Droid Eris by HTC - First Look

Another carrier, another handset, that is pretty much the story with the Droid Eris, now on its third iteration from the HTC Hero launched in Europe back in May. So what has Verizon brought to the table and for American's, should you opt for this one over the Sprint HTC Hero?

We haven't seen the official press release, but no doubt when it does arrive on our desk it will say the new design oozes a black finish never before seen, and one that is tactile to touch over the silver shimmers of the Sprint offering.

In reality there is very little between the two in terms of design. The Verizon Droid Eris sports a black shell with a slightly more rounded bottom curve. The Home, menu, back and search buttons are now in a single line. Touch-sensitive, they've been built into the same casing as the screen. The only physical buttons underneath the multi-touch screen are a call and hang-up buttons an a trackball as found on the MyTouch 3G and G1 handsets.

That trackball is very responsive, not that you'll find yourself using it that much. Why? The touchscreen above.

The screen remains at 3.2-inches, the same as the Sprint model. Compared to other smartphones on the market it is slightly larger than the Palm Pre's 3.1-inch screen and slightly smaller than the iPhone's 3.5-inch screen. Either way the smaller hyptic-enabled screen means a more compact phone that won't take up as much real estate in your pocket, but one that is still very usable. 

Like the Sprint handset the phone offers a 3.5mm jack, volume buttons and a 5-megapixel camera on the back. There is no flash. Slip the case off and you'll find a microSD slot. 

Keeping on the technology front, you'll get Wi-Fi and Bluetooth 2.0 connectivity as well as GPS so you can find your way home. This being Verizon the handset runs on the CDMA network. However with no GSM support you won't be able to travel to Europe with it. This is not a world phone.

Of course this isn't just an identical phone in a different colour for a different operator. HTC doesn't do that. So the offering is slightly thinner, which in turn means that the battery is slightly smaller. While HTC wouldn't, in our play, be drawn on what this would mean to the overall performance, it confirmed that users would notice very little difference (it's 1300mAh compared to 1500mAh for those wanting the numbers).

On the upside the company has fixed one of the underlining bug bears from the original version and added a proximity sensor so when you put it up to your head the screen turns off. Handy. 

Running Google's Android 1.5 OS, the Droid Eris is Verizon's second handset, the Droid by Motorola is the other. Like the Sprint HTC Hero, HTC has once again taken the Android OS as a starting point, and put their own special sheen on the operating system. Called the Sense UI it basically gives you a graphical skin over the Android OS giving it a more grown-up experience. 

In reality you'll mostly experience this through a series of customised screens giving you quick access to a number of the key features. Whether it's work, play, social networking or all of the above, the screens are incredibly easy to use, stylish and the key to the phone's simplicity. 

In our brief play the Droid Eris was quick and nimble, most likely benefiting from the HTC Hero update recently rolled out to the Sprint variant. It's fast enough that you won't find yourself struggling with whether or not you've pressed the button or flipped a screen. And as flipping through screens is something that you'll find yourself doing a lot, it only fair to expect good performance. We weren't disappointed.  

Software-wise you'll get all the usual apps, with Verizon only choosing to install its Visual Voicemail service on the phone. Like the Motorola Droid, this is a clean handset.

Verdict

Software wise there is very little different between the HTC Hero released in Europe, the HTC Hero on Sprint and the Verizon version. Where the difference appears is in the hardware and cosmetic design of the handset.

Whether you choose the Sprint HTC Hero or the Verizon HTC Droid Eris is going to be down to networks and what you are happier with. Both carriers have left the handset pretty unfettered, both haven't done anything crazy with the hardware to make them stand out from each other either. 

One deciding factor however is likely to be the price. The Droid Eris is at the time of writing $80 cheaper. 

For the non Apple or Palm believers, this is one to strongly consider.