Living with the HTC EVO 4G

Part 1
The following article is written by one of PhoneArena's editors who has used the HTC EVO 4G as his personal phone for quite some time now. In contrast to our reviews, where we try to present a phone from the broadest range of viewpoints possible, this article solely presents the author's personal opinion, based on his needs and taste.

The Beginning:

Let me start by saying this: I was happy with my Hero.  It was rooted, I had been running Eclair for months and thanks to the many great chefs out there (special note to Damageless and Toast), I was enjoying the best that Android had to offer.  The phone did everything I wanted it to do, it was the perfect size and it was arguably the best phone I had ever owned.  Just like everyone else, I was excited when the Supersonic first poked its head out, but as everything was officially announced I decided to pass on it.  For starters, I was not eligible for an upgrade, but what really got me was that it was the same software I had been running for months now, and 4.3” seemed ridiculous.  Sure, the camera was better and it had a kickstand and other niceties, but I decided to hold out for the next great thing.  Then I got my review unit of the HTC EVO 4G.

It was unlike anything I had used before.  It was so big, so fast, so glorious.  The phone slid comfortably into my pocket, eliminating one of my initial fears, and while it was wide it was far from uncomfortable to hold.  And that display, my God that display.  For being the same OS as my Hero, everything was so different.  There was just so much more room to work with; nothing felt cramped, web pages displayed so much more info and I didn’t have to squint to watch videos.

I was on my way out the door for the Indy 500 when the EVO 4G arrived and the phone got thrown to the wolves right away.  I didn’t bring my laptop with me on the trip, so the EVO was my sole internet source.  The three hour road trip there provided me ample time to get familiar with the hardware, and everyone in the car with me wanted to get their hands on it as well.  We were looking up every random fact we could think of, often using the voice search with stunningly accurate results.  For the moment it was more a toy than anything, but it was at that point that I could see this device would change the way I used a phone.

It stood up to the weekend admirably, with the EVO 4G acting as my GPS on the golf course, my tablet for web browsing and my entertainment for downtime.  Thankfully, the HTC Hero and EVO 4G share the same battery capacity because I definitely packed a handful, though there was never a day that two wouldn’t have easily sufficed.  The phone withstood everything I put it through and I knew then that I must have one.

After the Honeymoon:

Just like any good relationship things began hot and heavy with me and the HTC EVO 4G, but on Monday I was back to the real world, back to my job and by the end of the week back to my Hero.  Our EVO had to go to Philly for some 4G testing and I was left with just a taste.  My roommate got one on launch day so I was constantly reminded of this great new device I couldn’t have.  I finally couldn’t take it anymore and managed to track down a phone through one of my local stores a few weeks later.  The new phone smell may had worn off, but I still found myself picking up my phone for no reason, rearranging widgets and generally wasting the battery just because.

I had come from a long line of WinMo phones, had a brief layover with the Pre and then moved to the Hero.  I had always hacked my phones, but for the first time I didn’t feel the need to.  The EVO 4G was that fast just as it was and I didn’t feel the need to mess with it.  Froyo was compelling, but there wasn’t anything stable and it just wasn’t worth the effort.  Finally the tinkerer got the best of me and I used the wonderful SimpleRoot program to root my phone and flashed a custom ROM.  Honestly, it wasn’t anything drastic.  Sure there were some nice programs I could now use that required root access, and I’m told that my FPS is better, though I can’t tell any difference.  The phone runs just as smooth as it did the day I unboxed it.

It’s not been all rosy, I won’t lie.  The battery could be better, and more consistent.  I don’t think my usage varies much from day to day: I do maybe a hundred or so texts- a bit more on a heavy day- and periodically check some of my favorite websites.  I don’t talk on it much, but it does act as my music player (the Hero actually allowed me to kick my iPod Touch to the curb) and I use either the Motorola T505 to stream it through my car stereo, or my Plantronics Backbeats when I’m working out.  I have gotten in the habit of turning on my Wi-Fi when at home and turning off my Bluetooth when I’m not using it.  My phone is usually off the charger by 9am and sometimes I need a charge by 4pm and others I get through the day with 30% remaining.  Still, this is nothing that an extra charger and a spare battery can’t fix.   Beyond that I’ve had no issues with my EVO.  There is no lag, there are no force closes and I haven’t had any problems otherwise.

Looking Forward:

Even as recently as last year a phone like the HTC EVO 4G would have had a good six months in the sun, maybe more, but with Android spreading like athletes foot in a locker room the ante is seemingly upped every month.  Motorola has countered with the DROID X, and Samsung has unleashed the Galaxy S series across all four carriers, including the Epic 4G which will join the EVO 4G at the pinnacle of Sprint’s lineup.  But there is something about being first.  Something about being ground breaking and setting the bar.  I haven’t checked out a Galaxy S yet, but the DROID X doesn’t do it for me.  The EVO is big; the X is a monster.  HTC enhances the Android experience with Sense; Motorola muddles it up with whatever they’re calling Blur these days.  It’ll be interesting to see what TouchWiz 3.0 does in the long run; thus far Samsung comes close, but hasn’t quite figured it out with other devices.

Then there’s the issue of unofficial customization.  The EVO was rooted before it came out, then again shortly after it was updated.  HTC may not be actively allowing this, but they’re sure not doing much to stop it.  Motorola, on the other hand, is.  What you get with your DROID X is what you’re going to get unless some super talented people put in a lot or work, and by many accounts some of them won’t even bother.  I’m excited for Froyo, and I’m excited because the Godfather of Android development, Cyanogen, has started to release nightly builds for the EVO.  I’ve tried it and the future is bright, though not quite stable enough for everyday use just yet.

As much as I like Sense and as great of a job as HTC has done with their widgets, I think that 2.1 will be my swan song for the software layer.  It was very much needed in the early days of Android, but between all the improvements of 2.2 and the Market apps that let me use the phone the way I want it I’ll be going vanilla once Cyanogen gets to an official release.  Android has come into its own and can now stand on its own two feet.  To say Android is taking off is an understatement, but it’s time for manufacturers to start embracing the stock software, which will allow for faster updates as the platform continues to move along at breakneck speed.

That Other Phone:

I’ve got something else to confess: I don’t like Apple.  It isn’t that I’m particularly loyal to Microsoft or Google, rather it’s the way Apple treats their customers.  They lock things down, they rule with an iron fist, scoff at transparency and refuse to admit problems in the face of facts (see: antennagate.)  That said, they make gorgeous hardware and simple to use software, and the iPhone has become an undeniable phenomenon.  There have always been shortcomings in iOS, but that’s from the prospective of a hardcore phone nerd who likes things my way.  To the average users it’s simple, intuitive and worry-free.  Since the iPhone was launched everyone has been playing catch-up, but while there may have been some worthy competitors nothing has been able to give it a true run for its money, something we could confidently say is better.  Until now.

The HTC EVO 4G did not get to this point by itself; the DROID and Verizon’s marketing blitz started the shift, bringing Android into the public consciousness and proudly proclaiming what DROID does.   The DROID’s success, along with the DROID Eris, Hero and DROID Incredible helped pave the way for the first Android superphone in the HTC EVO 4G.  Along with the DROID X and Galaxy S, and its quick software development cycle, Android is poised to assault the iPhone from all angles, but there is something to be said about being first.  The EVO 4G is the first phone that can go toe-to-toe with the iPhone 4 and come out equal or even on top in some categories.

(Because I don’t personally use them there are many great features of the phone I haven’t mentioned, such as the video conferencing, Sprint Hotspot, live TV and a slew of others.)

Final Thoughts:

One thing that Sprint needs to do is ramp up their 4G rollout.  They’re sitting at around 50 markets now, but lots of them are smaller markets.  Verizon is fast-tracking their LTE rollout, and while it looks like Sprint will have a significant lead on handset hardware they need to strike while the iron is hot.  I think the Epic will be a perfect compliment in Sprint’s lineup, giving users two top tier phones running over 4G.  I personally prefer a slimmer profile and onscreen keyboard, but I recognize there are some who need physical keys.  Adding a third or fourth phone by the end of the year surely wouldn’t hurt.

I wouldn’t trade my EVO for anything right now, and I’m not really sure what super feature would lure me away from it.  I’m spoiled by the big screen and can’t imagine going back to something smaller, but when I look at something like the Dell Streak that might be too big.  Rumors of a 2GHz beast from HTC and Motorola have already started to circulate, but honestly I can’t see things getting significantly faster.  If my netbook can hum along with a 1.6GHz Atom processor I think my phone is just fine with its Snapdragon.

I love my EVO.  It’s a versatile communication device, going well beyond a phone.  I feel comfortable pulling it out for heavy internet use on the couch or in bed, eliminating the need for a tablet.  The keyboard is so large that typing out long emails is not a problem, and as such my netbook usage has declined rapidly of late.  I upgraded to a 16GB memory card, which has put the final nail in the coffin of my iPod Touch.  The dual LED flash is generally powerful enough for a night out on the town, and in daylight pictures turn out very well.  Goodbye Elf.  This device has made my life easier; there is no doubt about it.  I’m sure there will be something better, maybe even this year, but it’s going to have to really push the envelope for me to give up my HTC EVO 4G.

This article is written by one of PhoneArena's editors who has used the HTC EVO 4G as his personal phone for quite some time now. In contrast to our reviews, where we try to present a phone from the broadest range of viewpoints possible, this article solely presents the author's personal opinion, based on his needs and taste.

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