The first thing you're likely to notice about Sprint's HTC EVO 4G is its size: this smartphone is big. And so is its display, which measures a whopping 4.3 inches. But pick up the EVO 4G and you'll be blown away by its speed. This is one lightning-fast phone--even if you can't experience the phone in all its 4G glory.
As the first 4G phone to hit stores, 4G wireless support is the EVO 4G's headline feature. Sprint says its 4G network can offer download speeds that are ten times faster than a 3G connection, which will give the "HTC EVO 4G the fastest data speeds of any U.S. wireless device available today."
But 4G is still a new technology and the network isn't yet available in many places. The network is not available in the Boston area, where I live and where I tested the EVO 4G. But I was still impressed by the phone's speed.
Price and Availability
You will pay a premium for all that speed, though. Sprint is offering the HTC EVO 4G for $199.99 when you sign a two-year service agreement. That's a very reasonable price for such a full-featured phone, and is comparable to what AT&T charges for the iPhone 3GS and what Verizon Wireless charges for the Droid Incredible.
But that premium I mentioned, well, you'll be paying it every month. Sprint requires a PDA/Smart Device service plan with the HTC EVO 4G, such as the carrier's $69.99-per-month Everything Data plan. But Sprint also requires a $10-per-month Premium Data add-on for its 4G service -- and that add-on plan is required whether you live in an area with 4G coverage or not.
Measuring 4.8 by 2.6 by 0.5 inches, the EVO 4G is larger than any other smartphone I've seen. It was large enough that I couldn't fit it in the cell phone pocket of my bag, which is just large enough to hold my iPhone 3GS. The EVO 4G weighs 6 ounces, which is noticeably heavier than the 4.8-ounce iPhone 3GS.
The tradeoff for that bulk is the giant 4.3-inch screen, which offers plenty of real estate for viewing Web pages and typing with the on-screen keyboard. It's also bright and clear, boasting a high resolution (800-by-480 pixels).
Below the display, you get four touch-sensitive buttons: home, menu, back, and search. The minimalist design is attractive, though I did wish for a power button on the face of the phone. (It's located on the top of the handset.)
Call quality was very good in my tests over Sprint's 3G network. Voices were loud and clear, though I did notice some occasional crackling sounds in the background. And while the EVO 4G is a wide and heavy phone, it was comfortable to hold during calls. At first it felt too large when held next to my ear, but I soon got used to its size.
The EVO 4G runs the latest version of Android, 2.1. That's a definite plus, as new phones don't always ship with the newest version of Android. Another plus is that the Android Market continues to grow, so you'll find plenty of third-party apps in there. At last count, the Market had more than 35,000 titles. Read my full review of Android for more information.
The EVO 4G also features HTC's Sense interface, which offers some useful options for navigating through the Android OS. HTC has added new features to the Sense UI, include one called Leap, which lets you view thumbnails of the apps that you have open, so you can switch between them or close out of them. The Sense UI also includes Friend Stream, which lets you view information such as social network status updates.
The combination of Android 2.1 and HTC Sense is a winning one. The phone's interface and menus look slick and polished (something that's not always true of Android phones), and navigating through its many options is a snap.
Browsing the Web
Sprint says the EVO 4G features a "custom browser" designed to take advantage of the 4.3-inch screen, and it's a noticeable improvement over other Android-based browsers. Too often, Android browsers require that you access simple browser functions (like the address bar) through a menu. Not so on the EVO 4G: the menu bar is where you'd expect it and you can go back using the handy button just below the screen. As a nice touch, the browser also offers support for Adobe Flash, so you can view embedded videos and animated Web sites.
In addition to the 4G connection, the EVO also supports 3G and Wi-Fi wireless networks, so you have plenty of options for speedy Web browsing. I tested the phone over both 3G and Wi-Fi networks, and found its speed to be plenty fast. Web pages and videos loaded quickly.
You'll also be able to use the phone as a mobile hotspot, to which you can connect up to 8 Wi-Fi enabled devices. To use the mobile hotspot service, you'll have to pay an additional $29.99 a month, though.
The HTC EVO 4G features two cameras: an 8-megapixel camera on the rear and a forward-facing 1.3 megapixel camera. The front-facing camera can be used for video conferencing, while the rear camera captures still photos and video clips.
My photos were impressive, with sharp details and bright colors. Moving subjects sometimes came out blurry, though the built-in flash helped alleviate that problem. The camera also features auto-focus, which you can activate by tapping on the screen, as well as settings for adjusting the contrast, brightness, resolution, and more.
The camera can capture video clips at a resolution of up to 720p, and my test videos looked very good, with crisp images and strong audio.
Music and Multimedia
The EVO 4G includes a decent list of multimedia features, starting with the HTC Sense music player that's much better than the standard-issue Android version. Its interface is much more appealing, and, overall, it's much easier to use. Like all Android phones, the EVO 4G offers one-touch access to Amazon's MP3 store for DRM-free music downloads. It also features an FM radio, but you'll have tp purchase a headset with an antenna to take advantage of that feature.
Video features include a YouTube app and a variety of Sprint services, including Sprint TV, which offers a mix of live channels (showing the same content you'd see on your TV) and content that has been specially packaged for viewing on your mobile phone. I watched a baseball game on ESPN and noticed occasional stuttering and buffering. But I was impressed by the level of detail I was able to see on the 4.3-inch screen.
The EVO 4G also includes a kickstand, so you can prop it up on a table for viewing videos. It also includes a mini-HDMI out connection, so you can view your photos and videos on a bigger screen (though you'll have to purchase of an HDMI cable).
Taking advantage of all the EVO 4G's features is expensive, especially if you--like most people--live in an area without 4G service. Even without 4G service, though, the HTC EVO 4G is one of the most impressive smartphones available today.