HTC Hero mini-review

Here’s a quick write up on my thoughts after two days with my unlocked white Hero. The device itself is very good looking but it is not without its shortcomings:


  • Hardware looks and feels very good in the flesh. Matte teflon backing is unique.
  • Virtual keyboard is excellent. Really fast especially in landscape mode. I find its best to just blast out text and let the auto correct take care of things.
  • Facebook integration. I like the way it aggregates contacts and shows profile photos next to them.
  • The infamous chin. I like it. It keeps the screen and buttons off of a flat surface when face down which you might do to hear the speaker better. It also angles the buttons nicely and curves the mic towards your mouth.
  • Speaker seems to be much louder than the G1.
  • Headphone socket. About time!
  • It’s still an Android phone so all the Google stuff works as usual. All my apps have been working so far.
  • When calling someone it vibrates when the other person picks up. Its a minor thing but a nice touch.
  • The multi-touch browser is full screen. Not everyone might like this as it means the notification bar is hidden.
  • HTC’s clock app. It lets you add several clocks for different time zones, set alarms and incluides a stopwatch and countdown timer
  • Oleophobic screen nicely minimises fingerprints and smudges. It also looks better than the G1’s screen somehow.


  • Lag. Yes it is there, even with a Class 6 microSD. Certain things like the manage applications list are much slower than on my clunky old G1. Sometimes it seems like its just the animations are holding things up. The rotate animation is way too slow and the home screen swipe has a pretty but weird bounce back effect.
  • The camera is almost as bad as on the G1. Just throwing more megapixels at it has not improved things much. It’s still slow and as there is no physical camera button (the trackball is used) you can’t half press to focus. Roll on Sony Ericsson X3.
  • Flash in the browser isn’t great. Its not a big deal as there is an app for it but the BBC iPlayer site does not work. Stuff like Yeti Sports works but it’s slow. I haven’t had much time to test Flash out but it seems like it makes loading web pages slower and there doesn’t look like there’s an option to disable it.

Overall I’m glad I bought it. Hopefully HTC will come out with a firmware update to fix the lag. I’ll still use my G1 for development and testing but the Hero is going to be my day-to-day phone.

By the way the Hero has already been rooted. Click here for instructions. I have tried it on mine and it works.


Reader Widget Pro V1.1 Out

I have just uploaded the first update to Reader Widget Pro. It contains a bug fix for occasional force closes in the large widget. Also the much hyped special feature is there! Basically it is tighter integration with the excellent Google Reader client Greed. If you have the latest full version installed (1.1.9), then you have the option of tapping on a feed name in the pop-up list and viewing the feed in Greed! The option is displayed in the second configuration screen (only if you have Greed (full) though). The browser option is still there if you prefer. Also in the large widget, tapping on a headline shows the feed in Greed. If you do use Greed like me, then you will probably prefer this behaviour to launching a new browser window. Unfortunately, Android only allows new browser windows to be launched by other applications (rather than re-using an existing one).


Reader Widget Pro on the Android Market

I have uploaded the Reader Widget Pro to market. It costs the princely sum of 50 pence. Unfortunately, the special feature I talked about didn’t make it into version 1.0. This is because I was co-ordinating with another app developer and I am dependent on them updating their app in the market. However, the feature should be in a future version.

I’ll be updating the Google Reader Widget Page with full details of what’s in the Pro version soon.


Hero has arrived

Just got my shiny new HTC Hero today. First impressions are good. Both PubCrawler and the Reader Widgets are working fine. If I’m not too busy later I will post a mini review.

Reader Widget Pro should be ready this weekend.


Reader Widget Pro soon

Testing has gone well and I’ve only had to make a couple of tweaks. However, I’m adding a feature that I think will be worthwhile having in version 1.0. Once this final piece has been tested fully it will be ready and all will be revealed!


Reader Widget Pro: The pop-up

Remember that mysterious button on the large widget? Well here’s what it does:


In fact all three sizes of the widget pop-up this dialog when clicked on. It’s a scrolling, collapsible list of tags with the feed names underneath. Each tag and feed has its unread count next to it. When clicking on the feed name a new browser window is launched that goes to the feed in the Google Reader site. More click actions maybe configurable in the future.

The buttons along the bottom of the pop-up do pretty much what they say:

  • Greed – this is only shown if you have Greed Full or Lite installed. It launches the Greed main screen.
  • Refresh – reloads data from the Google Reader API across all the active Reader widgets
  • Settings – reconfigures the widget.</li

It would have been great to be able to do a scrolling list of unread tags or feeds in the medium sized widget itself but that’s not allowed in the framework yet. I think this is a good compromise though. Its faster to launch and close than a full app (and I’m not about to write a complete Google Reader client because there’s a good one on the market already).

I’m testing the widgets at the moment and once that’s done I’ll upload the package to the market.


Reader Widget Pro Large Preview

The large widget is nearing completion:

large widget

It displays headlines configurable by tag or feed and changes the headline every 5 seconds (which I might make configurable). Clicking on the headline takes you straight to the page the story is for. I might make it an option to click and open the feed in the Google Reader site as well. Like the medium version it also has a useful refresh button but it also has a new button on the right, the function of which is a secret ;-).

It took a while to decide on the final widget set and what each of them should do. I think I have made all three sizes (small, medium and large) unique and useful. Its possible to add all of them several times over to the home screen and have them all show different data. One background service keeps all of the data refreshed. It has been a fun challenge writing this widget package. I have learnt a lot about Android and its current limitations (see my previous post for more on that).


HTC Hero: pre-ordered

I’ve pre-ordered a HTC Hero. Its the white unlocked version. I went for this over the Samsung Galaxy (i7500) because of several reasons:

  • 512Mb ROM in the Hero should be enough for my apps
  • Flash in the browser to show off to all my iPhone owning friends
  • The Hero has mini USB/Ext USB so I can charge it from any PC easily. Galaxy has micro USB which I don’t have anywhere.
  • Taking photos with my phone is not something I do much. I have decent digital cameras for that.
  • Although it might be possible to run a hacked Hero ROM on the Galaxy it probably won’t run very well due to the lack of RAM. The Galaxy is supposed to have either 128Mb or 192Mb of RAM depending on who you believe. The Hero has 288Mb.
  • Being a HTC handset, the Hero is sure to have lots of support from the xda-developers community

I intend to keep the Hero unmodified except for rooting (if that’s possible). I’ll probably keep my G1 for dev and general messing about with.

One thing that occurred to me whilst developing my pro reader widget is why HTC have developed their own widget framework over the top of Android. Here’s what I think : with vanilla Cupcake developers are very restricted in what they can put into a widget. For example, having a scrolling list or animation is not possible. Its not even possible to use a TableView! Look at the various Hero demo videos and its obvious that HTC’s widgets don’t have such limitations.
It makes me wonder if the widget framework will be expanded for Android 2.0 (Donut) and whether all of HTCs work might be eventually duplicated by Google. Also I wonder what HTC will do with Hero when Donut comes out.


Google Reader Widget: The First Month

Its been a month since I uploaded my Reader Widget Small to the Android Market so I thought this was a good arbritrary point to post an update. Since then there have been over 2000 downloads and 48 ratings at an average of about 4 stars which I’m very pleased with.

There are some minor updates I need to make to this version and work is progressing on the “Pro” widget. I also have some ideas for non-Google Reader widgets but it will probably be a while before I get to those!


Reader Widget Pro Update

Inspired by Jeff Sharkey’s excellent Sky Weather Widget for the Pro version of Reader Widget I have decided to provide multiple widget sizes in one package:

  • Small 1×1 cell to show unread count for a particular tag (or all tags)
  • Medium 2×2 cell with list of unread items for every tag
  • Large/Wide 4×1 cell with rolling headlines configurable by tag

Here’s a preview of the medium version:

medium reader widget

Notice the handy refresh button on the top left.
Other features will include:

  • Configurable click action to:
    • Refresh (small version only)
    • Open browser
    • Open dialog with list of tags that when clicked go to correct page in Google Reader
  • Display last refresh time or newest item time