First Look: Sprint HTC Evo review

Made exclusively for Sprint by HTC, the new Android 4G smartphone "EVO" has arrived. Evo is the first Android 2.1 phone supported by Sprint’s new 4G high-speed WiMAX network in the US. When we played with the Evo last week, it was like holding something Q might have designed for Bond that looks like a black mini iPad. The latest of HTC's smartphones, the Evo's increased functionality and speed blow away the slim and sexy Legend (also running Android), the HD2 and the Desire.

The speed of the 4G phone means downloading music, pictures, streaming videos and watching PowerPoint presentations happens in "seconds not minutes", says Dan Hesse, CEO of Sprint Nextel. And we can safely say that it allows you to create, stream and watch video in ways that surpass any other phone we’ve played with.

The impressive multimedia superphone boasts a 4.3-inch multi-touchscreen, casting a long shadow over the Legend's 3.2-inch or the Desire's 3.7-inch touchscreens. (The only other Android phones that come close to this measure is the new Galaxy S's 4-inch touchscreen from Samsung and the Sony Ericsson X10). The Evo's 800 x 480 pixel resolution display makes it an ideal device for streaming video and reading morning news stories. The Evo supports a wide array of video codecs, has an HDMI output on the bottom of the phone alongside a Micro-USB connector and a "kickstand" on the back to prop up the screen on a table or desk for hands-free movie watching.

The Evo has two cameras - a forward-facing 1.3-megapixel camera (great for video chat and for the candid self-portraits we all love to take) and an 8-megapixel autofocus camera with an LED flash and an HD-capable 720p video camcorder - trumping the 5MP camera of previous generations. The Evo's four small circular buttons are at the bottom of the screen, instead of the HD2's wide, odd-shaped buttons reminiscent of the days when car-phones were in vogue. We miss the sexy silver look of the Legend, but hey, I guess one can never go wrong with black. The phone is fast and there was no sign of lag when opening applications.

One of the coolest features of the new smartphone is its built-in mobile hotspot functionality, which allows up to eight Wi-Fi-enabled devices to connect to its 4G network. This means any Wi-Fi-enabled device like your laptop, gaming device, iPad or iPhone can all be used on the 4G network. And for a mere cell phone? That's not just unique, it’s astounding.

Some may claim that the Evo is just a modified version of HTC's HD2 but they are ignoring the fact that the former runs on the coveted Android platform, while the latter runs on, uh, Windows Mobile. In terms of size, the Evo is 2mm wider and thicker, 1mm shorter and 13 grams heavier than the HD2. Both models, as well as the HTC-built Nexus One are built on Qualcomm's Snapdragon platform with a 1GHz processor, but the EVO 4G uses the more recent QSD8650 processor, an update from the HD2's QSD8250. Expect the same connectivity elements like the compass and GPS that you'd expect from HSDPA, Wi-Fi and Bluetooth. The phone's also got 1GB of built-in storage, along with 512MB of RAM.

With Android 2.1, users can access over 35,000 apps including Google Goggles, which allows a user to analyse a photo of anything from books to bars to art in a visual search engine. For example, you show the Evo a photo of a white-spiralled museum and in a matter of seconds it will announce, "Guggenheim, NYC".

Like the Legend, Desire and HD2, the Evo runs HTC's updated Sense user interface (UI) with a slew of new features rolling in, including a wider range of viewing tabs on messages and a wider keyboard for easier typing. One of the several great functions on the new Sense UI is called Leap. With Leap, simply pinch anywhere on the homescreen and a thumbnail view of all of your home pages will appear, allowing multitaskers to navigate easily or close one out.

Another new widget worth writing home about is called Friend Stream. Friend Stream which acts as a  social media aggregator allows users to view one stream combining Facebook, Twitter and Flickr updates, although success depends on how aggressively your "friends" post updates.

Verdict

The HTC Evo will be available in the states 4 June, 2010 for $199, with a new, 2-year Sprint contract. The price doesn't include one of Sprint's "Everything Data" bundles, though, which start at $69 a month for 450 voice minutes plus unlimited data and texts.

For now we are waiting to see if the Evo will be crossing the pond and making it into Europe. One factor might be adoption of 4G networks, but we can't help but feel that we'll be seeing the Evo's impressive spec sheet remodelled into a new version for those outside the USA.

From what we've seen of Sprint's HTC Evo, it looks like it will deliver the thrills that the HD2 did for Windows Mobile users. Of course, we'll keep you updated with news and if it does make it the UK, we'll be sure to bring you news and a full review.