What they don’t tell you about Android & the HTC Hero

Before I bought my Hero, research highlighted a few things that I suspect (and, indeed, looking at forums I know this is the case) many first-time users won’t realise at the time of purchase. What I’m not so sure about is where the dividing line is between T-Mobile, HTC and Android, so some of this information may only be relevant to one of these. Or a combination.

So, in no order what-so-ever, here’s my list of what you need to know.

Which version of Android?

The HTC Hero comes with version 1.5 of Android. There is a 1.6, but HTC have decided to not release this, instead waiting for the recent 2.1 version (which the Nexus One comes with). I believe the upgrade to 2.1 is due in the next few months. Once HTC release this, you will need to wait for your network provider to create their own version.

Bluetooth is Flaky

The hardware is fine, but the software is only part implemented. And by “part” I mean the ability to connect to a headset works, but sending files doesn’t. I believe version 2 of Android rectifies this, although I could be wrong!

The Manual

Well, I don’t know how it is with other Hero providers, but the T-Mobile version comes with a Quick Start paper sheet and that’s it. There’s no manual. After perusing the SD card that T-Mobile provided, I came across it! However, unless I missed something, I didn’t find any mention of this elsewhere. Just head to the PDF reader app and it should be listed!

PC Software

Again, nothing is provided, but it can be found on the included SD card. Having said that, I’d just head to the HTC website and download the latest version.

The only software that’s provided is a combination driver and sync application. The latter lets you synchronise contacts, etc, with popular PC programs. Personally, I don’t use it as all of my mails, contacts, etc, are online.

With the driver installed you can connect your Hero to your PC and view it as a removable drive i. You can then browse the content of the SD card where photos, videos and music are stored by default. This means you can use applications such as Windows Media Player and Picasa to synchronise and import automatically.


With the aforementioned lack of software, an obvious omission is the ability to back the handset up. Of course, much of the data is automatically synchronised online, especially if you make use of the Google services. In my case this includes mail, calendars and contacts. Music and photos I mentioned before you can synchronise from your PC – however, items such as installed applications, SMS’ and even dictionary additions are not backed up.

ASTRO is an excellent free file manager that just happens to also have the ability to backup your applications. And it’s free. There is also an SMS Backup App as well. In both cases, these save the data to your SD card, so you still need to remember to regularly copy this data away.

Of course, this still doesn’t cover everything anyway.

The best solution, if you’re willing to put your hands in your pockets is the MyBackup Pro app, which costs $4.99 (approx. £3.13). This not only allows scheduled backup to your SD card but also an option of backing up to their own online servers as well (although the option to backup apps is only available when storing to SD card). A 30 day trial is available.


There are just 2 connections – a headphone jack on the top and a USB connector on the bottom.

The USB appears to be proprietary, but it’s not – a standard mini USB cable will connect to it. If you connect a USB cable to your PC, it will trickle charge it as well as provide the data connection. However, in the box you are provided with just this one cable PLUS a mains socket which this cable plugs into, doubling it as a mains charger. This provides a much quicker method of charging the phone.

The headphone socket needs just one thing saying about it – there is a know bug where plugging in headphones won’t cause the phone to switch off its own speakers and divert sound to the headphones. This can be worked around by an application called toggleheadset – there is a separate one for Android 1.5 and another for 1.6.

Managing Applications

Unlike, oh I don’t know, the iPhone, you can run multiple applications on Android. However, the method of managing these are not obvious.

Some Apps will have an “exit” option which will cause them cleanly end when selected. Most, however, will continue running, particularly if have to use the “Home” or “Back” button to exit from them.

If you press and hold the Home button it will  display up to 6 recently used applications. You can then select and switch between them.

To “kill” or uninstall applications you need to go into the “Manage Applications” option in Settings. This is slow to launch so isn’t really a good method of quickly handling apps. Needless to say there are applications available to assist, including the previously mentioned ASTRO.

WiFi and Standby

After a pre-determined amount of time your phone will enter “standby”, which is when your screen blanks and any security activated. When this happens, by default, your WiFi will turn off. This is for power saving reasons.

You can override this via the Advanced Menu within WiFi options. Or you can use a free app named Wi-Fi Lock to toggle the options from the front screen.

The On-screen Keyboard

You can switch between different keyboard types, including traditional numeric phone keypad styles. The typing is, okay, but an improved keyboard is included in Android 2.1. Meantime, there are (paid) apps available to make improvements until you’re able to upgrade.

Personally, I’d suggest using the keyboard calibration facility as soon as you can – it made an immediate, and very marked, improvement with my sausage fingered typing.

Linking Accounts

When you first starting using the phone, you’ll be asked for account details to link your phone. I don’t think any are necessary but, at least, a Google account is very handy. Why buy a Google branded phone otherwise?

When I did this it automatically connected to all my Google services and started downloading my contacts. Very, very handy.

You can also link Facebook and Flickr accounts (but no Picasa?). Any friends with these accounts can then be connected so when you bring up their contact details it will also display Facebook status’, photos, etc. You can also use their Facebook profile photo as their display picture.

Screenshots (added 19/02/2010)

If you want to take a picture of the screen contents you can do this automatically with an iPhone. The Android, however, doesn’t have this feature.

There are plenty of apps to do this in the marketplace BUT you need to root ii your phone for them to work – it would appear that the ability to do this is not available to “standard” apps. For the same reason, Opera Mobile is not available for Android (although Opera can get around this by getting phone manufacturers to bundle the browser with new phones).

32GB Memory Cards (added 22/04/2010)

Due to a bug in Android, although phones such as the HTC Hero will accept microSD cards up to 32GB, a card of that capacity cannot be formatted within the device. Instead you will need to perform the initial format of a 32GB card on your own computer.

Anything Else

I don’t realise this at the time but have since read about on Wikipedia

  • A lack of standards-based iCalendar/CalDAV functionality in the Android calendar client. Currently, the Android calendar is restricted to synchronisation with Google Calendar service.
  • The Android does not support animated .gif files. It only shows the first frame.
  • Because of potential security issues, Android does not officially allow applications to be installed on, nor run from, an SD card. In the case of the Hero this limits you to the 288 MB of system RAM. Several unsupported modifications exist, to give the user this capability, but they’re a bit scary!

And that, I think, is it. For the time being anyway.

As I’m new to all this, I may have got bits wrong but, I’ll be honest, it’s not always clear what the situation is with many things and you have to do some digging around forums to get an answer. So I’ll blame them 😉

  1. to do this you also have to go to the information bar (the strip along the top) and select an option to “mount” it[]
  2. “rooting” an Android phone is a method that gives you complete access to all aspects of the OS. It’s also not 100% safe and will probably invalidate your phone and network warranties[]

One response

  1. Great advice for the potential purchaser. One thing about killing apps: whether you exit an appcleanly, or switch to something else, the OS decides whether to keep an app in memory ready to run. Well written apps should not drain your battery when you aren’t using them. However there is no barrier to stop badly written apps getting onto the Market. A really bad app can drain battery just from being installed on the phone.

    From Android 1.6, there is a system function to explain what is using up the battery. This helps in evicting bad apps from the ecosystem.

    iPhone doesn’t have these problems, because you can’t have background apps. I prefer Android’s approach…

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