Sprint's New Savior: The Google Android-Based HTC Hero?

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Move over Palm Pre, Sprint has another hot touch-screen smartphone to hang its hat on: the HTC Hero.

The HTC Hero is Sprint's first smartphone based on the Google Android mobile operating system. It is expected to be available Oct. 11, but Sprint is taking preregistration for the HTC Hero starting today.

The 3G HTC Hero comes as the hype around the Sprint-exclusive Palm Pre starts to fizzle out in the shadow of the Apple iPhone 3G S, which has sold millions of units while the Pre has sold fewer than half a million by most estimates.

Sprint said the HTC Hero will be available through all of Sprint's retail channels and Best Buy for $179.99 after $50 instant savings, a $100 mail-in rebate and a two-year service agreement.

"The arrival of HTC Hero and the Android platform to Sprint's network is an important milestone for our customers and the U.S. wireless industry," Kevin Packingham, senior vice president of product development for Sprint, said in a statement.

The HTC Hero is the first HTC smartphone in the U.S. to feature HTC Sense, a feature that lets users customize their smartphone via home-screen panels and widgets.

The HTC Hero smartphone features beveled edges and an angled bottom and is contoured to fit comfortably in users' hands and against their faces while they're on a call. The device also uses an anti-fingerprint screen coating for smudge resistance and a longer-lasting, clearer display.

The HTC Hero also features a 3.2-inch HVGA touch-screen display with pinch-to-zoom capabilties. The smartphone is optimized for Web, multimedia and other content and also includes a GPS, a digital compass, a gravity-sensor, a 3.5mm headphone jack, a 5-megapixel autofocus camera and expandable microSD memory.

The HTC Hero integrates a dedicated search button that goes beyond basic search, offering users a contextual experience that searches Twitter, locates contacts, finds e-mails and searches any other area on the smartphone.

Because the HTC Hero for Sprint is Google Android-based it also offers native access to a host of Google applications like Maps, Gmail and more. In addition, it offers access to applications through the Google Android Market, Android's storefront for free and paid mobile applications and games.

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