Ode to a heroic new mobile phone

I finally gave in to the 21th century a few weeks ago and bought a smart phone. A very smart phone. It goes by the grandiose name of HTC Hero, although T-Mobile somewhat confusingly sells it under the G2 Touch moniker, which is not to be confused with the T-Mobile myTouch 3G (originally HTC Magic), or the HTC Touch.

Confused yet? Me too.

The HTC Hero runs Android, the (mostly open source) operating system developed by Google, although the Hero actually uses the HTC Sense interface, which is significantly slicker and better than the native Android one. In particular, multi-touch zoom, a better onscreen keyboard, better widgets, more home screens and native integration of Facebook & Twitter.

I’m not going to write an in-depth review of the device, though, because there are plenty on the web already, and I’m not going to play the compare and contrast game with the iPhone, because it’s puerile and off the point. All I’ll say is that while the iPhone is still more fluid and polished, it’s lagging behind now (no homescreen, no multitask, no background apps, no Ogg Vorbis or Flac playback, etc). Anyway, I don’t want an iPhone because I don’t want to/cannot depend on iTunes, and the elegant but totalitarian Apple kingdom. If anything, I’d rather have a look at a Palm Pre: more open, HTML5 technologies, audacious gesture interface, physical keyboard.

Back to the HTC Hero.

HTC Hero

I’m happy to say it replaced three devices, while still being smaller in volume than any of them: my crappy Nokia 6100, my Nokia N810 internet tablet and my iAudio X5 music player.

Of course, the physical keyboard and larger screen of the N810 made for a better desktop-like experience, but its Maemo system was precisely too desktop oriented and slow and cumbersome. I fear the same shortcomings will apply to the upcoming Nokia N900, by the way.

And of course, my iAudio X5 had 60GB, which already wasn’t enough, and the Hero only has 2GB by default (can be upgraded to 32GB which I probably will soon). Definitely a downgrade, but sadly inevitable.

All things considered, it’s still much more comfortable to carry a single device, especially one with good phone and wifi connectivity, a pretty UI and a boatload of applications to install for free.

By synchronizing with the technogeek crowd (which would have been referred to as “cyberpunk” only 20 years ago), I feel like I’ve joined the new phase of humanity, a phase of ubiquitous connectivity, of ambient information, an organic mesh of individuality waiting to be harvested. There is no point dismissing it, just like there was no point dismissing mobile phones, phones, radios, electricity or written words. We can only accept it, embrace it, and look forward to the horrors and wonders it is going to bring us.