Google Android Gets Help In Fight Against Apple iPhone

htc hero gallery

Taiwanese mobile phone maker HTC, which has spent the last year or so making Microsoft’s (MSFT) Windows Mobile less ugly, is now doing the same for Google’s (GOOG) Android. It’s the first look at how gadget manufacturers and carriers will try to differentiate their phones based on  Android.

Click here to see photos of HTC’s new Hero →

Because Android is free and open-source, anyone can tweak it to their heart’s content. HTC’s Sense user interface — shown in these pictures — is a step forward. It looks much better than the UI that Android ships with, and might inspire Android app developers to crank up their design savvy, too. (Though it could fracture the Android app market, but that’s a lesser concern.)

More important: And it could help HTC and its carrier partners compete better against rivals like Apple’s (AAPL) iPhone, RIM’s (RIMM) BlackBerry devices, Palm’s (PALM) new WebOS, and Microsoft’s next edition of Windows Mobile.

This doesn’t solve all of Android’s problems — it still needs more, better apps in its app store; a stronger marketing push; etc. And this phone probably won’t be available in the U.S. until later this year, if ever. But it’s a good start.

We’re eager to see how other manufacturers — like Motorola (MOT) — have hacked up Android, especially for non-smartphone, more-mainstream “feature phone” devices.

Click here to see photos of HTC’s new Hero →

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Up Close On The 'Sense' Clock

HTC's Custom Menu, Slimmer Phone

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HTC's Heroes

HTC Hero Front & Back

In Brown, Too

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