HTC Evo 4G is the Android phone to beat

The Evo 4G from HTC and Sprint is the new top-dog Android phone and frankly, it beats the pants off anything from Cupertino. Here's why.
Written by Jason D. O'Grady, Contributor

I should start out by saying that I prefer Android over iPhone OS. I've previously picked the Nexus One and Droid Incredible over the iPhone 3GS in these pages. Also, Apple's hosting a little developer shindig on Monday called WWDC (you may have heard about it) and it's widely expected to announce a new iPhone handset at the event, which will change the mobile landscape - again. Also, this isn't intended to be a complete review of the HTC Evo 4G running on Sprint. There are plenty of those here, here and here. That being said, I wanted to share my first-look at the new big dog of smartphones -- and I do mean BIG DOG.

The first thing you'll notice about the HTC Evo 4G ($199 from Sprint with 2-year agreement) is its massive 4.3-inch 480 x 800 pixel screen. It dwarfs the 480 x 320, 3.5-screen found in the iPhone in every way. The Evo screen dominates the entire industrial design, to the point of being imposing -- but in a good way. It's hard not to be impressed when looking the the live wallpapers and gorgeous animations in things like the HTC time/weather widget. Going back to the iPhone is disappointing, its screen resolution is puny and icons appear pixelated. The new iPhone 4 is rumored to sport a 640 x 960 screen, albeit in the same-ish 3.5-inch package.

Bigger isn't always better though. Those with small hands and dainty women simply will find the Evo 4G's panel too large. Manly men with big mitts and people that like watching video on their devices will gush over it. It also has a micro (not mini!) HDMI port and a kickstand built-in, so it's clearly built for watching video content. An Evo dock is also on tap that will use the Micro-USB port for data and power transfers, but the big appeal will be its compatibility with Evo's Type D connector and HDMI 1.4.

Even though the Evo 4G is hefty, (6 oz, compared to 4.6 oz for the Incredible and 4.5 for the Nexus One) it's still pocketable and I find the larger screen great for looking at the pictures of my kids snapped by the 8 megapixel camera and for sharing them with friends. Speaking of the 8MP autofocus camera, it also features a dual LED flash and 720p video recording, albeit highly compressed.

I prefer Android because of all the reasons that I outline in my Nexus One and Incredible posts, specifically being about to use voice input for everything, OTA sync and updates, Google Voice, Maps with Navigation, microSD card support, the list goes on. Android 2.2 (Froyo) adds even more benefits and if iPhone OS 4.0 beta 4 is all Apple's got, it faces a serious threat from the rise of Android.

I seriously doubt it though. One would assume that Apple's whiteboards were a-squeakin' after Google's abuse at its IO conference. iPhone 4 is rumored to include support for video calls, hence AT&T's elimination of its unlimited data plans, and I'm sure that The Steve will pull a rabbit out of his hat again on Monday -- at least I sincerely hope so. While the Evo 4G has video calls via Qik, anyone want to bet that Apple's implementation will be bette?

New in the Evo 4G is the Sprint Hotspot app (one of my favorite features of the Pre+) which allows you to connect up to 5 devices (iPad anyone?) and it's free for now. Don't get used to it though, like all good things free hotspots will eventually come to an end. Possibly as soon as the Evo 4G launches tomorrow. The hotspot app is my favorite feature of the Evo and if Apple doesn't come out with something similar, it's going to be all down hill for the iPhone. I mean how can Apple not answer its competition?

HTC's Sense UI is growing on me, and while I used to prefer vanilla Android OS, I now prefer Sense. Unfortunately, Froyo (a.k.a. Android 2.2) isn't yet available for the Evo 4G, and I suspect that it's the Sense layer that's holding things up. Speaking of 4G, there isn't any where I live in southern New Jersey, but there is in Philadelphia (about an hour's drive away). I haven't tested 4G coverage at all on my Evo, so I'm going to reserve judgement on that until I can properly test it.

One knock on the Evo 4G is it's abysmal battery life. It's pretty atrocious, but because I haven't been using it as my full-time phone (yet) I haven't had much of an issue. But to the iPhone lovers that often point this out, I'll remind them that the Evo 4G has a removable battery and will connect to any industry standard micro USB charger cable. This beats the hell out of sealed batteries and expensive, proprietary cables any day.

Is it perfect? No. But it is better than the iPhone 3GS, and it's the third phone that's better than the iPhone 3GS. When Android 2.2 comes out for the Evo (soon, please?) it will take another huge leap forward. Apple definitely has its work cutout for it and if all it has is what I've seen in the iPhone OS 4 builds and the iPhone HD leaks, then the war may already be over.

I'll take another look at the Evo 4G (and Incredible and N1) after we see what Cupertino has cooked of for devs on June 7, 2010.

Editorial standards