News Analysis: Sprint's new HTC Evo 4G smartphone can do a lot, but you have to decide if what it can do matches your business wireless needs. Factor in whether 4G services are available in your area and whether the device's reportedly limited battery life will handle your enterprise mobility chores.
Sprint's June 4 launch of its HTC
Evo 4G smartphone
is attended by more than the usual hype because it's the
first 4G device to be introduced in the United
This Android 2.1-based phone uses Sprint's new, and still incomplete, 4G
network as well as its widely available 3G network. The device comes with a ton
of features, a couple of which might be useful to business users.
But whether Sprint's Evo 4G is useful to you and your
company depends on many factors, not the least of which is whether the phone is
something you actually need. The Evo 4G does have some capabilities that make
it attractive. For example, it can work as a hot spot for up to eight WiFi
devices using its 4G capability to provide decent throughput to the Internet or
your company's network.
The Evo 4G also can support video conferencing through
its front-mounted camera; and because it's an Android 2.1 device it'll support
your corporate e-mail. But whether this constitutes a reason to drop everything
and start buying Evo 4Gs for your company is another matter entirely.
To some, the decision is fairly obvious. "It's
always viewed that more throughput is better," said analyst Craig Mathias.
According to Mathias, principal of Farpoint Group, better bandwidth should also
mean better capacity, and it should be there when you need to do something like
download a big presentation.
Capacity can turn out to be a huge issue for some
carriers. AT&T, for example, has started a usage-based pricing model for
its data plans as a way to help it deal with capacity issues caused by the
Apple iPhone. Sprint, with its existing 3G and new 4G networks, both of which
support the Evo 4G, has more ways to provide capacity.
But Mathias noted that there are other factors companies
need to consider when thinking about a move to a 4G device. The first is
whether Sprint has 4G service in the area where you plan to use the device. If
it doesn't, and your area isn't scheduled to have 4G available in the immediate
future, you could be paying for a capability you don't need. Likewise, if you
don't think you're going to need the built-in video conferencing or the hot-spot
capability, you could save money elsewhere.
But a 4G phone could also make sense. "If customers
have coverage where they need to communicate, and if they believe that the
technology has a future across their depreciation horizon, and if the price is
right, then yes, absolutely," Mathias said.
In general, there's a lot to say for the Evo 4G. Sprint
has priced the 3G/4G data plan at a reasonable level, and it offers
"unlimited everything." In addition, while the universe of Android
applications isn't as broad as it is for the iPhone, it's still pretty broad.
What's more important is that you can use third-party and custom-developed
applications without having to have the manufacturer's blessing.
While your company may not routinely need 4G speeds in day-to-day
operations, there may well be times when the capability is necessary. This is
especially true of the WiFi hot-spot support, when it might be the only means
available of getting to the Internet at conferences, meetings or when your ISP
But there will be tradeoffs. Mathias suggested that
hand-held video conferencing is both a security issue and likely to make people
on the other end seasick. Likewise, all of these capabilities have tradeoffs
in terms of things like battery life.
It's likely that users will have to
be more deeply involved in managing the services that their phones are using at
any one time than they're used to so they can get the phone to stay alive long
Power management aside, the Evo 4G is clearly aimed at
beating the iPhone at media streaming, video quality and ease of use. While it
may seem that most of its features are meant for entertainment and consumer
applications, the same can also be said of the iPhone. But you'll notice that
the iPhone is becoming ubiquitous in corporate life.
So does the Evo 4G make sense for your company? The
answer is probably yes, if you have or will soon be getting 4G service in your
area. But as is the case with most smartphones, it doesn't make sense for everyone.
For users who primarily use their smartphones for e-mail, for example, perhaps
something with a physical keyboard makes more sense. For
applications where security is a huge issue, then you'll need to pick
something that fits your security needs.
But there's a lot that can be said for the capabilities
of the Evo 4G, at least for some business users, and in some business
circumstances. It's reasonably priced, the data plan is reasonable and, except
for problems with battery life, it appears to be a good device. And the extra
bandwidth can't hurt-especially if it ensures that you'll have the capacity you