[UPDATE] Thanks to cr0vax for pointing out in the comments that the HTC Android phones that are not badged "with Google" have already got Exchange functionality, but those versions haven't been released for the UK market, so I've added "in the UK" to the title.
Yesterday HTC held a press event in London to announce their new Android phone, the Hero. The phone looks, both on paper and in the released photos and videos, fantastic. The Sense UI that HTC have built on top of the Google Android OS looks very nice and has some features that appeal to me, such as the widget for Twitter.
The thing that I find most interesting about the phone though is that it appears to be the first Android device to ship with Exchange Active Sync support. Since I use Exchange as my primary mail platfrom, the less than stellar support for Exchange is the thing that has steered me away from Android up to now, but HTC know very well how much it's used and seem to have sorted it out.
I haven't seen anything written about this (although I have just asked HTC), but if you look at various videos showing the device, it's there. The first thing I noticed was in the "First Look" video that HTC released on their YouTube channel...
...at 3:44 in the video, you can see that the email application has "Exchange" across the top of the screen as the different views of the mailbox are displayed. Of course that could just be an account setup to use IMAP to talk to an Exchange server that has been labeled as "Exchange", so it wasn't exactly proof of Active Sync.
After more digging around, I found the proof in a video from SlashGear.TV...
...with 7:20 to go in that video, the guy doing the demo is setting up a mail widget and selects which mail account he wants to display - one of the options on the screen is "Exchange ActiveSync". Following on, with 5:30 to go, he explains that you get to sync your mail, calendar and contacts. Happy days!
I haven't had much of a play with Android, but I understand that until now the best option for connecting to Exchange was TouchDown, which I'm told it perfectly decent (from the screens I've seen I was surprised to hear that, but I can't pass comment without trying it). Personally though, I'm happier knowing that something as important to me as Exchange is going to be built in and therefore fully integrated into the device.
Of course, we don't know yet how complete the support is (it seems the Palm Pre launched with some Exchange issues), but if I had to put my money on one company to get it right, it would be HTC. I'm really looking forward to reading the reviews of this device in the short run up to it shipping next month.
[UPDATE] Amazon UK now have the Hero available to order.