updated 08:45 pm EDT, Wed March 24, 2010
Device set for Sprint's WiMAX network
Sprint on Wednesday showed off HTC's Evo 4G, the first 4G-equipped phone to hit the US market. The Android-based device is a clear competitor amongst the range of high-end smartphones such as the Droid, Nexus One, and iPhone. With a gigantic 4.3-inch display, the Evo upstaged Samsung's latest offering, the Galaxy S, which offers a 4-inch screen. Electronista at CTIA had a chance to take a closer look at the upcoming device.
Despite the large display, the Evo still feels much lighter than Motorola's Droid and only slightly heavier than the iPhone and Nexus One. Users who find the Droid too bulky might be turned off by the large housing, necessitated by the 4.3-inch screen, although the back side offers a pocket-friendly contour very similar to the iPhone.
Overall construction appears to be top-notch, on-par with the HTC-built Nexus One and HD2. The Evo utilizes the same 1GHz Snapdragon CPU as the N1, while integrating a kickstand similar to the HD2's Extended Battery add-on.
HTC is in the process of bringing its Sense UI onto Android 2.1, retaining a similar overall appearance to the current version. The company is currently working on new widgets, although the representatives declined to provide specific details for the unannounced capabilities.
The updated Sense UI offers an exploded view showing thumbnails of home screens and opened apps, similar to Exposé on Mac OS X. The new Friend Stream widget centralizes social networking features, much like Samsung's "Social Hub" feature on the Galaxy S.
The 800x480 display was very impressive while watching movies and playing games. Like the Galaxy S, the Evo can play 720p content scaled down to fit the non-HD display resolution. The panel appeared to be brighter than the Galaxy S and Nexus One AMOLEDs, providing similar illumination to the Droid and iPhone. Users can also play content through a TV via HDMI.
The smartphone features a front-facing 1.3-megapixel camera for video conferencing, while the primary camera captures 8.0-megapixel stills or 720p video. The front-facing camera seems to be a sensible move, as WiMAX bandwidth should finally make data-heavy video communication a practical consideration.
Sprint representatives carefully danced around the battery-life issue, a question raised by many attendees curious to know runtimes on 4G networks. HTC is "working on" improving the battery life, although it is unclear how long the 1,500mAh cell will last while powering the 4.3-inch display, 1GHz CPU and 4G components. Runtime estimates are expected closer to launch.
Using Sprint's WiMAX network this week for mobile Internet throughout Las Vegas, speed tests yielded results ranging between 2Mbps and 8Mbps. The boost was particularly apparent when using the Evo with Google Earth, which refreshed satellite imagery in a fraction of the time it would normally take on a 3G network.
The mammoth display, Snapdragon processor and front-facing camera help bring the Evo to the top tier of current smartphones, while WiMAX support offers the 4G incentive currently missing from the competition. Sprint expects the device to be available sometime this summer, although pricing has yet to be announced.