Sprint HTC EVO 4G LTE; design by committee on a non-existent network (review)

Summary:The Sprint HTC EVO 4G LTE is an interesting device with some nice design elements for a high speed data network that isn't yet around. It is a nice EVO device, but with the Samsung Galaxy S III around the corner I am not sure that is enough any more.

The HTC One X is the best HTC phone I have ever used and likely also the best Android device I have ever used. Thus, I was hoping HTC would pull off an iPhone or Samsung Galaxy level campaign across all major wireless carriers. Unfortunately, the only carrier to get the HTC One X so far is AT&T while T-Mobile gets the lower speced HTC One S, a fine device in its own right, Sprint gets a rather interesting variant, and Verizon doesn't even show up to the party. I spent a week with the HTC EVO 4G LTE, you have to love the way Sprint's device names just flow off your tongue, and am thankful I refused shipment of my pre-order a couple weeks ago.

The HTC One X is an elegantly designed device and you can tell the designers took their time to create a wonderful in-hand experience. On the other hand, it seems like a committee sat around the table to design the HTC EVO 4G LTE (EVO LTE in the rest of this review) and everyone had a chance to add their own element to the design. The display is the same gorgeous one on the One X, the metal frame around the device contrasts everything else on the phone, the physical camera button seems like a good idea, but can't launch the camera from the locked screen, the high glossy black upper cover always has smudges and fingerprints on it, the well constructed kickstand stands out in brilliant red, and the lower black finish matte black contrasts the other two back pieces. Some parts are great to see, I am a fan of a good kickstand, but others leave me wondering why in the world anyone would take so much away from the gorgeous One X design.

I took a few photos of the HTC EVO 4G LTE and have included them in my image gallery.


Image Gallery: Check out photos of the HTC EVO 4G LTE from Sprint.
Image Gallery: EVO LTE retail box
Image Gallery: Kickstand in action

In the box and first impressions

The EVO LTE comes in a cool recyclable brown box along with an USB cable and USB charger. Unlike Verizon LTE devices, there is no SIM card in use here.

The EVO LTE feels nice in the hand and seems very well constructed. I immediately disliked the glossy black upper back since it gives the device a cheap look and is a horrible fingerprint magnet. The display is fantastic, just like the One X, and is one of the best features of the EVO LTE.

Specifications

Specifications for the Sprint HTC EVO 4G LTE include the following:
  • 1.5 GHz Qualcomm dual-core processor
  • CDMA phone with LTE support
  • Android Ice Cream Sandwich OS with HTC Sense 4
  • 4.7 inch HD (1280x720 pixels) Super LCD display with Gorilla Glass 2
  • 1 GB RAM
  • 8 megapixel camera with new HTC ImageChip
  • Front facing 1.3 megapixel camera
  • Bluetooth 4.0
  • 802.11 a/b/g/n WiFi
  • NFC support, including Android Beam and Google Wallet
  • Beats Audio available universally in the device
  • 16GB integrated storage with microSD expansion capability
  • Integrated 2000 mAh battery that is non-removable
  • Dimensions of 5.31 x 2.75 x 0.35 inches and 4.73 ounces

Unlike the HTC One X, the EVO LTE comes with support for integrated microSD expansion. The HTC EVO 4G LTE also comes with a FM radio, which you do not see on the AT&T One X.

Walk around the hardware

The Gorilla Glass 2 display dominates the front, but does not wrap around the sides of the EVO LTE like it does on the HTC One X. However, it is still fantastic and the 4.7 inch Super LCD is amazing with a resolution that blows me away as I use it every single time. HTC has a traditional headset speaker grille above the display with a front facing camera to the right of the speaker.

HTC went with a metal frame design around the sides, which might provide a minor level of protection when dropped, but seems a bit out of place for the design. On the left side you will find the microUSB port, the bottom has a mic opening, the right side has the volume button and a camera capture button, and the top has the power button, second mic opening and 3.5mm headset jack.

The back had three main areas, the top glossy black area, the red kickstand, and the soft touch lower part. The upper back is removable to give you access to the microSD card slot. I was surprised to find there is no SIM card slot under the cover and understand there is none on the device. The camera is centered on the upper back glossy area with a red ring and black lens opening over the top. There is a single LED flash to the right of the camera.

The kickstand was something I enjoyed on the original HTC EVO 4G so I was pleased to see it come back on the EVO LTE. The kickstand on the EVO LTE looks to be the best that HTC has made so far with a solid mechanism that lets you prop up the phone on either side in landscape orientation. It takes a bit of a fingernail to get the kickstand pulled out too. It is centered on the device so gives you a fairly balanced experience. I really like the kickstand design and color, but I did purchase a case with a kickstand for my One X so am satisfied for now.

Walk through the software

I previously covered why I like HTC Sense 4 enhancements in ICS and after using the HTC One X and EVO LTE for a couple of months I continue to be a fan of Sense with ICS and prefer it over the ICS experience on my Galaxy Nexus. The enhancements I find particularly useful include the advanced Exchange email client, settings area, task switcher, and home screen panel customization utility.

Sprint did a great job of limiting the amount of their own software that was added to HTC Sense and you will only find Sprint Zone, Sprint Hotspot, and Visual Voicemail. You can use the Sprint Zone to get some nice applications and utilities, such as Sprint TV, NASCAR Sprint Cup Mobile, and more. I love the way Sprint gives you the option to install apps and utilities, rather than making it a requirement like AT&T does.

HTC also includes a couple utilities on the EVO LTE such as HTC Hub, FM Radio, Media Share, Movie Editor, and HTC Watch.

Daily usage experiences

I live in Puyallup and work in Seattle so have a wide range of area I cover on a daily basis during my commute. I experience very good coverage on T-Mobile, Verizon, and AT&T, but just cannot seem to maintain a solid Sprint connection. In some specific places where I was able to get a Sprint connection, I was extremely disappointed with the performance on the 3G network. The maximum download speeds I saw were just over 1 Mbps. I understand that LTE will be fast, confirmed by some recent testing performed by PC Magazine. I also understand that Sprint needs to get phones out to support their network before the network is ready. However, with no idea when LTE may be coming to my area (could be as late as 2014) I cannot justify using a slow device with unlimited data when there are much faster options available on all the other carriers right now.

Like the One X, the EVO LTE captures great photos with the 8 megapixel camera. Audio also sounds great with the Beats Audio integration. I cannot really comment on battery life since my poor coverage area led to the phone searching for a signal so much that the battery died quite quickly.

The phone performs well with apps and overall is a solid device. I just cannot stand the glossy black upper portion and funky design elements. After using the One X I could not move to this device, but if I was a satisfied Sprint customer then I would consider this or the Galaxy S III.

Pricing and availability

Apple's lawsuit kept HTC from releasing the HTC EVO 4G LTE as planned, which surely ended up costing Sprint some potential customers (then again maybe it gained some who decided to buy one as a way to get back at Apple). Sprint was finally able to released the device on 2 June and it is now available online and in stores for $199.99 with 2-year contract ($549.99 with no contract).

I think HTC is going to soon have to pull off a broad carrier launch like Samsung is with the Galaxy S III to stay competitive in the mobile space and stop releasing these variations of devices with different names and features. The EVO brand is significant for Sprint, but I still think something like the One X labeled as the EVO One may have helped HTC maintain consistency in the brand.

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Topics: Mobility, HTC, Networking, Telcos

About

Matthew Miller started using a mobile devices in 1997 and has been writing news, reviews, and opinion pieces ever since. He is a co-host with GigaOM's Kevin Tofel on the MobileTechRoundup podcast and an author of three Wiley Companion series books. Matthew started using mobile devices with a US Robotics Pilot 1000 and has owned over 200 d... Full Bio

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