Mobility

HTC EVO 4G review: Everything you need to know

You've probably heard the hype swirling around Sprint's HTC EVO 4G smartphone. Here's the full scoop, from a business and IT perspective.

By now you've probably heard the hype swirling around Sprint's HTC EVO 4G smartphone. It's the first 4G smartphone on the market, it's the most fully-loaded device in this category, and it breaks the mold by creating a phone that is larger-rather than smaller and thinner-than the standard devices that currently dominate the market.

Here is TechRepublic's review of the EVO, from a business and IT perspective.

Rather than overwhelming you with a long narrative, TechRepublic product reviews give you exactly the information you need to evaluate a product, along with plenty of photos, a list of competing products, and links to more information. You can find more reviews like this one on our Product Spotlight page.

Specifications

  • Carrier: Sprint
  • OS: Android 2.1, with HTC Sense UI
  • Processor: 1 GHz Qualcomm Snapdragon (QSD8650)
  • RAM: 512 MB
  • Storage: 1GB ROM; 8GB microSD slot (replaceable, up to 32GB card)
  • Display: 4.3-inch WVGA with 800x480 resolution, 65K colors
  • Battery: Lithium-ion with 1500 mAh capacity
  • Charger: Micro-USB
  • Weight: 6 ounces
  • Dimensions: 4.8 x 2.6 x 0.5 inches
  • Camera: 8MP with auto-focus, dual LED flash, and video capture; also 1.3MP front-facing camera
  • Sensors: Accelerometer, GPS, digital compass, proximity sensor, light sensor
  • Keyboard: Virtual QWERTY keyboard only
  • Networks: CDMA 800/1900MHz, EVDO Rev. A, WiMAX 2.5-2.7GHz; 802.16e, Wi-Fi 802.11bg
  • Tethering: USB + mobile Wi-Fi hotspot
  • Price: $199 (with 2-year contract)

Photo gallery

HTC EVO 4G: The Hummer of smartphones

Who is it for?

The HTC EVO 4G is a high-end smartphone aimed at knowledge workers that need the latest mobile capabilities, from a 1GHz CPU to an 8 megapixel camera to a 4G WiMAX connection to the largest display you'll find on a smartphone. The mobile hotspot option is another valuable feature that can offer a lot of value to road warriors by allowing them to use their smartphone in place of a MiFi or a mobile broadband card to connect a laptop and other devices to the Web.

What problems does it solve?

The biggest factor holding back high-powered smartphones is the speed limitations of the mobile data networks. Even 3G connections offer barely broadband-level speeds. 2010 is the watershed year for 4G (WiMAX and LTE) hitting critical mass, and the HTC EVO is the first 4G-capable smartphone in the U.S., so it offers a peek at the future. When you combine a 4G connection with the mobile hotspot feature then the EVO can save you money (versus a smartphone + mobile broadband device), save you from having to carry an extra device, and offer the ability to connect multiple devices over Wi-Fi and still get a usable Internet connection. Even on 3G, Sprint typically offers respectable data speeds but connecting more than two devices will bog it down. The EVO's 4G WiMAX connection is the answer to that but it's limited to a couple dozen metro areas right now. However, Clearwire plans to launch WiMAX in about 20 additional markets by the end of 2010, including tech strongholds Boston, New York, and San Francisco.

Top features

  • Spec explosion - The EVO packs nearly all of the latest smartphone technology into a single device, and then adds future-leaning advances like a front-facing camera, Micro HDMI, and WiMAX. At the time of its release, the EVO is most advanced smartphone available on the market. And since Verizon has said that it does not plan to offer LTE-enabled phones in 2010, The EVO is likely to remain one of (if not the most) powerful 4G smartphone in the U.S. for the next six months. Even beyond that, when the next big Android phone hits the market, the EVO 4G is a device that should hold its own and remain a powerful and useful smartphone for the full length of a two-year mobile contract. Also, considering all of the features packed into the HTC EVO 4G, it still costs only $199, which is the same as the HTC Incredible and $100 cheaper than the top-of-the-line iPhone.
  • Android + HTC Sense - Android brings a burgeoning application ecosystem and the more polished Android 2.1 OS to the HTC Evo 4G. Meanwhile, HTC brings the Sense UI, which it originally developed to put lipstick on the pig of its Windows Mobile devices. HTC has taken the same look and feel and used it to design a bunch of Android widgets and a few apps. Admittedly, several aspects of HTC Sense have a more polished feel than the native Android widgets and UI features (see my HTC EVO 4G photo gallery for a look at several of the widgets). Of course, HTC Sense also adds a layer of complexity, and potentially fragmentation, on top of Android. When Google releases new updates to the Android OS, those updates will typically be delayed for HTC EVO 4G owners until HTC tests them and makes sure everything is compatible with the Sense UI.
  • Superior data network - Sprint already has one of the most reliable 3G data networks in the U.S., so if you want a pure data experience it is one of the top choices. If you add the rapidly-expanding Clearwire WiMAX network to it (Sprint is a Clearwire partner), then you've got access to the nation's fastest mobile broadband (in select cities) coupled with a reliable and widespread 3G data network. The one drawback to that is that 4G access is a mandatory $10 add-on to your Sprint wireless bill for the HTC EVO, even if you don't live in an area currently served by 4G and rarely (or never) travel to a 4G city.

What's wrong?

  • Big and bulky - While most smartphones are packing more power into slimmer, smaller, and lighter form factors, the HTC EVO bucks the trend and goes large. For example, it is larger than its cousin the HTC Incredible in virtually every way-height, width, depth, and weight. That can make the EVO a little heavy and awkward (see the size comparison photos with other devices in my HTC EVO 4G gallery.) There are a few good things about it being oversized, though. Reading on its 4.3-inch screen is easier because the type is so large, and its on-screen keyboard is about the best that I've typed on because of the additional size available on the large display.
  • Mediocre battery life - Android devices are known for battery life issues, often tied to its multitasking. But, part of the problem is due to the fact that, like the iPhone, Android is easy enough to use that its owners end up doing more with their Android smartphones and consequently burn through battery life faster than other mobile users. The EVO can be particularly hard on batteries, though. That's due to a lot of powerful extra features, a bunch of preloaded Sprint, HTC, and Android software that runs in the background, and the 4G connection (which can be particularly draining). As a result, there are already multiple articles to help you improve HTC EVO battery performance.

Bottom line for business

For executives, highly-mobile professionals, and IT administrators that need as much computing power as they can get on the go, the HTC EVO 4G delivers more than any device available at the time of its launch, and its 4G capabilities will keep it in the lead for a while, especially if WiMAX rolls out to all of the cities promised by the end of 2010.

If you can get past the added bulk of the HTC EVO 4G, you'll find that it's a very likeable and useable phone. And, for some, the additional screen size will be a benefit for reading and typing.

Of course, with this device you get the benefits of the Android ecosystem, as well as its drawbacks. By this time next month there will be a hot new Android smartphone grabbing all of the headlines and the EVO 4G will slide into the background. Meanwhile, when Google releases updates to Android (such as version 2.2 of the OS), the HTC devices like the EVO 4G will get stuck in a holding pattern until HTC thoroughly tests the updates with its software. That is very frustrating.

In the enterprise, we're still not seeing hardly any companies deploying Android devices—and certainly not in the kinds of volumes we see with BlackBerry or Nokia smartphones. Android is even lagging the iPhone in enterprise deployments, as Apple has made moves to cozy up to IT and many executives continue to push the iPhone from the top down.

However, with more and more workers selecting their own smartphones and a few enterprises starting to bite on Google Apps, Android is well positioned to make gains from those trends, and the HTC EVO 4G is now the king of the hill in Android land.

For instant analysis of tech news, follow my Twitter feed: @jasonhiner

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Jason Hiner is Editor in Chief of TechRepublic and Long Form Editor of ZDNet. He writes about the people, products, and ideas changing how we live and work in the 21st century. He's co-author of the book, Follow the Geeks.

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