

11. Plastic Chrome Trim Cracking And Falling Apart

Out of nowhere a pretty large chunk (1/2 to 3/4 inch) of the plastic chrome trim broke off around the USB plug. I do not seem to be the only one.

I do not expect the case to last much longer either. The "teflon" does feel nice to the touch but it's still plastic.

12. The Phone Unlocks In My Pocket

Did you know the double press on the Menu button unlocks the phone? It's a great feature, isn't it (until it unlocks the phone in your pocket)?

And no, it's not possible to disable it.

13. Out Of Space? No More Apps For You

I ran out of the built-in [measly] space recently. Why? Because it's not possible on the Android (even as of 2.0) to install apps to the SD card, unless you root the phone. This is not an HTC issue and more of an Android limitation but it is definitely part of my Hero experience.

14. Dust Under The Glass?

Many users are reporting that dust is getting under the Hero's screen. Thankfully, I'm not one of those users. For now.

15. Can't Remove Words Added To The Dictionary

The keyboard suggest mechanism in the Hero is great - I can't argue about that. In fact, without it, the Hero would be doomed.

However, sometimes a mistyped word gets added to the internal dictionary and there is no way to get it out of there, without clearing the whole thing. Annoying.

16. No Way To Turn Screen Off During Call

The Hero doesn't have a proximity sensor, which results in a few problems:

  • sometimes I press buttons with my face
  • sometimes I want to turn off the screen to at least try to prevent my face from doing the above, except there is no way to do so. The reflex to press the Power button which usually turns the screen off results in an immediate end of the current call. I am embarrassed to say how many times I've done this. Oh, and to end the current call when the screen is on, a single press of the Power button is sufficient but two are needed when the screen is off - took me a while to get this right.

17. No Application Access To Bluetooth

I know this is purely an Android 1.5 issue as Android 2.0 has the new bluetooth API but we still can't utilize it because we're stuck at 1.5. Thus, I can't have bluetooth turned on and off on a schedule (via Timeriffic, for example) and, of course, the biggest issue - no bluetooth tethering.

18. High Latency Wireless Network

From what I can tell, there's a much higher latency (the time between a request is sent and a response is on its way) on the Hero than on the Droid. I'm willing to actually accept that it's probably 90% due to Sprint's 3G network vs Verizon's. I never imagined the difference was this vast, however. When I was playing with the Droid, it seemed like I had a device from the future in my hands.

WiFi performance is not great either - in fact, the Market application downloads often hang in the "starting…" mode until I turn WiFi off.

19. Trackball Almost Useless In Text Editing

I like having the trackball, in theory. However, when editing text, it is almost unusable, unless I want to move only a few characters over. If I want to go to the beginning of the line from the middle, it will take ages, as each swipe only moves one character at a time (there is no built-in acceleration).

I'm not alone in this conclusion.

20. Unneeded Junk Keeps Running

I don't need some of the apps that come stock but they insist on running every time I start the phone. Some insist on running all the time, even if I set up Taskiller or Advanced Task Manager to hunt them down. A few good examples are: Peep, IM, Footprints, Gmail (I use the Mail app for gmail), Messages, and Stocks.


The Hero changed the way I do things on the go. The email, calendar, all kinds of syncs, apps - they've all changed my life and I love the Hero for that. I will not be able to go back to a regular phone. I feel too… connected.

There are lots of bugs. Lots. Perhaps Android 2.0 will fix some of them and the rest will be fixed over time. However, I am not sure HTC will be ever able to fix the lag without revamping the Hero's hardware. Although, I also heard that the HTC Droid Eris, which runs the same hardware, is not nearly as laggy. I will have to check it out to confirm.

I apologize in advance for any omissions, inaccuracies, or grammatical errors but it is 3am now as I'm finishing this article. Also, if you find the language harsh - well, that's just me.

Are you happy with your Hero? Are you experiencing any of these problems? Share with me.