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Sprint Needs A Hero: Android-Based HTC Phone Launches Today

The HTC Hero is Sprint's first Android-based smartphone in the U.S.

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Sprint is selling the phone for $179.99 following a two-year lock-in and a $100 mail-in rebate. The HTC Hero is available through all of Sprint's retail channels and Best Buy. It's a 3G phone, and Sprint is hoping for another hit on the heels of its much-ballyhooed Palm Pre. The HTC Hero includes access to Sprint's various data plans, including its recently released Any Mobile Anytime plan.

The HTC Hero has beveled edges and sports an anti-fingerprint screen coating for smudge resistance. Among other features, the HTC Hero has a 3.2-inch HVGA touch-screen display with pinch-to-zoom capability, an embedded GPS, a digital compass, a gravity sensor, a 3.5mm headphone jack, expandable microSD memory slot and a 5-megapixel autofocus camera.

It's also the first U.S. smartphone to include HTC's HTC Sense feature, which lets users customize their Hero's home screen using panels and widgets.

Sprint's flagging fortunes have continued in the past year as the telco loses ground to AT&T and Verizon in the U.S. Both of its rivals have about 80 million mobile subscribers in the U.S., compared to Sprint's 50 or so million.

Sprint has spent much of the past few months touting the HTC Hero among the two other big smartphone releases -- the three-month-old Palm Pre and the forthcoming Palm Pixi -- it hopes will help tilt the subscriber balance back in its favor.

Sprint also has another Android phone on the way, the Samsung Moment, which will have an 800MHz processor, 3.2-inch AMOLED screen, optional trackpad and a 3.2-megaapixel camera. The Moment also includes built-in Google search, Google Maps, Gmail and YouTube. It'll run $179 after a $50 savings and $100 rebate with a two-year lock-in, and is set to launch Nov. 1.

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