Techi Reviews the HTC EVO 4G on Sprint's Network

The HTC EVO 4G is one of few in a lineup of “superphones” that have hit the market recently with Android power behind it. But the EVO might just be the best of them all. So is this powerhouse by HTC the best phone that money can buy today? Well, you’ll have to read our review to find out!

Let’s kickstart this review with a bit of a shocker: this is the time in my life when I have actually said “wow” out loud from a first impression (and I am somewhat hard to impress). Soon after first experiencing this phone, I quickly realized that the EVO is what the future of mobile phones should look like, feel like, and be like. But the amazing part is that it is all right here in the palm of my hand.

 

Hardware

The 4.3-inch capacitive display of the EVO is the main attraction. While pumping out an impressive 480 x 800 pixels, the phone is exceptional for viewing photos, watching videos, playing games, and surfing the Web. A few moments in front of the screen and you’ll forget that there is even a thing called a “Retina Display.” And those with bigger hands will also thoroughly enjoy the increased size of the virtual keys on the touch-screen keyboard, thanks to the larger screen.

The EVO phone features a beastly design. It is one of the largest phones available today — measuring in at 4.80” x 2.60” x 0.50” — and yet it feels as close to perfect as can be. The phone also feels sturdy and has some weight to it: not too heavy nor too light. Sure, there are times when this phone can make you feel a bit uncomfortable while sitting down or walking up the stairs with it tucked away in a jeans pocket, but you learn to adjust. Some might complain that a phone this size is far too big (quite a few actually pointed this out to me when they were playing with my EVO), but you won’t hear any of that from me. In fact, the larger form factor is a welcome trend in mobile design and one that I hope continues.

There are plenty of other interesting features worth mentioning about the EVO 4G too. It has an 8-megapixel camera that also shoots 720p (1280 x 720 resolution) video with dual LED flash and autofocus. An HDMI-out port also allows you to play video content to an HDTV, although many have reported that it is a disappointing feature as far as quality and control is concerned. The EVO also has a cute little kickstand that pops out from the back if you want to sit back and enjoy media in landscape orientation on your phone, which is solid and cleverly integrated.

Yet there are a few decisions that are questionable on HTC’s part. For one, the size of the buttons on the side of the phone leave much to be desired. They are hard to locate and press at times, and it becomes even more difficult if the phone is in, say, a rubberized case. The lack of a shutter button to operate the camera is also a huge disappointment, particularly for someone like me who likes to photograph everything.

We also have to talk about the battery (or lack of one). Even though the phone was used only modestly throughout the day in my regular testing (many times without GPS and WiFi enabled), the battery rarely went the distance. If the phone is being used heavily — which, admittedly, is something you might want to do with an impressive device like this — you can just forget about it. A few words of advice: be sure not to leave home without a car charger or a spare battery. Then, and only then, will you be able to truly love this phone.

Other than the battery and a few minor hiccups in the layout of the phone’s buttons, everything else is stellar as far as the hardware is concerned. But what about the software?

 

Software

The HTC EVO 4G comes pre-installed with Android 2.1 but I was also fortunate enough to be able to update the device to Android 2.2 (known as Froyo). Google’s Android operating system paired with HTC’s Sense UI is a great combination and truly allows the hardware to shine through. Everything runs smooth thanks to the 1Ghz Texas Instruments OMAP processor and 512 MB of RAM.

The pre-installed applications are interesting enough. Google Maps is, at least in my opinion, the most useful application on the phone, turning the EVO from a mere smart phone into a full-fledged GPS navigation device. The YouTube application displays high quality video. Video games display in beautiful 3D thanks to the dedicated video graphics. And everything else you know about Android applies here as well.

One application worth noting that comes pre-installed is Qik, a service that allows users to stream live video from their phone to the Web. It is interesting because Qik is a fairly data-intensive application that uses plenty of bandwidth to stream video. But if you thought that live video streaming is the only reason it comes installed, you would be wrong. There is a version of Qik created specifically for the EVO that will allow you to place video calls (similar to what you can do with FaceTime on Apple’s iPhone 4) with other users. It takes advantage of that front-facing camera on the EVO. Unfortunately, I didn’t have anyone to test the video calling feature with, but from what I gather online, it is decent at best — though it isn’t nearly as polished, refined, and integrated as the FaceTime experience on the iPhone.

Finally, it wouldn’t be a complete review if we didn’t mention the call quality. Rest assured that the EVO 4G gets the job done. I never had any issues with call quality when I had a decent signal. Callers informed me that my voice was very clear and I could also hear the other callers just fine. Unfortunately, if you live in a remote location that isn’t blessed with competitive coverage — just like I do — then dropped calls and very call quality can become a problem. This isn’t an issue with the HTC EVO 4G as much as it is a problem with the Sprint network, but it is worth noting if you are in a place that lacks Sprint coverage.

Unfortunately, this also meant that I was nowhere near a 4G service area. I could not test out the 4G coverage, speeds, and functionality, but from what has been mentioned on various reviews on the Web, it appears that the speeds are solid and that 4G is holding its own. Hopefully Sprint will roll out 4G coverage to many more markets in the near future. Also, the fact that you have to pay an extra $10 for 4G coverage even if you don’t have it is a bit of a bummer, even if it is still cheaper than some of the alternatives like AT&T and Verizon.

Overall, on the software side of things, the HTC EVO 4G is an amazing experience. Although some of the specific features created for the EVO and 4G network weren’t able to be tested and haven’t received the best reception, it certainly is a starting point, and it is the best alternative to an iPhone 4.

 

Summary

The HTC EVO 4G is one of the best phones available right now, and it is a must-have if you are a Sprint customer and want a smart phone:

  • Amazing 4.3-inch display
  • Easy to use keyboard (thanks to the large display)
  • Fast speed with 1Ghz processing power
  • Solid build that feels comfortable in the hand
  • Slick interface and UI with HTC Sense
  • Impressive photo and video quality

The HTC EVO 4G, while offering such an amazing package, isn’t without its own downsides:

  • Erratic behavior (e.g. crashes, freezes, and lagginess) from time to time should be resolved with a few software updates
  • Extra $10 charge per month for 4G access, even if you don’t live in a 4G coverage area
  • Very poor battery life
  • Somewhat awkward virtual keyboard (the directional keys and spacebar are too close together)
  • Difficulty focusing the camera, particularly in low-light conditions


The EVO 4G is not merely a smart phone nor “superphone.” If I had to describe it in my own words, I would simply call it a mobile computer. Because, at the end of the day, that is exactly what it is. It offers a perfect size screen to be used for long periods of times, typed on efficiently, and viewed for most media needs. It is nearly everything you want in a computer in the palm of your hand. If only it had more battery life and a better network to run on, it would be considered as close to flawless as a phone could possibly be.

So as it stands, the HTC EVO 4G is one of the best “superphones” that money can buy today, and it is the best phone that Sprint subscribers can buy — but beware as questions over that title will come into play as the Samsung Epic 4G lands on Sprint at the end of this month. But the HTC EVO 4G is surely a wise investment and I can’t imagine too many people being disappointed with this phone.

Written by James Mowery

James Mowery is a passionate technology journalist and entrepreneur who has written for various top-tier publications like Mashable and CMSWire. Follow him on Twitter: @JMowery.
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Comments
  • Laura Buhner

    As a Sprint customer I really like the EVO. The reason I have purchased one yet is because I have been waiting for the Samsung Epic 4G (which comes out tomorrow). I am really looking forward to seeing how these two phones match up. Thanks for the great review.