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First impressions: HTC Hero Android smartphone on Sprint [review]

I recently got a chance to put my grubby paws all over the HTC Hero smartphone, a Google Android-based device on Sprint.Needless to say, it's a pretty slick device.

I recently got a chance to put my grubby paws all over the HTC Hero smartphone, a Google Android-based device on Sprint.

Needless to say, it's a pretty slick device. In fact, it's the slickest touchscreen Android phone currently on the market.

First, the facts: the Hero supports business and personal e-mail, GPS navigation, integrated Facebook, Twitter and Flickr, a full HTML web browser, a 5 megapixel camera, expandable microSD memory up to 32GB, 802.11b/g wireless, a 3.5mm headphone jack, stereo Bluetooth, visual voicemail and Android Market apps.

Naturally, it also includes full Google service integration, and can also view Word, Excel, PowerPoint and PDF documents out of the box.

[Image Gallery: HTC Hero]

It's also got an accelerometer, digital compass and ambient light sensor. It runs on Sprint's EV-DO Rev. A mobile broadband network.

In my hands, the HTC Hero felt smooth -- a refinement over Android phones past. The keypad at the bottom is integrated into one smooth panel, but keeps the distinct six-button layout of Android phones (pick up, hang up, back, menu, home, search) as well as the trackball that complemented the myTouch 3G's input options, allowing for precise maneuvering.

The 3.2-inch capacitive touchscreen display is beautiful, and really shows off the work HTC has done in customizing Android for a specific user experience. It supports multitouch, too.

And what a user interface it is. The calendar on the front pops, the menus are distinct, and you really get a better sense of what Android is capable of.

I didn't get to spend too much time with the device, but it's a solid advancement for the Android platform. If you dig touchscreen-only smartphones, this one's worth checking out.

The Hero marks the first Android phone on a carrier other than T-Mobile. Better still, it gives Sprint customers a business-friendly alternative to the Palm Pre smartphone -- sans QWERTY keyboard, of course.

(If you need the QWERTY keyboard but like Android, the Motorola Cliq on T-Mobile is right for you.)

Stay tuned, as I'm sure Smartphones & Cell Phones blogger Matthew Miller will have an in-depth review of the Hero.