In case it’s useful to you, I thought I’d go over how the Hero I bought just about a year ago has held up. I know it hasn’t been on 2.1 for that whole time, but I upgraded a few weeks early with a custom rom (on stock now), so close enough.
Overall, I’m extremely pleased with the device and how well it’s held up. There’s one pixel (at least I think it’s the same one each time) that seems to get stuck once in a while, but otherwise, the screen is still in fine shape. I don’t use a screen protector, just a soft rubber case for the occasional drop. The only other cosmetic complaint are the home and back buttons, where there is some peeling, making it hard to tell what the icon originally was.
Android 2.1 is quite responsive on the Hero, even now, though there’s definitely lag with some more intensive apps (like Angry Birds). Maybe twice a week, the phone will drop me to the white HTC screen when exiting an app, which forces you to wait to load the Sense interface back. No other issues, really. Very solid.
For the apps I use, other than the standards GMail and Google Calendar, are Handcent SMS, TweetDeck for Twitter (Seesmic was good too), AndroZip, Yahoo Fantasy Football and Hockey (although they take up a TON of the limited app space on this phone). For games, beyond Angry Birds, I have mostly stuck to puzzle games and word games. Other than that, I use Tasker to manage the volume of the alarms in the morning and the ringers at work.
I know the phone is being surpassed by many more models, and I drool over having and HDMI out or 1ghz processor, but the Hero served me well. HTC definitely seems like they have some solid hardware.