HTC Droid Eris

If you're looking to go Android, don't like the look of the robot-like Droid from Motorola, and want to stick to Verizon, you've currently got just the one other choice: the HTC Droid Eris, a reworking of the HTC Hero, an adaption also partaken by rivals with the Sprint HTC Hero.

The Droid Eris takes on a black tactile skin rather than the shiny silver appearance of the Sprint HTC offering and means that, apart from the design and hardware aspects, there is very little between the two models, or indeed from the original.

The Home, Menu, Back and Search buttons are now in a single line. Touch-sensitive, they've been built-in to the same casing as the screen. The only physical buttons underneath the multi-touch screen are Call and Hang-up buttons and 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 not? Because the touchscreen above is excellent. The screen measures 3.2 inches and that means that it's big enough to do most things with. 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 haptic-enabled screen means a more compact phone that won't take up as much space 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, with no flash. Slip the case off and you'll find a microSD slot to expand the memory or easily dump in your music collection. 

Picture quality from that camera was very good both indoors and out, with the camera coping well with the usual array of object and people shots. Poor light is an issue, but hey, this is a camera phone, what's new?

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.

The lack of the ability to take it outside of the US may or may not be an issue. If you travel to Europe or the Far East you're going to be left with an expensive PDA, it's a shame because the HTC Hero is multi-region and we are surprised Verizon, a notoriously business-focused carrier hasn't seen this as a business device - Google Apps anyone?

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, it's 1300mAh compared to 1500mAh. That battery size makes very little difference in the performance of the phone. Like other smartphones on the market this is still a charge-every-night handset.

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 Android 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 consumer-friendly experience. If you are new to HTC Sense, it is worth reading our HTC Hero review, which covers the user interface in more detail.

In reality you'll mostly experience HTC Sense through the series of customised screens which gives 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. 

Verizon has confirmed that the Eris will be getting the Android 2.0 update, which is a good thing, as it will bring in Google Maps Navigation amongst other tweaks.

In our First Look we enjoyed the performance offered by the Eris, a couple of weeks on from the launch and that performance hasn't lagged. The Droid Eris is quick and nimble. 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 is only fair to expect good performance. We weren't disappointed.

 

Verdict

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. Otherwise there is very little difference 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 and this will come down to personal preference. It's not better or worse than the Sprint offering. 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.

While the proximity sensor means this is a better handset than the Sprint offering, an inability to travel outside of the US with it might mean its not the choice for you. If you don't travel, this is one to strongly consider. 



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