Has Sprint (NYSE:S) become the ultimate purveyor of mobile devices steeped in clever gimmicks? It sure seems that way, but if the devices are gimmicky, they're also a whole lot of fun.
First was the Kyocera Echo dual-screen Android smartphone, which launched in April. On June 24, Sprint rolled out two new novelty devices on its 4G WiMAX network: the HTC Evo 3D 4G smartphone and the HTC Evo View 4G tablet computer.
The Evo 3D 4G, which I reviewed last week, has two 5MP cameras to enable 3D photos and video creation and consumption. 3D viewing without glasses is pretty cool.
The Evo View 4G, which I just spent the last week using as my personal tablet, has a much different trick. The tablet lets users take notes with the well-crafted HTC Scribe digital pen and save them, or just scribble all over the screens in fits of whimsy. Users can save those doodles, too.
This is my favorite feature of the tablet, which is why I mentioned it up-front. I'll circle back to it later after I hash out the specs.
The View 4G is petite in length (less than 8 inches) and width (less than 4.5 inches) but chunky in the middle at slightly more than a half-inch thick. The device also mercifully weighs less than 15 ounces. Anytime you get a tablet under a pound it's a bonus.
The View 4G is encased in nondescript soft, gray plastic and features the same rounded edges as most of its smartphones, such as the aforementioned Evo 3D 4G and ThunderBolt 4G. The tablet feels really comfortable in one palm and is super-manageable with two hands.
Right out of the box, I had two strong reservations about this tablet. My first concern was its 7-inch screen (1024 by 600 resolution) real estate, a form factor I became familiar with from the original Galaxy Tab and more recently RIM's (NASDAQ:RIMM) Blackberry PlayBook.
Apple's (NASDAQ:AAPL) iPad set the standard with 9.7 inches of bold, beautiful tabletry. The Motorola Mobility (NASDAQ:MMI) Xoom's 10.1 inches of screen and the Samsung Galaxy Tab's 10.1 went a bit farther and proved the ideal size for me.
My second concern was the OS. "Gingerbread" was built for smartphones, while the Xoom and Tab 10.1 use Google's (NASDAQ:GOOG) Android 3.0 "Honeycomb" branch, built specifically with the larger tablet form factor in mind.
HTC and Sprint said that the View 4G will get the Honeycomb bump, but that won't be until the launch later this year of Honeycomb 3.2, which is tailored for tablets of 7 inches.
However, Gingerbread performed well for most of the applications I tested here, particularly those wed to the HTC Sense 2.1 user interface HTC designed specially for its tablets. Facebook and Twitter for HTC Sense were a pleasure to use, as was Foursquare, YouTube and Angry Birds.