Ari's First Impressions: HTC EVO 4G

Published: June 8, 2010

The Good: HTC's Sense UI, 4.3-inch touchscreen, 4G capabilities

The Bad: Size of the phone is right on the verge of being too big, battery life isn't great if not managed properly

The Verdict: If you live in an area that supports Sprint's WiMax, have big enough hands and room in your pocket/purse to carry around a charger, this phone is arguably the best device on the market right now - a must have for gadget enthusiasts.

Like many of our readers I had been waiting since CTIA for the release of the HTC EVO 4G from Sprint.  When it became available for pre-order with offers from varying retail stores, I made the decision, pre-ordered the phone and anxiously waited for June 4th to roll around.  Now, four days later I can honestly say it's one of the coolest devices I have ever owned.  And I'm not just talking about phones, I'm talking about electronic devices as a whole.

When you look at the pictures and videos online the EVO looks far too big to fit comfortably in the hand (for people with smaller hands, that may be the case).  And while the size of this phone will inevitably come down to personal preference, I found it to be somewhere between the perfect size and a tad too big.  The only time it actually felt slightly too big was when attempting one-handed functions - like sleeping the screen while the phone is in the palm of your hand.

One thing that stands out about the EVO more than anything else is that it's basically all screen.  The bezel surrounding the screen is so thin that it doesn't increase the size drastically - an important factor these days.  Essentially, HTC has accomplished the difficult task of creating a phone with a screen big enough to explore media in ways never before thought possible on a phone, yet keeping the phone itself down to a size people can still call "pocketable."

The 4.3-inch capacitive touchscreen is a topic unto itself, one which I could discuss for hours, but the face of the phone as a whole is also a beautiful thing.  It's seamless.  With the exception of a notch cut out for the speaker at the top of the phone, there's just one piece of glass (I'm assuming it's glass) from top to bottom.  The face of the phone has eight items: four capacitive touch buttons (which in my mind is a major plus as it reduces the amount of "things" to break), two logos, a front facing camera and a speaker.  At the bottom (from left to right) you have the standard Android home, menu, back and search buttons which - when the screen is on - are highly responsive along with the rest of the screen.  At the top you'll find the HTC logo to the top left, the Sprint logo to the top right, the front facing camera just above the 'p' and 'r' in Sprint, and the speaker grill centered at the very top of the phone.

The back of the device contains the 8-megapixel camera, dual LED flash, a kickstand (oh, you forgot?), and more logos just in case it slipped your mind that Sprint and HTC were the first to bring you a high-end phone capable of surfing the web at 4G speeds.  While the camera is certainly capable of high quality pictures (the picture of the EVO retail box and the baby were taken with the phone), what I've noticed so far is that picture quality tends to be better in areas where there is more light.  Pictures taken in low light seemed much more grainy.  Another thing I don't like about the camera is that it protrudes from the back, which makes me pretty nervous to lay it down without first putting something down to protect it.  This is probably an issue that could be easily alleviated with the right case.  I didn't do much video recording, but will report back on that in the full review.

I tested the EVO 4G in the metro Atlanta area, where according to Sprint's coverage map (at the very least at my house) 4G signal should be pretty strong.  Frequently, I only had 1-2 bars of 4G coverage, but that alone was enough to render web pages at speeds that seemed unnaturally fast.  There were a few times that I had full 4G coverage, and again, pages rendered at lightning speeds.  I have yet to run the full gamut of tests, but in the full review I'll get more accurate download speeds and test the simultaneous voice and data feature touted by Sprint while using their 4G network.

In terms of call quality I have yet to encounter any real issues.  With the limited amount of time I've had to use the phone I haven't experienced any dropped calls, and the call quality seems to be very clear.  As with other devices I've tested, the EVO pairs easily with my car's integrated Bluetooth device, and works without issue.  One thing I noticed (and this may just be a personal feature I like) is that I couldn't transfer my phonebook over to the car's hard drive.  I know there's an app out there that can fix this, and I'll let you know if I get it figured out.

Obviously, all the great features of this phone wouldn't be possible without an underlying operating system.  The combination of Android 2.1 and HTC's Sense UI on the EVO 4G is nothing less than impressive.  Qualcomm's 1GHz processor probably didn't hurt the phone either, as navigating from page to page was as fast and simple as a brief swipe or a pinch-to-zoom to access all your pages at once.  If you don't like sense, you can turn it off in a few simple steps and revert to the native Android launcher, but do note that you lose access to all the HTC widgets and features that really make the phone look and feel top notch.  As an experiment I tried going the vanilla Android route, thinking that the phone might be even faster and more impressive, but I quickly switched back to Sense, customized the phone the way I wanted, and couldn't be happier.

I've talked to several people who said that when traveling to Sprint, RadioShack, and Best Buy Mobile locations there were lines out the door for the EVO (all weekend).  When I picked mine up I was told that the store only had one phone left beyond the pre-ordered devices they received.  I was also told that if I had friends who wanted an EVO and couldn't find one, they could order one and receive it in "a few days."  As we reported yesterday, the EVO 4G had a record breaking launch weekend for Sprint, and there will no-doubt be shortages of the device if there aren't already.

That's it for now, but check back soon for the full review!

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