Sprint has announced they'll be selling HTC's next (and best) Android phone, the Hero, starting October 11th for $180 (after a hefty rebate). We profiled the Hero when its prototype  was touted around town in July and loved it, but a lot's changed since then. Fortunately, it's almost all for the better. Let's be clear: the iPhone hasn't had a legitimate competitor until the Hero. Here's why.
1) Elegant hardware. That means a real headphone jack, a low-profile chin-less design, and minimalist design. The four symbols on the face are part of a rockering faceplate that serves as a four-way button. "We wanted to give it all one look," says Jason Mackenzie of HTC. The gorgeous Sense UI  remains intact, similar to the version we saw in July. (Check it out below.)
2) Flash support out of the box. Go ahead, watch Hulu in the browser. You can.
3) Multitouch. HTC was a little slow to hop on the finger-gesture bandwagon, but they've done it right. The same pinch and expand gestures we've all marveled at on the iPhone are at work in the Hero, plus a few extra perks: pinch and zoom on a website, and it reformats the text into one screen-wide column flow. (The iPhone also does this, but unreliably.)
4) The details. Hop on a plane, and when you get off, the weather will re-calibrate location with the time zone. "It's the little things that continually remind you why you bought the phone," says Mackenzie.
5) Person-centric organization. Your most-called contacts are kept right there on your dashboard; click on one, and you see not only his contact info, but all his SMS messages, Twitter updates, emails and Facebook status changes. "One thing that's been overlooked about the Hero is the way it handles communications," says Keith Nowak of HTC, calling the person-centric view his favorite feature.
The Hero also shoots video, supports picture texting, and holds up to 32GB microSD cards. Also on board will be all the usual Sprint tools, refined; there's Sprint TV, and their NFL and Nascar coverage all integrated into the Sense UI. Come fall, it will be touted by Sprint and HTC in a collaborative marketing strategy that will give the device it's due. To hold you over, here are the biggest glamour shots we could weasel out of HTC.