What's hot: Huge screen, very fast, Android 2.1 OS plus HTC Sense.
What's not: 4G signal ain't all that, 4G kills the battery.
Reviewed May 26, 2010 by Lisa Gade, Editor
There have been plenty of high end, hot smartphones released in the past year, and a few wannabes. The HTC EVO on Sprint is one of the most anticipated phones of 2010 and happily, it doesn't disappoint. The EVO runs Android 2.1 with HTC's excellent Sense UI enhancements, and like the HTC HD2 on T-Mobile, it has a cinematic 4.3", 800 x 480 pixel display that makes your portable media player superfluous. Like the HD2, Nexus One and HTC Droid Incredible it has Qualcomm's 1 GHz Snapdragon CPU, but somehow, the EVO manages to be the fastest in the pack. The EVO simply flies when doing most anything; no waiting required. Internet speeds are good but 4G via WiMAX hasn't shattered any speeds records (more on that later).
The EVO is exclusive to Sprint, and it has EV-DO Rev. A for fast data when you're not in range of a 4G signal (which will be often, until the service spreads beyond its current small footprint). The EVO gets a very good 3G signal and data speeds are fast enough for quick web page loads and speedy email downloads.
Design goodies include a rear kickstand, touch sensitive front buttons, an 8 megapixel main camera, a front 1.3 megapixel video conferencing camera and an HDMI port (cable not included). The EVO is chock full of Sprint services including Sprint TV (looking awesome on the large display), Sprint Navigation, NASCAR Mobile, Sprint Football, Sprint Zone and Sprint Hotspot (use your phone as a mobile hotspot like the Overdrive). Sprint charges $10 extra per month for the EVO's plan, so the $69 Simply Everything plan actually costs $79 with this phone. You'll pay this extra fee even if you don't live in a 4G coverage area-- Sprint tells us that they expect EVO owners will use more data than average. If you want to use the Sprint Mobile Hotspot 3G/4G feature, that's an additional $29.99/month, which is reasonable.
The EVO is a handful.
If you're picky about what fits in your pockets, be warned that this is a very large phone. It's a little bit thicker than the HTC HD2, and at 4.74 x 2.64 x 0.50 inches it takes up as much space as an old school PDA from the mid-90's. Once you see that huge high resolution display, we're betting you'll consider a wardrobe makeover if necessary to carry this phone. Locally stored videos look awesome and even high resolution 800 x 480 MPEG4 videos play smoothly. Sprint TV, not always the sharpest looking service is indeed livin' large here with a full screen display and good video quality. Throw in HTC's music player and you've got a phone that can replace your dedicated media player. The EVO comes with an 8 gig microSD card inconveniently located under the battery, and you can use your own higher capacity card if you wish. Speaking of the battery, it's red, just like the interior back panel of the phone. Bits of red show around the camera lens and under the pop-out rear stand when deployed.
Deals and Shopping:
Here's our video review of the HTC EVO. We compare it with the HTC HD and the iPhone 3GS and give you a tour of the hardware. We also cover multimedia, speed, Sprint Navigation and more.
Using the EVO
The display is a pleasure: it's large enough for even tired eyes, and it has plenty of contrast (more than its brother the HD2) and good color saturation (though it's not as saturated as my HD2 or the iPhone 3GS. The smartphone has a capacitive multi-touch display that supports pinch zooming and it's very easy to control. The EVO has a standard display rather than an AMOLED display (we've yet to see an AMOLED this large in a phone), and it looks great indoors. Outdoors it's hard to see in bright sunlight since it fades out and glares.
Android is extremely fast and responsive, and we saw no lag switching home screen panels or thumbing through icons. HTC's video player can handle high resolution, high bitrate video and applications launch quickly. We don't know why this phone is faster than the Nexus One, but in our side by side comparisons, it is indeed faster (and we though the N1 was quick!). Since this is Android, we have full multi-tasking, and the EVO remained quick and stable with several heavy applications running in the background.
The HTC EVO has front capacitive touch buttons that are a bit too easy to press accidentally.
This is a large phone to hold against your head for conversations, but since it's fairly slim, it's manageable. For long calls you'll want to use a Bluetooth headset, and in our tests the EVO worked well with a variety of popular models including the Jawbone 2 and Plantronics Discovery 925. Call quality is very good when using the phone itself and reception is a bit better than average among Sprint phones. Call quality and volume were likewise good with the headsets we tested. Note that WiMAX is used only for data, so the phone uses Sprint's cellular network for calls.
Why WiMAX? 4G Speeds
Here's the sticky part; Clear's WiMAX network is still in its infancy. The service covers only three dozen cities today, though Clear plans to expand it aggressively. We suggest you view Clear's 4G coverage map to see if you're in the loop; note that some high population states like New York and California have absolutely no 4G service as of May 2010. Clear runs the WiMAX network and Sprint has part ownership of Clear. When the phone is out of the 4G coverage area you can rely on Sprint's robust EV-DO Rev. A 3G network and WiFi too. If you're able to use 4G, you'll be able to use simultaneous voice and data, something you can't do with Sprint's 3G network.
Here in Dallas, one of Clear's early WiMAX coverage areas, we managed up to 50% signal outdoors on 4G, and about 25% indoors. WiMAX uses very high spectrum and the higher the spectrum, the worse the building penetration. When outdoors we saw very good data speeds: according to the SpeedTest.net app, our downloads ranged from 2,300 to 3,500 kbps for downloads and 1,000 kbps for uploads. That's a bit better than AT&T and T-Mobile's 3G HSDPA 7.2Mbps service that averages 2,500 kbps in our test areas, but keep in mind that the 4G network isn't yet terribly saturated with customers. Indoors, 4G averaged 1,100 kbps. Our Sprint Overdrive gets a much stronger signal than the EVO since its only job in life is to acquire and redistribute the data connection. The EVO has to be more conservative with power since there are several other radios in the phone, a large display and fast CPU to power.
When we had a good 4G connection, web pages loaded more quickly compared to a good 3G Rev. A connection, though it still wasn't as fast as WiFi. WiMax typically caps at 6 Mbps and that's slower than an old-fashioned 802.11b WiFi connection. When indoors with a low 4G signal, web pages loaded more slowly than they did when we turned off 4G and used Sprint's 3G connection instead.
2-Way Video Conferencing
We wish we could demo this feature and describe it in detail, but we can't since the software isn't yet available. Unlike overseas video calling and AT&T's VideoShare, this isn't a Sprint service, rather Qik, a company that makes video streaming apps for smartphones including Android, is providing the application and infrastructure. Sprint says it should be available around the June 4th launch date, so stay tuned.
8 Megapixels of Goodness
The main 8 megapixel autofocus camera takes excellent photos. It's not up there with Nokia's best Nseries phones, but it's certainly the best camera phone offered by a US carrier. Photos are sharp (slightly oversharpened but most folks like this effect), colorful and well exposed. To take a photo you'll press the on-screen shutter button or press and hold briefly anywhere in the viewfinder to focus on that point and shoot. Since the phone is large, it's easy to accidentally move it when pressing the screen-- it swings like a barn door. So hold the EVO firmly to take photos.
The camera can shoot video up to 720p (1280 x 720) resolution, and video quality is very good, though not as impressive as still images. Using the camera application's menu, you can switch between the rear and front cameras. The front camera has a max resolution of 640 x 480 for video and 1280 x 960 for photos. Obviously, the front facing camera won't take the wonderful shots that the rear camera does, but it works fine for self portraits and webcam quality video.
The EVO has a 1500 mAh Lithium Ion battery that's user replaceable. That's a higher capacity battery than the HD2's, and boy does the EVO need it. EV-DO is demanding enough and 4G really sucks the life from the battery. On 3G, the EVO lasted us a day with moderate to heavy use, but on 4G, the battery died by mid afternoon. When using the 4G data connection, the battery suffers, but in standby, it has little effect-- good news if you're not always online. Even with push email via Google and MS Exhange, battery life wasn't impacted much on 4G vs. 3G; the web browser, YouTube and Sprint TV are the real killers. Using Sprint Navigtion, particularly over 4G also consumes the charge quickly, so get a car charger if you're a serious user of Sprint Navigation or Google Maps.
The HTC EVO on Sprint easily earns a place at the top and competes very well with the HTC Incredible, HTC HD2, Nexus One and iPhone. Even with the $10 upcharge, Sprint's plans are a very good value, and their coverage is generally solid. The EVO is attractive, well made and the screen is to die for. Once you've seen the 4.3" display, it's hard to go back to something smaller. Of course, that big screen means this is a large phone, and you won't like it if you plan to carry your phone in the front pocket of a tight pair of jeans.
If you've got a need for speed, the EVO won't disappoint-- it's one of the fastest phones available. Call quality is very good, reception on Sprint's voice and 3G network is likewise good, but 4G is weak. That's not so much the phone's fault, but rather Clear's immature WiMAX network and that technology's poor building penetration. If you've been using a Sprint Overdrive, expect about half the signal strength, and test the EVO before you cancel that Overdrive service. If you are in a good coverage area, then Sprint's Mobile Hotspot feature effectively replaces the Overdrive since the phone can act as a mobile WiFi hotspot that shares 3G and 4G over WiFi. Despite 4G not being quite there yet, we still heartily recommend the EVO if you're looking for the best among US smartphones and are a Sprint customer.
Price: $199 after $100 rebate with a 2 year contract. The EVO plan costs an additional $10/month.
Display:4.3" capacitive multi-touch display. Resolution: 480 x 800, supports both portrait and landscape modes via accelerometer. Has an ambient light sensor, haptic feedback and a proximity sensor.
Ion rechargeable. Battery is user replaceable.
Performance:Qualcomm Snapdragon QSD8650 CPU running at 1 GHz. Approximately 400 megs available internal storage, 8 gig microSD card included.
Size:4.74 x 2.64 x 0.50 inches. Weight: 6.0 ounces.
Phone:CDMA dual band digital with 3G EV-DO Rev. A and WiMAX 4G (Clear network).
Camera:8 megapixel main (rear) camera with autofocus lens and dual LED flash. Front-facing 1.3MP camera for video conferencing via Qik (3rd party application, not a Sprint service).
GPS:Has a GPS that works with Google Maps and Sprint Navigation. Has digital compass.
in speaker, mic and 3.5mm standard stereo headphone
jack. Google voice search and commands included with Android 2.1.
WiFi 802.11b/g/n and Bluetooth. Can act as wireless modem using Sprint Mobile Hotspot (costs $30/additional).
Software:Android 2.1 Eclair OS with HTC Sense UI. All standard Google apps are included including Google Maps, Gmail, email with Exchange support, Gallery, Amazon MP3, Market, web browser, YouTube, voice dialer and voice recorder. HTC software includes HTC Weather, Stocks, video player, Peep, HTC People and HTC Friendstream. Sprint software and services: Sprint Navigation, Sprint TV, NASCAR mobile, Sprint Football and Sprint Zone.