HTC Hero for Sprint hands-on and impressions

When we first caught wind of HTC's Hero coming to Sprint, we were more than a little hopeful that the issues we experienced with the European version would be alleviated. If you'll recall, we had a bit of a love-hate affair going on with the chinny, wine-drinking iteration of the Android-powered phone due to a seeming lack of horsepower required to push HTC's totally amazing Sense UI. In the last few weeks, we've heard lots of chatter about the forthcoming Hero update and the wonders it would do for the speed of this phone... but unfortunately there's no such luck in the US, CDMA version of this device.

So, the point here is we were planning on doing a whole new review to showcase the differences between the old and new version of the Hero, but there really aren't any besides the obvious physical changes. Sprint has added some great new apps, like its visual voicemail, which works like a charm (oh by the way Coleen, you got that job -- maybe you should give them your new number too), and Sprint Navigation, though it's also muddied up the mix by including the yawn-maker NASCAR app. Of course, this phone provides a full-on 3G experience, unlike the European version (for obvious reasons), and Sprint's network seems as snappy as ever -- general web browsing was a noticeably more enjoyable experience, for instance.

Here is what we can say about the phone: the industrial design of this version versus the older model is a marked improvement, chucking that awkward chin shape for a proper bottom half, and rearranging the hard buttons so that you're not constantly getting your hands cramped up. We also have to mention the trackball, which is the most comfortable we've ever used. While the performance is still not where we think it should be, the Hero is an awesome addition to Sprint's growing line of serious contenders in the smartphone game. If that new update is all it's supposed to be (and if Sprint is expedient in bringing it to market), many of our complaints should be quelled -- and this will be the killer device we know it can be.

Update: To commenters asking for a longer review, or asking about discrepancies in our findings versus other sites -- we can only report on what we observed. In our eyes, there is nothing significantly different or improved about the Sprint version to warrant a second review. There are some very minor differences in camera quality, and obviously the network performance is better (since it's not EDGE), but a full-length review did not seem necessary (you'll note many of our contemporaries also have short-form reviews). While reports may differ (especially those stating that this phone has the updated ROM we've heard about), we're still seeing the same kind of sluggishness and slowdown we experienced with the European version. What we said in the original Hero review very much applies to the Sprint version, and we suggest you take a peek.