First 4G Android Phone Feels Like the Future

Product: HTC EVO

Manufacturer: Sprint

Wired Rating: 7

The new Sprint HTC EVO sports some of the nicest hardware you can find on any mobile device on the market and boasts some of the burliest specs we’ve ever seen in a phone (4G finally!). What’s more, it’s just drop-dead gorgeous; the kind of thing that compels others to ask about it when you take it out of your pocket.

So the EVO’s greatest draw is its 4G WiMax compatibility. How did it work? Uh … we don’t know. We tested the phone in San Francisco, which is not currently wired for 4G. If you’re considering the EVO for its data-processing chops, take a look at where 4G is currently deployed.

However, it did do far better with 3G than our iPhone. We took the phone to three different locations in San Francisco where AT&T has coverage holes, and in every case, had a 3G data connection (sometimes slow) while our iPhone wouldn’t even make calls. While this may be less of an issue in areas where AT&T delivers the coverage it advertises, those who suffer its inadequate network will be happy to know there’s a robust alternative.

On the hardware front, the giant 4.3-inch display makes the iPhone and Nexus One feel dinky in comparison, yet it remains small and light enough to slip easily into a pocket. It flaunts an 8-megapixel camera (with flash) on the back, along with a 1.3-megapixel sensor adorning the front. This dual-screen action allows you to preview pics in order to take well-framed self portraits of yourself and your pals.

The camera also shoots 720p video — it won’t replace your HD camcorder, but it’s a fantastic shooter to have in your pocket. A kickstand in the back lets you stand it up like a television, while an HDMI port lets you connect it to a TV. The 1-GHZ Snapdragon processor feels faster than the Indy 500 while the phone seemingly has more antennas than your average police car, with 3G, 4G (WiMax), Bluetooth, Wi-Fi, FM and GPS connectivity.

All those antennas are put to good use. The navigation system is on par with or better than most standalone GPS units. Moreover, the phone feels designed for the internet from the get-go. On launch, it walks you through setting up your Google, Facebook, Twitter and other social media accounts. It imported our Facebook and Google contacts into the phone in seconds, and thanks to Google Voice integration, we were able to use an existing number. We also loved the ability to tether the phone. In just three clicks, you can set up a Wi-Fi connection to send internet to your computer.

Our only real hardware complaint is that the OLED display could bit brighter and crisper — it looks slightly fuzzy next to an iPhone — and we noticed some odd cyclical dimming effects when reading long blocks of text on web pages.

The overall interface is excellent, easily one of the most user-friendly of all the Android phones we’ve laid hands on. When we handed the phone off to a user who had never before tried Android, she was immersed in seconds and able to do e-mail, surf the internet and tweet without instruction. It’s worth noting that the phone does not ship with the newly announced Froyo (2.2) version of Android, however HTC has announced that it intends to update phones released in 2010 with that version of the OS.

Our major quibble is that the battery on the EVO is shorter-lived than a plotline in a Seth McFarland show. A typical use situation gave us about 6 hours of battery life. After driving around town to test the GPS and 3G signals we ran out of juice in just over 4 hours. The situation was even worse when we flipped on the 4G antenna. In short, it won’t make it through the day without a recharge. While the battery on the EVO is replaceable, so you can carry a spare, we look forward to a day when smartphone battery life is reasonably matched to power consumption.

Overall, we loved this phone. The hardware is smart and well-appointed, the interface is pleasant and straightforward, and it just plain worked. In short, it felt like a call from the future; one not dropped by AT&T.

WIRED Fantastic camera. Blazing fast internet. More connection options than Grand Central Station. Slick user interface easy for novices, yet allows power users to get their nerd on. Dead-simple tethering. Touchscreen keyboard offers ample space, even for fat-fingered types. Seamless connection with social networks gives it an old-friend feel right out of box.

TIRED 4G coverage spottier than an oil-stained Louisiana beach. Odd dimness issues with display. Android cut/copy/paste so poor you’d do better rekeying. Battery life shorter than Verne Troyer.

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