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.
The HTC Evo View 4G Is a Fun Note-Taking Machine
I thank Sprint’s 4G WiMAX network and the View 4G’s 1.5GHz Qualcomm Snapdragon processor for speedy application processing, which allowed me to zip around from Google.com, Gmail and many other Websites. Users really want to tap the 4G network to use the HTC Watch movie application, which lets users watch movies or TV shows without waiting for the file to finish downloading.
The View 4G’s 4,000-mAh battery came up short on consistent 4G network availability. I rapidly burned through the battery using Watch, YouTube, Qik and other video-intensive applications.
While I got 8 hours of heavy use on the Tab 10.1, I got about 5 hours of similar use on the View 4G. Left idle, the battery burned down in a day. Speaking a bit more of movies, the View 4G has 32GB of memory to store movies, photos and applications.
The 5MP camera worked fine, with little latency snapping pictures and videos. Using this back shutter with the front-facing 1.3MP camera, video chats via the preinstalled Qik application served their purpose.
The camera is a good segue for the View 4G’s note-taking and scribbling perks, which are well-integrated throughout this device. For example, I was able to take a picture and automatically write notes or draw on it with Scribe. When you save it, it makes the familiar shutter sound.
The notes application tab sits between the application launcher and Kobo reader application at the bottom menu bar, accessible on all home screens. When you tap the notes tab, you get a notebook that looks like a composition screen on which to write or draw.
Moreover, you may use the Scribe pen to tap the physical pen button on the bottom right (next to the back button) to manage drawings, change writing implements (from pen to marker to paintbrush) as well as color.
The pen itself includes two buttons: The lower one highlights text, and the upper one erases it. Users may take notes or draw on any home screen and save it, print it, or share it via Facebook, Flickr, Gmail, Picasa or Twitter.
The View 4G costs $399 on contract, which would be reasonable if this was a WiFi-only tablet, but becomes less of a bargain when you factor in the data plans and Scribe pen.
Rate plans for the HTC Evo View start at $34.99 per month for 3GB of 3G data and unlimited 4G data usage on the Sprint WiMax network. Consumers may add GPS Navigation for $2.99 per day or $10 per month. As with the Evo 3D, the mobile hotspot option is available for $29.99 per month.
The Scribe pen is included with the View 4G purchase for a limited time. When that promotion ends, it will be a pricey $79.99. For that reason, anyone interested in the device should snap it up now.
I had a great time with the View 4G. I don’t know of any better gadget for a person who wants to take notes with a digital pen on a digital screen. As a note-taking device, the View 4G is first rate.
You can certainly enjoy media on the View 4G, but I prefer something roomier and thinner in a tablet. It’s up to you to decide what you want your tablet to do. If you want to take notes or draw, the View 4G is your best option. If it’s media consumption, I recommend the larger real estate of the iPad 2 or Galaxy Tab 10.1.