The HTC Legend has been confirmed, and as expected it bears a close resemblance to the HTC Hero. But exactly what are the differences between the two handsets? We scoured spec lists, photos of the device and support documents endlessly to comprehensively determine the extent of the upgrades. Here they are.
The biggest upgrade, and the one that you'll notice immediately, is the display. The Hero has a 3.2-inch TFT-LCD touchscreen running at 320 x 480 HVGA resolution. That's not bad, per se, but it's practically black & white compared to the HTC Legend's AMOLED beauty.
While it retains the same resolution and display size, the AMOLED offers a substantial improvement - brighter, livelier colours, a considerably higher contrast ratio, better resilience to screen damage, decreased device weight and - best of all - far improved battery life because it doesn't need a backlight. More on the battery life shortly, however.
If you're an owner of the HTC Hero, take a look at the lower portion - the chin - of your device. See that little nubbin? It's a trackball that most people forget about when using the device. It's occasionally useful when you need to edit text in the middle of a word and your fingers are too large, but mostly it's neglected due to its imprecision.
The HTC Legend, on the other hand, has swapped out the nipple-like, easily-gummed-up trackball in favour of an optical trackpad. It works like an optical mouse, except that your finger is the mousepad and the device is the mouse. It should be more accurate and more reliable because it gets rid of mechanical parts that can easily be worn down over time.
Back when the HTC Hero was released in July 2009, its 528 MHz Qualcomm ARM11 processor was already a little long in the tooth - similar chips featured in both the HTC Magic (released 2 months prior) and the HTC Dream (released more than 6 months prior). While firmware updates helped with the device's initial sluggishness, it's still not too zippy compared with more recent phones.
Which is why we welcomed the news that the HTC Legend would be giving the clock speed of the CPU a bit of a bump. The Legend has a 600MHz Qualcomm MSM7227 processor, which should allow the device to cope considerably better with more demanding applications, and fervent multitaskers. It's no 1GHz chip, as found in the Nexus One, but it's a step in the right direction.
This is an area of much debate among mobile fanatics. One of the biggest issues with the Android ecosystem at the present time is that most of the devices have extremely limited internal memory for storing applications. Almost all Android handsets have some form of MicroSD card support, so music, photos and video aren't an issue, but the lack of internal memory for apps has stymied games development on the platform somewhat.
The HTC Legend comes with a small boost to RAM. It has 384MB available compared to the HTC Hero's 288MB. That's an increase of about a third, but it's still not the step change required for things to really get interesting. As it is, it's an improvement, but a pretty modest one.
Here's the weird bit. The HTC Hero has a rechargeable Li-ion battery with a capacity of 1350mAh, which lasts about a day and a half of average use. The HTC Legend's spec sheet shows a rechargeable Li-ion battery with a capacity of 1300mAh. So it's been downgraded? No, not quite. Allow us to explain.
Thanks to the huge power savings that the OLED display enables, you're actually likely to get more use out of the HTC Legend's smaller battery than you do out of the HTC Hero's bigger one. The benefit of having a smaller battery is that the device can be smaller, and that it won't get as hot during use. Sure the difference between 1300mAh and 1350mAh isn't huge - but every little helps, right?
Those attempting to take photos with the HTC Hero will likely have been a little disappointed. It's slow to respond, photos come out rather grainy, and in low light conditions there's nothing but noise. Part of the reason is that there's no flash on the camera - it relies on the ambient lighting.
While we're not expecting any great strides from the HTC Legend in that department, it has been granted an LED flash that'll hopefully make those nightclub shots a tad more palatable, even if what you're doing in them isn't. The pixel-count remains at 5 megapixels.
The HTC Hero has a two tone colour scheme with options of black, white, brown, grey and pink on offer - depending on where you get the handset from. It's mostly made of plastic, and has six buttons along the bottom for interaction. The back of the white variant has a teflon coating to keep it clear and free of dirt.
The HTC Legend, on the other hand, is a classier proposition. It's been carved out of a single block of aluminium - making the body and the frame of the device one and the same thing. It has a two-tone design too - which appeared as garish greens and oranges in the first renderings we saw, but has been toned down to black/white and grey/white in more recent images.
The Legend is smaller and lighter too. Thanks to the space and weight savings made in the OLED display and lower-capacity battery, the device doesn't have to be as large as the Hero is. From what we've seen, the device is considerably thinner from front to back, a little narrower from left to right, but around the same height top to bottom. HTC purists can rest easy, though - it still has the chin.
Android and Sense
One of the worst aspects of being an HTC Hero owner over the past 6 months has been seeing handset-upon-handset get Android updates while the Hero has clung forlornly onto its antiquated 1.5 edition of Google's smartphone OS. Even the HTC Magic - released before the Hero - has been granted 1.6, and the latest phones are now coming out running 2.1, with 2.2 on the horizon.
Despite HTC's promises of 1.6 and 2.0 updates, the Hero has yet to receive anything. The latest rumours suggest that a 2.1 update may materialise in March, but given that the biggest plague that Android as a whole is suffering is a splintering of version numbers, we hope that things won't be the same for the HTC Legend following release.
We do know, thankfully, that the HTC Legend will be coming out with Android 2.1. It'll also have substantial updates to HTC's Sense UI - bringing a helicopter view of your homescreens, widgets for groups of contacts and a new "Friendstream" app that displays your friends' social media info. Plus, we expect, plenty of bug fixes and security patches. That version of the OS will be coming to the Hero, too, apparently.
It's clear that while the HTC Legend bears a surprising similarity to the HTC Hero on the surface, there's a different story going on in the guts of the device. The scale of the upgrades, as well as the slimming down of the device itself, means that the HTC Legend is a substantial improvement on the phone that won our Best of 2009 award.
However, the bar has since been raised by the Motorola Droid/Milestone and Nexus One, so it'll be very interesting to see how far HTC's more ambitious models compare to the rest of the horde of Android handsets that we're expecting in 2010. This year's Pocket-lint awards are shaping up to be considerably closer fought.