HTC Evo 4G Is a Great Android Phone Until the Battery Fades

By Clint Boulton  |  Posted 2010-06-02

HTC Evo 4G Is a Great Android Phone Until the Battery Fades

Review: Sprint will begin selling the Google Android 2.1-based HTC Evo 4G smartphone for $199 with a two-year contract June 4 ($100 mail-in rebate), just a few days before Apple is expected to launch its ballyhooed iPhone 4.0.

I've tested two other devices based on Android 2.1, the Google Nexus One and HTC Droid Incredible, so I won't walk through that OS and the familiar apps that run on it.

This black device is a big smartphone, measuring 4.8 inches long, 2.5 inches wide and a half-inch thick, and weighing a Motorola Droid-like 6 ounces. This size, displayed here, will put off some discerning buyers.

Both the Nexus One and Incredible are thinner and lighter and have smaller screens (3.7 inches), so the Evo felt a little big in my average-sized hand. That took a full day to get used to, but it was worth it thanks to the 4.3-inch WVGA (800-by-480) touch screen.

A few minutes watching YouTube clips or ESPN Mobile sporting events on the Sprint TV application, as I did, will make one forget they are watching TV on a phone instead of a TV set.

This was especially true when I used the little kickstand to prop up the device to watch hands free. After hopping around the HTC Sense "leap view" that provides seven customizable homescreens, I easily watched 15 minutes of the men's match of the French Open June 2.

Let me curb the enthusiasm with a note of caution. I burned through a quarter of the juice from the Evo's lithium battery watching Rafael Nadal and Nicolas Alamagro whack balls across the clay court at Roland Garros.

The Evo could be the best Android smartphone to date if it weren't for the device's poor battery life. Thanks to that glaring problem, the Evo faces Catch-22s at every turn.

For example, there isn't a better Android smartphone to take pictures with (thanks to the 8-megapixel LED flash camera), shoot video (at 720p), watch an extended series of video clips or maybe even a movie, and browse the Web.

Social apps such as Facebook for Android and Peep for Twitter, and media apps such as Amazon's MP3 Store and video-sharing app Qik are preloaded onto the device.

These things all work great, but you could never do all of them for an extended period of time without recharging the battery. This detail alone reminds you that you ARE using a smartphone, not a tablet or a netbook with a touch screen.

Another utility on the device is a front-facing, 1.3-megapixel camera for video chat, but the software is not yet ready for this task.

HTC Evo 4G Is Great When Its Got Juice


The device will serve as a WiFi hot spot for another $30 per month from Sprint, allowing users to let their netbooks, tablets and other computers access the Web via the Evo. Bluetooth 2.1 is also supported, and the device has the requisite digital compass, and proximity and light sensors.

Logging into my Google account enabled me to access my Gmail inbox and all of my existing calendar info on the Evo.

I logged into the Facebook for Android app, which injected Facebook contacts right into my phone list. I used HTC's FriendStream to integrate my Facebook and Twitter streams in one view.

The device boasts 1GB of ROM storage (358MB is for app storage) and 512GB of RAM storage. Sprint will charge $80 for unlimited data and text messages and 450 talk minutes, a price bump of $10 from Sprint's existing 3G devices.

I can't complain about any dropped calls. Sprint isn't bad in my neck of Fairfield County, Conn.

That brings me to answer the obvious question about why I haven't discussed Sprint's lauded 4G network, which is supposed to download data at a whopping peak of 10M bps (more realistically 3-6M bps, on average), and upload it at 1M bps.

I, like many of the reviewers of the device, haven't had the pleasure of the 4G experience, which is currently in 33 markets, but not here in Connecticut. I'd travel as far as New York City to use it, but 4G, profiled by the AP here, isn't even available there yet.

The markets closest to me are several hours away in Baltimore and Philadelphia, a little far for me to test a phone, even one as fun as this one. Sprint assured me the launch of 4G in several more markets is expected to cover up to 120 million people this year.

Apparently, I'm not missing much without 4G, based on the reviews from Walt Mossberg and others. Sprint's 3G service shuttles downloads at a peak speed of 3.1M bps and uploads at 1.8M bps. That's fast enough for me, but not enough for others trying to do more media-intensive tasks.

Unfortunately, a great smartphone + poor battery = subpar user experience. If the device shipped with a backup battery, Sprint would have a winner on its hands.

I recommend this device to those users who, while traveling a lot, manage to charge their battery without the frustration that scares off power users.

For me, I'll take the Droid Incredible over both the Nexus One and Evo. The battery life is better and the device feels more like a phone than a little tablet in my hand. Feeling, as silly as it may sound, is a big deal for phones, and at the end of the day I trust my feelings.

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