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Mobile Tech Minutes — Palm Pre vs. HTC Hero on Video

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I am being inundated with one single question since receiving the HTC Hero phone with the Android (s goog) OS. That question is which phone do I prefer, the Palm (s palm) Pre or the HTC Hero? It’s a fair question since both phones are on the Sprint (s s) network in the U. S., or at least they will be when the Hero starts shipping.

The question is totally one of personal preference, and it has no easy answer. Both phones are compelling in their own right, and the best way to give a feel for them is to show them side by side. That’s the intent of this video, to let viewers get a feel for each phone and how they differ.

The video shows the main interface of each, and shows the strengths of each interface. Both web browsers are demonstrated, and the pluses and minuses of working the web are shown. Have a look at the video and see which phone holds the most appeal for you. I know for sure that I would be happy with either one as my main phone.

33 Responses to “Mobile Tech Minutes — Palm Pre vs. HTC Hero on Video”

  1. I just bought a pre after going in for the second time to compare the pre and hero. I was impressed with the hero and although it was a bit difficult to use at first, but I am sure once you set it up it would be very easy to use. I am coming from a blackberry curve so I was very hesitant about switching to a virtual keyboard. I actually really like the keyboard on the pre, but the virtual keyboard available in a patch for the pre is basically useless, which I was hoping to use when in landscape mode. The battery on the pre is my biggest disappointment. I knew from reviews that it was bad, but it hasn’t even lasted a full day which is all that I require. I have done things like shutoff gps, changed e-mail pushing times, etc. and I will see how it goes. Also, I don’t care about the amount of apps, but I didn’t find the available apps to be of that great of quality. My main questions are: how is the keyboard on the hero? Do you get used to it? How is the battery on the hero? Significantly better than the pre? And, how is the quality of the apps available for the hero? Thank you.

  2. Thanks for the video – you do a great job showing the different interfaces. What I’d also like to see or hear, are things like: comparing ringtone volume, giving an opinion on in-call volume, speakerphone volume, ease of use of Android market vs. Palm market, differences in vibration strength, battery life. I am finding it difficult to find reviews that compare the more standard phone features, as opposed to the smartphone features. I currently have the Hero and I’ve been dissatisfied with the more straight-out phone features – like the inconsistent alarm. Hopefully they will fix that particular issue in an update, but when you only get 30 days to evaluate a phone, it’s nice to know how the very basic features of the phone work before buying.

  3. I just bought the Hero but I don’t like typing on the virtual keyboard which seems that the letters are too small and often types the neighboring letter. Do you know any add-ons that will improve the typing experience for the Hero?

  4. djmarz2009

    Just want to say that the Palm Pre is ok.. nice pics, smooth feel to it. Love that it has a pull out qwerty keyboard. However I had to return it.. now Im looking at the Hero. Here’s the reason why I couldnt keep it any longer;
    *Cant forward texts
    *Short term battery Life
    *Keyboard is flimsy
    *No video recorder
    Little things I expect in a high priced phone..

  5. good review. however, you need to throw some homebrews and get some tweaks on there. it improves the pre a thousand fold. ps go with the 4×4 icons on the home page

  6. I have a couple of questions. I bought the Pre 5 days ago and still have time to return it for the Hero if I discover I like that better. That said the Pre is growing on me. Especially after adding homebrew apps, tweaks and the virtual keyboard to it. I also like the fact that it syncs to iTunes since I’m a long time iTunes user.
    However I’m still keeping the Hero on my radar. I have a couple questions about the hero

    1. When playing music on the Hero and the screen locks, is there a little controller that pops up that lets you pause and advance tracks even without unlocking the screen? I noticed the Pre does this and I really like it. I’m planning to replace my iPod with either of these phones so music/podcast playback is very important.

    2. I know the hero comes with video recording out of the box. But the resolution is QVGA which is nothing to write home about. At that resolution I may not even bother with it. Currently the Pre doesn’t have video recording but Palm promises to add this feature. Being that the hardware is similar to an iPhone, my assumption is that Palm will add VGA (640×480) resolution video recording. Are there any plans or efforts in progress to improve the video recording of the Hero?

    3. I’m concerned about the SenseUI. I love the way it looks, but being that it’s not Android standard, does this cause any conflict? I assume that many of the 10,000 Android apps don’t match the slick SenseUI look.

    4. Are there any methods for showing your currently running applications and closing them to free up hardware resources? I’d hate to not know I still have something running and it’s slowing down my phone while trying to do something else.

    5. I’ve heard something about the Palm Pre not currently using its GPU in the phone. That once enable this should speed up graphics. I really don’t know anything about this, do you? Is this something to keep in mind when picking either of these phones. As in will Palm one day just turn it on and blow away the performance of the Hero? I know the Pre has a faster CPU to begin with.

    I’d be very interested in knowing some of these answers. I still have time to switch phones and the hero does looks really nice. But the more I use the Pre I’m noticing a lot of little polished things it does that are nice to have. I’m a little worried the Hero is more like a Linux desktop installation where it might be able to technically do more, but requires convoluted methods to do it. In other words a hacker phone for tech geeks rather then a polished phone for regular joes who are looking for a less expensive iPhone alternative.

    • I Had the Pre at Fist and traded it in for the HTC Hero I Loved the Pre dont get me wrong I Just did’nt like the slideup keyboard I downloaded th on screen-keyboard that did not work correctly…Over all the Pre is a great phone but the Hero got it beat…And yes u can still control the music player when the screeen lock…

    • I am also VERY interested in answers to these questions. Great questions. I have been laboring over the decision between the pre and Hero and am still undecided. My mind changes from one to the other like the wind :)

      My big questions:
      – comparison of music player
      – image quality (i believe from a resolution standpoint the pre is much better)
      – virtual vs. physical keyboard
      – worthwhile apps (pre seems to have polished apps while android app possibilities are endless)
      – layered contacts
      – integration of google calendar (my wife has the pre and it is the first phone for us that seems to do a nice job of REALLY synching our entire family calendar
      – messaging interface



  7. You mention that the hero doesn’t have an easy way to see what’s running in the background. Does it still have the home button shortcut? Like one the G1, can you still press and hold the home button and see the last 6 programs accessed? I know they aren’t necessarily still running in the background however can it do that?

    • This “recent app” trick does indeed still work. I use it occasionally but not that often. I usually need to see what is actually running in the background.

      I installed the free “Advanced Task Killer” in the Market and it works great. It is accessible through the notifications slider at the top. When run it polls and lists all active tasks and provides a one button kill function that is superb. It’s a great way to clean out what is running from time to time.

  8. bulls96

    you can also double tap on text on websites on the Pre so it can be reformatted to fit nicely on your screen. SO i dont think thats really an advantage of the Hero. ANd i also prefer an overview of the entire webpage upon loading. by that i can just double tap on the text that i want to read.

    Good comparison though! Don’t forget to mention that the Pre actually has a physical keyboard.

    • bulls96, there’s a huge difference between the browser zoom on the Pre vs Android. A double-tap on the Pre’s browser does’t reformat it to fit nicely on your screen. It currently simply zooms to fit it on your screen. That’s far different than on the Android browser now — it zooms and reflows text, which is more advanced and usable. If you pinch zoom on the Pre, you can’t always read all of the text because it doesn’t reflow, in which case, you need to scroll. On Android it will automatically reflow so there’s no horizontal scrolling. Similar, but *very* different functionality.

  9. prethought

    “Another key feature for business users is that you can sync directly with Outlook”

    Exchange has won the Groupware war with Notes and Groupwise distant also ran. If you can’t sync with Exchange you can’t do business in most major large enteprise sized businesses. Google is getting better everyday but they are still no challenger for ExchangeSharepoint services. The same for the Android it’s nice but it still not as polished as a PalmPre or iPhone when it comes to next gen smartphones.

  10. techgeek32

    Thanks for the thoughts. I have had 10 Pre’s and all have broken down or been defective. I know there are many that are interested in the build quality comparison. I know that the Hero has a tempered glass screen as opposed to the plastic screen on the Pre. Also the Hero is supposed to have a smudge resistant coating as well. Another key feature for business users is that you can sync directly with Outlook on the computer to keep contacts and calender up to date where you can’t on the Pre. The email program is supposed to be more robust on the Hero than the Pre and the big plus is having video and flash capability on the Hero. I found the Pre keyboard to have good feedback but to be too small when typing alot of information and I don’t have big hands. I just think for more people looking at these 2 devices the main points are probably build quality and Outlook syncing capability for those of us that are business users. Most of the reviews I have seen don’t go deep enough into these points, most are centered around the cool stuff and not necessarily the everyday features that will make someone more efficient.

    • vara411

      Come on… TEN?!!!

      Forgive me for being skeptical but whenever I read these types of posts I instantly suspect fanboy-ism.

      My Palm Pre has been rock-solid since launch. I’ve babied it, but still managed to drop it twice. Still works like a champ.

  11. reflowing of text has always been part of the android browser.

    My stock G1 was doing that before even the Cupcake 1.5 update. I remember comparing my G1 browser to my friend’s Pre not long after I had purchased it and we both mentioned that specific feature as one that android got better browser-wise.

  12. Thanks for the comparison. Good demo of the two approaches. I would have liked to see the email and calendar on the Hero since my purchase will be more of a workhorse and a hobby phone. Any comments you or the team want to make about that?

  13. Nice overview and the Hero looks sweet! Just for clarification so folks don’t think the wrong thing — the reflowing text feature in the browser isn’t specific to the HTC Hero. It’s part of Android 1.6 / Donut. The only way I knew that was because my G1 got the Android 1.6 update this morning and sure enough, text reflows in the browser. :) Thinking ahead — since the webOS browser is WebKit, just like Android’s, I’m *hoping* we see this function added to the Pre in the future.

    • Glad to hear that’s part of Android generally. I’m finding it invaluable to the browsing experience. Sadly, my G1 is still sitting waiting for Donut to appear.

      I should remind everyone that the Hero, while it has this feature in the browser, is only running Cupcake. It does not have Donut on it.

  14. I don’t mind the lack of a scroll bar on the Pre myself… the big thing I notice in the Hero browser is that scrolling and zooming seems much jumpier than the Pre (at least when you demonstrate scrolling on jkontherun on it). That’s probably at least partly because of Flash, but we’ll see whenever the Pre gets that as well.

    But I agree entirely that they’re both very good devices that will meet pretty different needs well, depending on what one wants.