A Few weeks ago I got so impatient with HTC and their promised upgrade for the HTC Hero to Android 2.1, I ended up “rooting” my phone and upgraded with VillainRom‘s version of Android 2.1, code named VillainRom. I was super happy with this in general, apart from the initial fact that my battery didn’t last very long. -got that sorted fairly quickly disabling some power hungry settings for the Mobile Network.
Checking in regularly for updates on VillainRom’s web site, I found Froyo, Android 2.2 available for the GSM version of the HTC Hero. I was very excited, and downloaded it without blinking! Here is my 2 cents:

Installing the update was pretty straight forward as I have already rooted my phone when installing Android 2.1. Instructions from the VillainROM web site installing customs roms are very easy to follow. (Requires you to just read thoroughly when following instructions.). The initial boot takes some time but speeds up after the next few restarts.

At A Glance:
Initially when Froyo is up and running, there are some changes HTC users, using the Sense UI are not familiar with. I quite like the “Unlock” – and the “Sound Of” slide you are presented with on the “Lock Screen”. VillainROM’s version of Froyo, code named FroydVillain comes by default with LauncherPro. This ROM is remarkably smaller than the HTC version of 2.1, and a tad faster.

Initial Lock Screen
Mute Lock Screen

Speed & Performance:
Overall experience and responsiveness of the phone compared to the initial Android 1.5 the HTC Hero ships with, it is remarkably faster. It’s astonishing what the difference is keeping in mind it’s the same hardware, with just an improved version of Android. From Android 2.1 to 2.2 I did not notice that much of an improvement, but I must admit, it seems a lot more stable, and hogs up less memory than 2.1.
The previous version, 2.1 by VillainROM was quite intensive on the battery at the best of times. Froyo is nice to the battery, and leaves the phone, specially the battery, nice and cool! Would say this version is “Green” if one could call it that.

Android Market:
The Android Market has also had some overalls in the new version, as you can now set individual applications under the “Downloads” to update automatically. Something I found quite annoying in the previous versions of the Market, was the lack of the ability to “Update All” the “Apps” that had updates when going to the Downloads section.

Android Market: Automatic Update

LauncherPro is default with FroydVillain, and is the first thing you are presented with as you unlock the phone. It is quite a feature rich launcher, with a lot tweaks and enhancements to make your most used applications only a “flip” away. You can set the amount of screens you want to slide through on the home screen, the quality etc. while sliding to enhance performance, and also the behavior of the home button when pressed once twice etc. Also features multi touch that gives you a thumb view of all the screens, and by selecting one, will take you to the particular screen. If you purchase to full version, you can have the Bookmarks & People Widgets on the home screen, which makes things a bit easier, and of course, make your phone look a whole lot cooler. One other nice thing about LauncherPro is the fact that it can show you the unread email messages, gmail messages, sms’s & missed calls at the bottom where the “launcher” icons are.

LauncherPro Dock Counters

LauncherPro Dock Counters

Useful Widgets:
One of the first things I missed after installing Froyo was the nice HTC settings widgets you can add to your home screen for turning Mobile Data, Wireless, GPS, Bluetooth on and off in an instant by just tapping on the icon on the desktop. In this version pre installed, there is a “Power Control” widget you can put on the home screen which allows you to control all the “power hungry” features on your phone in one place -it includes the GPS, Mobile Data, WiFi, BlueTooth, Sync, Screen Brightness control -I found this very usefull, and made my switch over from the HTC Sense UI to LauncherPro a whole lot easier.
Something else I also noticed was the absence of a useful widget for presenting your calendar and agenda on the home screen, I found a replacement searching the market called Agenda Widget. Its not entirely as nice as the one from HTC, but it does the trick for now.

Agenda Widget

Agenda Widget

eMail, GMail, Calendar & ActiveSync:
Something I was a bit concerned about initially was the ability of this version to sync with our company email using ActiveSync and exchange. It works flawlessly and have no problems what so ever with syncing to exchange (This includes contacts, calendar & contacts). I love the calendar in this version, its so easy to read, and it almost gives you the idea they have taken something from the iPod Touch / iPhone. The different views gives you a quick and easy overview of your agenda and appointments coming up. You can change what calendars, contacts & email you want to view or sync to your phone, going even as deep what “categories” per account you want to sync -example, friends, family, office or business per account -fantastic!

Social Networking:
Being a bit of a social network junkie, Facebook, Twitter, Foursquare and Google Buzz works pretty well, and you can also sync your contacts from your Facebook & Twitter accounts to your contacts on your phone, displaying status updates, phone numbers, birthdays and profile pictures for each contact. Something useful I miss, that was in the previous version, provided by the HTC Friend Stream, is the ability to link certain accounts with each other where the applications can’t make the associations -this is typically useful where the Facebook and or Twitter account, and the local contact doesn’t have obvious similarities.

Network tethering:
In this rooted version of Froyo, you have the ability of both Wired – and Wireless Tethering. The wired tethering is a bit different than the HTC versions, but it works just as good. Wireless tethering is made possible with aNetShare -it works very well, but it heats up the battery quite a bit, and hand in hand with that goes drains it at a rapid rate. But in an emergency where you need a few devices to share your phones internet connection, its a life saver! (Use it quite a bit with my iPod Touch -very handy.)

Perfect setup:
The following applications in combination with their widgets and features makes my phone the perfect mobile companion: (In alphabetical order)
01. Agenda Widget
02. ASTRO File Manager
03. Facebook
04. Fancy Widget
05. Foursquare
06. Gist
07. Google Buzz
08. Hootsuite Lite
09. Google Maps with Latitude
10. TripIt
11. Twitter
12. WikiDroid
13. WordPress
14. WYSE

In general I’m very impressed with this version both from a performance perspective and the features this version unleashed in my HTC Hero. As I discover more insight and improvements, I will keep this post updated.

Power Control Wdget

Power Control Wdget