Sprint HTC Evo 4G LTE: Solid Smartphone That Lacks 4G Power

REVIEW: Branding makes a person forget the Sprint HTC Evo 4G LTE and the AT&T HTC One X are siblings. Holding the slim, light phones, however, it becomes clearer.

Sprint€™s HTC Evo 4G LTE shared headlines with AT&T€™s HTC One X in May when the two smartphones found themselves in a U.S. Customs limbo, while Apple and HTC argued over patents. Still, the white, wafer-like One X has much more in common with the Evo 4G LTE, a phone with a chunky, black and red predecessor, than a holding cell in the basement of some federal warehouse.

This didn€™t occur to me until I had the new Evo in hand.

Despite their very different aesthetics, the Sprint Evo 4G is, no doubt, a sibling of the One X. The Evo 4G LTE measures 134.8 by 68.9 by 8.9mm and weighs 134 grams; the One X measure 134.4 by 69.9 by 8.9mm and weighs 130 grams. Both have wonderfully smooth Corning Gorilla Glass over 4.7-inch Super IPS LCD2 capacitive touch-screens.

But while the One X has a fully polycarbonate body€”which the industry seems to like but always strikes me, in its lightness, as feeling rather cheap€”the new Evo is half matte anodized aluminum and half glossy polycarbonate, which responds to even freshly washed hands as though the user were eating French fries.

Separating these two sections is a red metal ribbon in which the phone€™s kickstand is embedded. I don€™t know what it€™s made of, but it€™s thin and square-of-edge and feels intense in a good way€”a dramatic improvement from the rounded-tipped kickstand on the original Evo 4G, which any wobbling of the phone or surface would easily (and irritatingly) send folding back up inside the phone. The new kickstand not only stays put but can be used from the north or south, with the kickstand hinge at the top or flat against the table€”which further creates the opportunity of charging the phone while watching a video.

Regarding the red band and those two black textures on the back: While I€™m not one for a black and red color scheme, HTC did a fine job here. In these days of nature-theme palettes, I expected to be put off, but wasn€™t.

In lots of other ways, too, the new Evo is a dramatic improvement over the original. Really, the kickstand and color scheme are about all the two have in common. The camera is still 8 megapixels, but it€™s dramatically faster and there are lots of new features, many of them more likely, thanks to the Android Ice Cream Sandwich build than anything of HTC€™s doing. There are quick-to-access filters for taking shots with, and a user can hold the shutter to take a load of photos at once€”making sure you catch the dog connecting with the Frisbee or the baby smiling. The phone is then happy to point out the best frame and quickly delete the others. Choosing between video or still shots also no longer requires entering a menu, but is an instant option.

The biggest camera improvement, though, is indeed thanks to HTC, which has added a physical shutter button exactly under one€™s right index finger when the phone is held in landscape mode. It feels good to push down, offers perfect tactile feedback and is a million times nicer than trying to tap the screen while holding the phone perfectly still. Every phone maker should do this.

There€™s also a bigger battery on board, and it€™s obvious in the best way.

Aside from the camera, and I should say, too, that while the physical button on the Evo is especially nice, the physical button on the One X is especially annoying, in my opinion. (See slide five in eWEEK's May 2 slide show on the HTC One X.) The major reminder that I wasn€™t using the One X is that there€™s no 4G LTE€”except, of course, in the name.

Sprint hasn€™t yet flipped the switch on its new LTE network, and while it offers 4G in the form of WiMax, the new Evo doesn€™t play that game. So, this is an all-3G-all-the-time game. Though truly, given how much time my own 4G phone spends reverting to 3G, this didn€™t feel especially patience-taxing.

It€™s a good, of-the-times phone€”sitting on my desk alongside a Samsung Galaxy S III, the two were of a piece, just a hair€™s difference in size and weight and screen size. If, like me, you€™re wooed by such things, I€™ll tell you, too, that the highly recyclable packaging of the new Evo is refreshingly minimal and stark. When Sprint€™s LTE network becomes a reality, the Evo 4G LTE will have still more to recommend it.

The HTC Evo 4G LTE is now available on the Sprint network for $199.99 with a two-year contract.

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