Google’s Android mobile operating system finally showed its hand as a serious competitor to the iPhone today.
At a press event in London, manufacturer HTC unveiled its new Android-powered Hero handset. While the previous two Android devices, the G1 and the Magic, were a little ugly and underpowered, the Hero manages to combine sleek good looks with serious power.
Boasting a 5 megapixel autofocus camera, AGPS, digital compass, gravity-sensor, 3.5mm stereo headset jack and expandable MicroSD memory, the hardware is way ahead of previous Android handsets. It’s Teflon-coated to stay clean too.
It’s not the spec that’s important here though, it’s the evolution of Android that goes with it.
For a start, this is the first Android handset to support Adobe Flash. This completes the web browsing experience on the phone and sets it apart from the iPhone. There will be no need for Android developers to have to use work-around alternatives – Flash here is the real deal.
Then there’s HTC’s new user interface. Built on top of Android, the HTC Sense UI gives the OS a completely new look, adding extra levels of personalisation through live-updating widgets on the Home screen. This looks similar to the homescreen widgets on Nokia’s N97 and means you could have a Twitter feed running on your homescreen along with a mini-inbox for your email, showing the latest data. Other personalisation options, like a customisable location-aware clock, will be included too.
It all looks really, really slick. Of course, none of this is new. The Hero’s spec is on par with what you’d expect in a 2009 smartphone, many phones already support versions of Flash and a customised UI with a new selection of widgets is hardly new – HTC has been doing the same thing with TouchFlo for Windows Mobile for some time now. What HTC’s announcement today does demonstrate though, is that Android is maturing into the strongest iPhone competitor on the market.
With its tight Google services integration, a growing app store and lots more handsets from HTC, Samsung and Motorola due this year Android just needed a a few tweaks to push it from being an OS attractive to geeks to one ready for the mass market. HTC may just have done that today.
The HTC Hero is available in the UK on the Orange and T-Mobile networks, as well as other parts of Europe, from next month. Launches in Asia and the USA will follow later in the year.