HTC EVO 4G Review


Right now, Android is the philosophical opposite of the iPhone. It allows developers some deeper access to the system's code, letting them create customized interfaces, widgets and so on. While this sometimes leads to problems with compatibility, delays for software updates and performance issues, it seems users don't mind it because it lets them differentiate more easily and get more specialized features like tight social networking integration for example. However, this is all subject to change, as the platforms are being updated and new features get introduced fairly often.

The HTC EVO 4G runs Android 2.1 with the latest version of HTC’s Sense UI on top (according to HTC it will see a Froyo 2.2 update in the future.)  There are no surprises here, and we’ve seen this software extensively on devices like the Legend, Incredible and Sprint’s recently updated Hero.  What is different is the speed.  Never has a device run so smoothly while doing so much.  Sense UI has always been plagued by just enough lag to be annoying, but not so this time around.  Like the DROID Incredible, the EVO 4G flies through every test we put it through.  This is Sense as HTC drew it up, without hardware limitations.

While the software may be familiar, the 4.3” display makes it a different, almost surreal experience.  We’ve been using Sense for a good time now (2.1 at that) so moving to the EVO was like having a bigger Hero to some extent.  Still, with such a large screen everything is bigger, and in this case bigger is most definitely better.  Games are easier to navigate, the ridiculously large keyboard is a dream to type on and webpages are viewed in all their glory.  Our one gripe is that, despite the extra size, the homescreens still only offer a 4x4 layout; with so much real estate 5x4 would have been plenty doable but this is a minor issue and not exclusive to the HTC EVO 4G.

The Android Market is growing exponentially with more than 50,000 apps currently available.  That number has more than tripled in the past five months, and many analysts predict it to pass the 100,000 mark in the coming months and overtake the App Store sometime next year.  More importantly we’re starting to see an increase in the quality of apps available as the devices become more and more capable.  Despite the rise in quality the majority of applications are still free, and even paid apps have a 24 hour remorse period when the user can simply uninstall an app for a full refund.  Developers are beginning to embrace the market without limits and arbitrary rules.

The HTC EVO 4G doesn’t have the newness that the Pre offered last year, but that may work to Sprint’s advantage.  We loved the Pre and webOS, but it has failed to capture the market share Palm and Sprint envisioned, in part due to hardware and software hiccups.  Android on the other hand is chasing down BlackBerry for the mobile OS crown, is firmly entrenched in the public’s consciousness and sufficiently mature by now.   Users won’t be taking a chance on something new when they purchase the EVO, they’ll simply be buying the best handset running the fastest-growing platform the market has to offer.

If you want to know more about the core functionality of the Sense user interface, check our Sprint HTC Hero Review.

Data and Connectivity:

Of course one of the killer features of the HTC EVO 4G is WiMAX, making it the first 4G handset in America.  Sprint’s 4G footprint currently only covers 30 markets or so, but they have announced a slew of new cities and plan to have 4G deployed to over 120M people by the end of the year. For those not yet blessed with 4G the EVO still has 3G for high speed cellular data and WiFi b/g.  It has Bluetooth 2.1 and GPS, with support for both Sprint Navigation and Google Maps Navigation.

The stock browser is improved over previous versions, with smoother scrolling and zooming.  Page loads were slightly quicker too, most likely thanks to the Snapdragon processor.  It’s still not as good as the other premium browsers out there like Safari and webOS as a piece of software, but the gap has been closed considerably.  On the Acid3 test the browser scored a respectable 93/100.  There are several other great browser options for Android such as Opera Mini and Dolphin HD, with Firefox on the way.  Dolphin HD is especially great on the EVO 4G: pages load quickly, zoom is smooth and Flash (Lite) works very well.

The Mobile Hotspot app turns the HTC EVO 4G into an Overdrive on steroids, creating a WiFi network that allows up to 8 devices to connect simultaneously via either 3G or 4G.  At $29.99 it’s half the price of a traditional aircard and even when on 3G does not have a 5GB limit.  The app is simple enough to use- there’s even a toggle switch widget- and the user can easily rename the network and change security settings.

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