Cutting-edge network not quite ready for prime time
The HTC EVO 4G "offers a big, beautiful, and powerful window" to the online world, says Sascha Segan at PCMag.com. As the first 4G (fourth generation) network device in the U.S., the EVO raises the bar with "much faster" web pages, e-mail and skip-free Internet video, says David Pogue at The New York Times. It also touts massive specs: a 4.3-inch display (larger than the iPhone's), hotspot abilities, speech recognition, Flash Lite, dual cameras, video calling, HD video and an HDMI port. Most reviewers regard the EVO as the most powerful Android smartphone, putting it in the pantheon with the HTC Incredible (*Est. $150 with contract) and Apple iPhone 4 (From $200 with contract). Still, the EVO isn't flawless, and Pogue says the "groundbreaking features come with enough fine print to give the White Pages an inferiority complex."
Sprint brands the HTC EVO as the "first" 4G device, even though only 32 metro areas have such coverage and the smartphone switches over to 3G otherwise. The phone uses WiMAX technology to access 4G, but it's solely for data downloads and not phone calls, and WiMAX technology fizzles in urban landscapes. Chris Ziegler at Engadget.com says "we found ourselves getting four bars of 4G walking down the street, then ducking into a coffee shop and dropping to just one or even no bars at all." Sprint also charges EVO owners an additional $10 a month for WiMAX. CNET's Bonnie Cha considers the extra fee reasonable, but says that "making it mandatory for everyone, regardless of whether you live in a 4G market or not, seems unfair." EVO packs impressive hardware and blazing processor
However, 4G delivers when available. "Hell, it was straight-up epic," says Ziegler. Web pages load "anywhere from 40 to 250 percent faster," and videos on the YouTube HQ player are a "huge improvement" over 3G, says Segan, although Cha reports breaks and syncing problems streaming Sprint TV. Critics appreciate being able to use voice and data at the same time in dual 3G/4G coverage areas and say 3G call quality is good. They also rave about the hotspot app, which lets you share your web connection with up to eight devices at a time compared to five on the Palm Pre Plus (free with contract). However, the hotspot costs extra (*Est. $30 a month), and the EVO's multimedia features take a toll on battery life. The gauge "practically shrivels as you're looking at it," says Pogue, and an overwhelming number of nearly 700 users at Sprint.com share the pain.
On the hardware side, the EVO "isn't what you'd call a dainty phone," says Cha. At 2.6 inches, it's thicker than the HTC HD2 (*Est. $100 with contract) but packs a stunning 4.3-inch touch screen (800 pixels by 480 pixels) that's "to die for," says Lisa Gade of MobileTechReview.com. There's also an Android music player, and the 8-megapixel camera does "a better job than most camera phones," says Cha. Experts are smitten by the handy kickstand for propping up the EVO to watch movies and TV, but most say the video-calling apps (Qik and Fring) are too complicated. Likewise, Pogue says Flash Lite works "sometimes," which is more than the Apple iPhone 3GS ($200). However, experts are unanimous on one count: the EVO is fast. It has the latest Android 2.1 OS enhanced with the highly praised HTC Sense user interface, plus the same 1 GHz Snapdragon processor as the Incredible, HTC HD2 and Google Nexus One. Yet somehow, the EVO manages to be "the fastest in the pack," says Gade.