Android 2.1 looms for Orange HTC Hero

The UK operator will begin phase one of a two-stage process to deliver Android 2.1 to its HTC Hero handsets in August, bringing a number of new features to the popular phones

Orange has confirmed that the first part of its two-stage upgrade to Android 2.1 should start rolling out to HTC Hero handsets in the first week of August, although some customers have started receiving it already.

The long-awaited update will bring a flurry of new features to the HTC Hero on the Orange network, including live wallpaper, additional home screens, multiple email account support and the HTC Sense user interface. Other general improvements, such as better graphical hardware acceleration and improved overall performance have been touted by Google since version 2.0 of the open-source mobile operating system.

HTC announced at the end of June that it was beginning an over-the-air update for non-operator-locked Hero handsets, but network customers have still not received the update.

"We apologise for the delay in Orange Hero customers receiving their Eclair update," an HTC spokesperson said in a statement. "Testing the update across European markets took longer than anticipated. However, we hope to receive final approval by the end of the week and Orange handsets should start updating from next week."

The first part will bring the firmware updater itself up to scratch, while part two will provide the meat of the upgrade — the full Android 2.1 OS firmware.

The manufacturer-issued update had initially been planned for March but subsequently saw its expected arrival slip first to April and then to the end of June, a situation that further delayed operator-tweaked versions.

However, despite the statement saying that the update will begin next week, one ZDNet UK reader, Cymro76, said he had already been prompted to install the first part of the update, which also updated the YouTube app. Other Orange Hero owners found that setting the date forward by a month also resulted in the prompt appearing.

Discontented Hero owners keen to move beyond the original Android 1.5 OS but struggling to find any definitive information set up a Facebook page demanding that Orange UK provide the Eclair update immediately. At the time of writing the group has 878 members.

A 3 spokesperson reiterated the operator's earlier statement that the 2.1 build is still in internal testing and that it will roll out to customers by the end of July, although the exact date is still to be set. Meanwhile, a T-Mobile spokesperson told ZDNet UK that its customers should have been receiving the update from the middle of July and that any customers yet to receive it should receive a prompt by the end of the month.

On 28 June, Google started rolling out Froyo, version 2.2 of the Android operating system, to HTC-manufactured unlocked Nexus One handsets, with other devices such as the Desire to follow at a later date. The Hero is unlikely to receive Froyo due to its now-aging technical specifications.