HTC has launched a new Google Android-based smartphone called the HTC Hero, featuring a revamped user interface that's been in the works for three years.

The software was designed so people can customise the handset to meet their own needs, from choosing a clock style to putting the most often used functions on the home screen, such as a Wi-Fi switch, weather gauge, or a widget for Twitter feeds or friends' Facebook status.

It also allows users to set up the phone's interface to adjust the prominence of certain applications for specific times. A user could adjust the interface so it's easier to access work-related applications during the week, for example, while social-networking sites and entertainment widgets are more prominent at the weekend.

HTC Hero video

See the HTC Hero on PC Advisor TV

The software, which HTC calls 'Sense', also introduces a new approach to keeping track of communications with friends and colleagues.

Chief marketing officer John Wang said phone users now have to monitor a number of different services to communicate with contacts - including email, text, photos and social networking sites. Rather than forcing them to switch between applications, a new feature in HTC Sense creates a single interface for each contact which collates all the texts, emails and photos associated with that person in one destination.

HTC Hero Peter Chou, HTC's CEO, said Sense has been in development for three years, and hundreds of developers have contributed to the project. He said HTC has the most Windows Mobile and Android developers in the world outside Microsoft and Google.

HTC Sense will be introduced in HTC's entire portfolio of mobile phones starting with the HTC Hero. The new handset, due to become available via Orange and T-Mobile in July, has a few nice design touches, including an angled bottom.

HTC's chief innovation office, Horace Luke, said at the launch event that this makes the HTC rest more naturally in the hand, and more comfortably against the face. It also helps reduce screen glare, he said.

The Hero also features an "anti-fingerprint" Teflon coating that's designed to improve durability and give the handset a softer feel.

The device also includes a Search button that goes beyond just searching the internet and contact lists or email on the handset by enabling search through Twitter, Google Maps and other services.

With additional reporting from Dan Nystedt

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