HTC pushes out Android 2.1 update to Hero

After multiple delays, HTC has rolled out Android Eclair to its Hero handsets, though owners on network contracts will have to wait longer to get the update

HTC Hero owners should soon start receiving the long-awaited Android 2.1 update over the air, HTC has announced.

The Taiwanese manufacturer said on Monday that it has finished its version of the Google-sponsored mobile OS — also known as Eclair — for its handsets, meaning the Android iteration will work with its Sense user interface.

"[The over-the-air update] will roll out across Europe starting from this week and will be flagged when the Hero next automatically checks for software updates," HTC said.

Owners of SIM-free Heros are reporting that Android 2.1 is already available on their handsets, but users of devices on contract from mobile network operators will see longer waits. The update will give the Hero access to Google services such as turn-by-turn navigation and pinch-zoom for Google Maps.

HTC has said that SIM-free Hero owners should soon receive an on-screen notification informing them of the over-the-air updates, the first phase of which began nearly two weeks ago.

Operator 3 said that it is testing the new build and its network-wide rollout should take place in July. Orange said that the update is "coming soon", while T-Mobile said that it is "looking into the matter", but could not provide a schedule.

Hero owners have waited several months for HTC to integrate its Sense user interface with Eclair, while Google introduced version 2.1 with the Nexus One in January. HTC first scheduled the release of its firmware for March, then pushed the launch back to late April, before finally settling on the end of June. The manufacturer declined to explain on Monday the reasons behind the length of the delay.

The update comes in two parts, the first providing a preparatory upgrade of the handsets' updater software and the second providing the Android 2.1 firmware.

At around 80MB, the Eclair update is best downloaded over a Wi-Fi connection to avoid data charges, according to HTC. It is also warning upgraders to perform a full backup, as updating the OS will fully erase all data on the phone.

While HTC has not committed to putting the Android 2.2, code-named Froyo, update out for the Hero, it has said that work on the OS is a priority for its other handsets.

"We are working hard with our partners to update the HTC Sense experience on Froyo and distribute it to our customers as fast as possible. We expect to release updates for several of our 2010 models including Desire, Legend and Wildfire beginning in Q3," the company said.