Pros: BEST ANDROID ON THE MARKET! HDMI-Out, WiFi hotspot, great Cameras, lovely screen, user replaceable battery
Cons: The 4G spectrum is in its infancy but, costs you $10 extra. Memory card placement.
Its been a long time since I tested a new cellphone. I’ve been satisfied with my iPhone but at this point, its getting long in the tooth and besides the fact I have a back with a crack in it (no pun intended) and a few scratches on my screen – since I refuse to use protective cases, my sleep/wake button is damaged which makes switching it on and off annoying. My current iPhone contract expires this month and I’m in the market for a new phone.
Steve jobs made a splash earlier today, introducing the new iPhone4, which although looks incredible, is only available on AT&T, a carrier that annoys me on many levels.
LOOK HERE for my FAIR AND BALANCED review of iPhone 4
Before I could so quickly jump on another contract with AT&T, which cost me roughly $1020 last year, I wanted to give Sprint a chance to earn my business with their new HTC EVO 4G.
Lets forget about the “4G” technology for a moment. 4G service isn’t currently available here in New York City, so, despite the promises the salesman made about the improvements in performance over 4G that I could expect, lets just take a look at the phone itself and what it has to offer the average smartphone user. This isn’t the first time I’ve used an HTC…I’ve also gotten to know the HTC Touch HD. I’ve also gotten to know Android phones, through their software/firmware revisions.
I wrote extensively about Android 1.5 “CUPCAKE” in my ERIS review here:
and I wrote about Android 2.0 “ÉCLAIR version 1” here:
Then, there is the updated version of Android (2.1) running on the NEXUS ONE http://www.epinions.com/content_498127572612 which this phone runs.
The 4G Evo makes use of a 1GHz Snapdragon CPU roughly the same, and just as snappy, as Nexus One's. While you could compare this phone to the HD2 and the DROID Incredible, in virtually every way, the EVO 4G is superior.
The EVO 4G features a welcoming 4.3 inch screen which is plenty larger than the iPhone 3GS’ 3.5 inch screen and the Motorola Droid’s 3.7 incher. Until I got my hands on the EVO, the DROID felt like the largest phone I’d used in a long time even though it weighs about the same as the DROID at 6 Ounces. Though I physically preferred the EVO to the DROID, the EVO’s screen doesn’t offer a resolution as high as the DROID’s and this became obvious immediately as the text didn’t seem as sharp. The EVO’s display is larger and sharper than the current iPhone’s but the iPhone4’s specs claim it will offer a far superior screen technology and resolution. I’ll have to get my hands on it to see.
There are numerous intelligent features built into the EVO. For example, there is a video out adapter for HDMI input which allows you to watch High Definition video on HDTV. The salesman demonstrated this using a Vizio 19” monitor. I was impressed – unfortunately, iPhone doesn’t have that. The EVO also allows you to watch Sprint TV, view Photos and use financial applications on the phone or on the TV/monitor.
I also liked the fact the EVO has a built in stand which allows you to pull it out and set the phone up. If you were on an airplane, train or in the backseat of a car with tray tables, this would be a great feature for viewing a movie or watching TV.
The touch sensitive Home/Menu/Search/Back buttons look good and work well, but why are there no Phone/Drop call buttons like on many other Android phones like the G1? I'd like to be able to instantly go to the Phone app without having to do menu navigation.
The battery is also user replaceable. Therefore, if you know you're going to need lots of power, you could buy more batteries in advance and precharge them before a long trip.
CAMERAS and MEMORY
The new “big thing” this year is video chat. The EVO has it and so does the iPhone4. But, this is not the first time I’ve used a video camera phone…the Motorola V3x had it, but, during that time, 3G networks hadn't rolled out and WiFi 802.11b wasn't a standard feature in phones yet. iPhone4 and EVO are set to popularize video chat. Too bad there are inherent downsides. #1 the other user has to have the exact same phone you have. #2 in order to use it over the air (without WiFi) you need to have excellent access to the cellular network or quality will suffer. #3 your significant other may challenge you to show them your surroundings in a video call. Happens to me with my webcam all the time.
I don’t know about you but I honestly don’t want people “watching” what I’m doing while I’m in a call. I personally feel the whole video chat thing will be cute for a week or two but will fade into disdain after enough “problems” arise from it.
Imagine what could happen to someone "watching" another person in a video call whilst they are walking (or even driving).
Fortunately, the EVO’s 1.3 megapixel front facing camera allows high quality video chat through “Qik”, its video chat application.
But, the trick with the EVO is that unlike the new iPhone4, you can stream video to a person on a PC/laptop which doesn’t require the other user to have the same phone as you do (nullifying problem #1).
EVO also has an 8 Megapixel camera with auto focus and a built in flash. Picture quality was ultra-sharp and the auto focus worked fast enough to quickly sharpen the on-screen image while the contrast changed to fit the background/ambient lighting in the Sprint store.
I was highly impressed by the camera.
Video capture looked better than the iPhone3GS but it still wasn’t perfect. Playback was not at 30 FPS, it was slightly below 23fps with a little stuttering. Fortunately, the quality is 720p and lends itself well to playback on the Vizio HDTV. I’d have liked this phone more if its Camera could work as fast as the camera in the PALM PRE – reducing shutterlag a little more. Of course, shutter time was slightly faster than the autofocus.
Video quality is far superior to ither Android phones but it is inferior to the iPhone4. iPhone 4's camera takes 720P video at 30fps and for $5 you can download the iMovie app which allows virtually anybody to film a clip, add titles, transitions and music to it and then upload it to Youtube.
Unfortunately, the camera brings me to my first major disappointment with the phone and Android phones in general. The EVO comes with an 8GB MicroSD card and supports up to 32GB. 32GB costs roughly $200 which is $100 more than the iPhone4 32GB.
Unfortunately, Google still does not allow you to store apps to the larger microSD card). You are stuck putting apps on the 1GB internal memory and you must access this using the Micro USB cable or by taking the microSD card out of the back of the phone and putting it in a microSD reader. Contrast this with iPhone which comes with a Hard Drive that allows you to manage app storage with file storage and relies on iTunes to sync and resync to other compatible devices like my iPad or a new iPhone4 instantly.
You'd think cellphone designers would have learned lessons from older designs by now, but, the EVO's memory card is located beneath the battery - therefore swapping cards requires the phone to be turned off.
The EVO 4G offers you a portable WiFi hotspot that allows you to connect up to 8 computers (or cellphones) at a cost of $29.99 per month. Many phones offer data tethering but many cellular networks aren’t willing to allow you to do it if you are on an unlimited data plan. I’ve gained huge respect for hotspots do to my need to set up laptops for client use in the field where WiFi may not be so I could shrug off the $30 extra. No need to buy a SPRINT Overdrive now !!!
CALL QUALITY and 3G PERFORMANCE
I tested the 3G performance of the EVO with full bars on dslreports.com speed test and got 0.83 Mbps download and 0.29 Mbps upload. A free app took roughly 3 minutes to download.
I found call quality on 3G to be roughly the same as it is on my iPhone. The other person was loud and clear with no robotic echo in the voice as I sometimes hear on 3G.
TYPING and NAVIGATION
Keyboards on smartphones are going to come down to personal preference. Some people love the DROID’s keyboard… I hated it. Some people want a physical keyboard… I can live without it.
Some people like rubberized keys…I prefer plastic.
The EVO’s virtual keyboard is exactly what you’d expect from any droid phone. To access special fonts you click a button and hold it until the accent menu comes up for example. The major change, however is that the super large screen makes typing even easier than it did on the DROID and iPhone. I found typing on this virtual keyboard to be easier than typing on iPad3G in fact. This is by far the best virtual keyboard I’ve used.
The coolest software feature I hope to see in other phones is the “Scenes” feature which allows you to customize different background screens and application based on your own desires. You can make a screen for games, a screen for financial tools, or a screen for Social Network sights like Facebook, Twitter, Myspace, etc. Of course, if you are a heavy user of these sights in particular, there is a feature called “Friend Stream” that combines all of these sites so you can see them on a single screen. I have a similar app in “Palringo”.
As this phone has a similar 1GHz chip to the Nexus One, movement through screens and into/out of applications is satisfactory. Some apps however lagg a little when opened but once they are running, they run perfectly.
THE FEATURE THAT MAY TURN iPHONE USER’S HEADS?
Its no surprise that iPhone and iPad users aren’t completely happy with their web browsing capabilities on Safari. The main problem is, Apple refuses to install Adobe FLASH support because there are a huge range of security problems and Flash tends to be a resource hog (sucking up available memory). Coming very soon for Adroid users on the Nexus One, DROID and the EVO is support for Flash 10.1. Its out now in fact, but hasn’t been finalized. This was the one feature that wowed me because I miss being able to view FLASH images/websites on my iPhone/iPad. As far as I could tell, the current version of the program was working well enough to warrant a final release. I was able to view Yahoo’s flash homepage and see “rollover” menus with no problem. The update also allows you to download a file from a flash browser. Of course, this could be a problem since malware is downloaded in exactly this manner – which is one reason Apple doesn’t want to implement it.
DIGITAL AUDIO PLAYER / YOUTUBE
The EVO’s music player is nowhere near as interesting to look at as iPod on the iPhone. I also doubt people with iPhones would be willing to part with their iTunes downloads to move over to this phone. Fortunately, I haven’t spent very much money on iTunes since I didn’t want to invest too much money in digital purchases.
Youtube looks very good on this phone and the buttons are nice and large thanks to the gynormous screen. There is even a quick toggle for high quality videos.
COST TO YOU
Sprint has no choice but to sell this phone for $199. That’s because virtually every other smartphone, regardless their MSRP, is currently being sold at or below $199 to compete with the current iPhone3GS and the upcoming iPhone4. iPhone 3GS however will drop in price to $99 to supplement the iPhone4.
SPRINT currently has the best all-around plan of any US carrier. “Simply Everything” offers unlimited Data for Sprint TV, web surfing, GPS Navigation, and Sprint Radio at just $99. Talk time is also unlimited.
Unfortunately, where you will get hit is the required $10 “premium data plan” which only applies to this device because it is their only “4G” device. Rather than allow you to not pay the $10 extra, you can't use the phone at all without the plan. Supposedly, their reasoning is you might "accidentaly" travel into a 4G zone where you would have access to the spectrum. Considering 4G is currently only offered in some pacific coast states and Hawaii, I doubt that would happen to me.
Is $110 worth it? Well, that depends how impressive the 4G network is and how expensive other 4G phones are once the 4G spectrum roles out. So far however, Sprint offers the best combination of services for a great price.
The HTC EVO 4G is the best phone HTC has built. Its easily the best Android phone available and its easily the best phone Sprint has to offer. Unfortunately, without the 4G spectrum ready in over 90% of America, this phone has yet to make waves of any kind. If you can live without a physical keyboard and are willing to pay the extra 4G fee, the EVO is a solid phone with plenty to offer.
That is...until the next Android phone is released.
iPhone 3GS - http://www.epinions.com/content_474329878148
Blackberry Storm - http://www.epinions.com/content_452311813764
Blackberry Storm II - http://www.epinions.com/content_491556867716
Tmobile G1 - http://www.epinions.com/content_454984765060
Palm Pre - http://www.epinions.com/content_473011621508
Palm Pixi - http://www.epinions.com/content_495895416452