June 6th, 2010


Finally moving into the 21.1st century

When I bought my HTC Mogul phone in 2008, it was already a year old design, and the hardware was actually inferior to my Dell Axim X50v from 2004.  It was a decent phone when it came out, but it quickly began to show its age, especially compared to the iPhone and Android designs, plus it was starting to have problems requiring frequent reboots.  Worst of all, though, was the fact it would fail to answer incoming calls about half the time.  I nearly smashed the phone to pieces several times when it failed to answer an important call even though I was mashing the answer button as hard as I could.  A phone that doesn't answer isn't a phone, it's a paperweight.

I'd wanted to get a new Windows Mobile phone, but then Microsoft dropped backwards compatibility from version 7, rendering all my existing software useless, so there wasn't much point in sticking with that sinking ship.  The iPhone is pretty, but Apple's software policies and AT&T's lousy service ruled it out (and with AT&T's new 2GB data cap, I wouldn't use an AT&T phone if you paid me to take it).  I liked the Nexus One, but that's only available on AT&T (bleah) or T-Mobile (which has a crap network).  I was strongly considering the Droid, but that would require switching back to Verizon; they offer very good coverage here but I don't care for their corporate policies (like disabling phone features so they can charge more for services).  I like Sprint, they have good customer service and they offer decent service in this area, but their selection of phones was terrible.

Until last Friday, when they released the HTC EVO 4G.  I managed to get the very last one at that particular store; they were sold out by noon, as were all the other stores in Omaha.


The EVO is a top of the line Android phone, with a 1 GHz Snapdragon processor, 1GB ROM and 512MB RAM, MicroSD slot, digital compass, G-sensor, proximity sensor, light sensor, A-GPS, FM radio, hand-free kickstand, an 8MP autofocus camera with flash and 720p video and a forward-facing 1.3MP camera.  It's also the first phone to offer 4G WiMAX service, though it's only available in a few dozen cities; Omaha isn't one of them.  It comes with Android 2.1, though an upgrade to 2.2 is supposed to be in the works (it's already been leaked).

But the real draw of the EVO is the screen.  It is beautiful.  4.3 inches, 480x800 with capacitive multi-touch.  The iPhone's screen is only 3.5 inches and 320x480.  The difference is amazing.  Web pages are readable.  You don't have to squint to watch videos.  And photos look amazing.  It has a light sensor which adjusts the brightness according to conditions.  The only complaint I have is one I have with all capacitive touch screens, they accumulate fingerprints like a stainless steel refrigerator.

Comparison of the Mogul, iPod Touch and EVO, and the Dell Axim X50v and EVO.

Performance is snappy, much faster than the Mogul and about on par with the Touch.  Web pages load much more quickly with the EVO than the Touch, and it leaves the Mogul totally in the dust.  The soon-to-be-released Android 2.2 update is supposed to increase performance 450%!

Call quality is good.  Maximum volume isn't very loud, so it can be hard to hear someone in a noisy environment.  Callers seemed to be able to hear me just fine.  The EVO has a proximity sensor that shuts off the screen when you hold the phone up to your face.

The GPS is accurate to about 6 feet outdoors, but the receiver doesn't seem to be as sensitive as the one on my Mogul.  I could use the Mogul's GPS with no problems in my bedroom, but the EVO sometimes has trouble getting a fix. The compass is reasonably accurate outside, mostly accurate inside, but wildly inaccurate inside a vehicle (by as much as 180 degrees).  The accelerometer seems to be about as sensitive as the one in the iPod Touch.

The EVO has two cameras.  The first is an 8 megapixel, auto-focus camera on the back of the phone.  It is equipped with two flash LEDs and is capable of recording 720p video.  The other camera faces forwards, towards the user.  It's 1.3 megapixel and is intended for video chat or to take vanity pics for Facebook, etc.  The main camera takes remarkably good photos indoors and out, though the flash is woefully underpowered.  It has good color balance and does a reasonable job in dim light.  It's good enough I may stop carrying my #3 camera around with me.  Video is clean, very high resolution and smooth as butter.  The forward camera is pretty grainy, even in bright sunlight, but it should be more than adequate for video chat.  There are already apps to turn the EVO into a mirror.

Outdoors, sunset, indoors without flash, indoors in the dark with flash.  All images have been reduced 50% (they're huge otherwise) but are otherwise unedited.

Picture taken with forward camera, unedited.

The EVO comes with HTC's Sense interface, so it looks a bit different than the default Android design.  I've not used the latter enough to really make a comparison.  You are given 7 pages that you can flip between by swiping your finger, similar to the way the iPhone works, but instead of just pages of app icons, you can install widgets that display the weather, news, stocks, Twitter posts, e-mail, calendar, jukebox, etc.  Touching the Home button zooms out and displays all 7 pages at once.  The Twitter app is particularly nice; I'd barely touched Twitter before I got this phone but I think I'll be using it more often now.

The web browser is extremely good, and with the large screen, it's a phone web browser that's actually usable.  It lacks Flash, but that's supposed to be available with the upcoming Android 2.2.  Bizarrely, it also cannot handle animated GIFs, something that even rudimentary browsers like IE 1.0 could do.  Supposedly this will be fixed with version 2.2.  The browser loads pages slightly faster than the iPod Touch and many, many times faster than the Mogul.

Unlike the current iPhone, the EVO is multi-tasking, so you can run Pandora and use Google Maps at the same time.  Holding down the Home button brings up the task switcher, though it's a good idea to install a third-party task manager like Advanced Task Killer.

Some reviews have complained about battery life, but I managed to get over 10 hours of moderate on-and-off use and still had about 1/3 of the battery remaining, this was better than anything I got with the iPod Touch.

It does a decent job as a music player, but the largest available MicroSD cards are only 32 Gig, and those cost about $400; 16 Gig cards are reasonably priced however.  It comes with an 8 Gig card.  The built-in speaker is pretty lousy at playing music; it seems to have no high-end whatsoever.  Unlike previous HTC phones which used weird proprietary plugs, the EVO uses a standard 3.5mm phone jack.  With headphones the sound is comparable to an iPod, there's just a lot less storage available.  There are Pandora and Last.FM apps available for free download, and Sprint TV comes preinstalled.  The latter requires shutting off WiFi, but seems to work fairly smoothly over 3G (it should be stunning with 4G).

My only real complaint about the phone is the questionable $10 per month "premium data" fee Sprint tacks onto the account.  I haven't been able to figure out what I get for that extra $240 over the life of the contract.  Other than that, I'm more than pleased with the EVO.
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