Print 12 comment(s) - last by bodar.. on Jul 20 at 2:48 AM

HTC's eco-friendly packaging

This keyboard will be the death of me!
My take on HTC's flagship smartphone

Let me preface this piece by saying that I've been an iPhone user for the past year. I bought an iPhone 3GS on launch day, and for two years prior to that owned two generations of iPod touches. Bearing that in mind, I've become accustomed to Apple's iOS and know its ins and outs. I've jailbroken my iPod touches in the past, but am currently using an iPhone 4 with iOS4 (no jailbreak is available... yet). I of course have plenty of experience with some of the thoroughly modern mobile operating systems like Android OS and webOS, but I've never used one as my personal phone for an extended period of time.

Hopefully, this gives you at least a bit of background on where I'm coming from as I sat down to take a look at the Sprint (HTC) EVO 4G. If you've been following the HTC EVO 4G here on DailyTech, you already know the main specifications of the phone. Here's a refresher of the highlights:

  • Android 2.1 w/HTC Sense UI
  • 4.3" (480x800 display)
  • 1GHz Snapdragon processor
  • 1GB ROM/512MB RAM
  • microSD slot (8GB microSD included)
  • 1500 mAh battery
  • Wi-Fi (802.11b/g), Bluetooth 2.1, 3G, 4G Data (WiMAX)
  • GPS, Digital Compass
  • 8MP primary camera with LED flash + 1.3mp front-facing camera for video conferencing
  • HDMI-out

The first thing I noticed when taking this phone out of its eco-friendly packaging is how large the screen is. It simply dwarfed the 3.5” screen of my iPhone 3GS. But it wasn't until I turned the device on that my jaw really dropped in amazement at the 4.3” screen of the EVO 4G.

My first encounter with the EVO 4G wasn't exactly a smooth one. With my iPhone, I've just grown accustomed to having an internal battery that can't be replaced (for better or for worse). Before first turning on the EVO 4G for the first time, you have to install the 1500 mAh lithium-ion battery. To do this, you must stick your fingernail into a little grove directly behind the power button and pry the back panel off. Seems simple enough, but while the left side of the panel came off with ease, the right side was hanging on for dear life. As I was fearful of breaking off the delicate plastic tabs holding the the panel in place, I had to slowly wiggle the panel back and forth until it finally “popped” free. Crisis averted.

While we're talking about the back of the device, let me point out one area of praise for HTC and one area of scorn. First the positive; the integrated kickstand is quite novel. This could truly come in handy when flying on an airplane and you want to prop your phone up on the tray table to catch a few movies, or simply just set the smartphone down on a table to allow others to join you in viewing random YouTube content.

However, I have to raise an eyebrow at the camera lens which juts out from the back casing of the phone. When the phone is laying screen up, the phone is resting directly on the lens. It shouldn't take long with the lens to get scratched or fogged up during normal wear and tear over the course of a two-year contract period.

The device itself has a nice heft to it. While it's larger in every dimension than my iPhone 4, it doesn't feel cumbersome and its fits nicely in my hand. Weight is also not an issue – it's just a hair heavier than the iPhone 4. Build quality all around is excellent. There are high-quality plastics used for the body, while the kickstand is made out of metal and appears to be quite sturdy. The only nitpicks that I have are that the amber charging LED can be seen shining through the headphone port when the phone is charging and there is some light leakage around the touch sensitive buttons beneath the screen.

There have been some reports around the web that the glass is separating from the LCD on some EVO 4G units, but I have yet to encounter this problem.

There is just something to be said about turning on the device, entering in your Gmail account information, and having your contacts, emails, and calendar information all sync over almost instantaneously without once having to plug your phone in with a USB cable. From the moment I turned on the phone until I had a fully functioning, fully “roadworthy” smartphone with all of my pertinent information onboard was just a couple of minutes.

The keyboard, my goodness the keyboard. Where to start? It's interesting that with a screen nearly an inch larger diagonally than my iPhone 4 that I've had such incredible issues with the default keyboard. With my iPhone 4, I'm used to a rather basic keyboard – you have the standard QWERTY layout in addition to a Shift key, Backspace, and “@123” which brings up the number pad and other seldom used symbols. Seems simple enough.

However, with the EVO 4G, what should be a better experience has been an exercise in frustration for me. First of all, the standard keyboard is simply overcrowded. You have your standard QWERTY layout, but there are also numbers and symbols crowded above those letters which can be accessed by tapping and holding a key – it makes for a cluttered appearance to the keys.

HTC has also included a second way to access numbers and symbols using the “12#” key. And while the actual keys are overloaded with information, the keyboard itself is also cluttered. Besides the standard keys, the keyboard is also littered with directional keys, a “Hide Keyboard” key, and microphone key (for voice recognition). All of these additional keys leave you with just a tiny nub for a spacebar – one of the most used keys in anyone’s typing arsenal.

And that's the not the worst part. When you're typing along, you're blasted in the face with Autocorrect suggestions that when combined with the overly complex keyboard makes typing a chore.

This however, is about the most heated criticism I can lay against the EVO 4G. My other experiences with the phone have been quite commendable.

That's it for my first impressions of the device. The next part will detail more about the Android OS, performance of the phone (4G, camera, etc), more comparisons with the iPhone 4, and finding a suitable replacement for that blasted keyboard.

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grammar police
By Mojo the Monkey on 7/15/2010 1:13:56 PM , Rating: 3
but I have yet to encounter this problems.

should be "these problems" or "this problem"


RE: grammar police
By vapore0n on 7/15/2010 2:03:20 PM , Rating: 6
Give him a break. He is still learning how to use the Evo keyboard


RE: grammar police
By Mojo the Monkey on 7/16/2010 2:05:35 PM , Rating: 5
Well, counsel, given that he does appear to have an otherwise clean record, I am inclined to be lenient today. Fine reduced to $10 with the remaining $290 suspended and to be added to any subsequent violation.

Keep your nose clean.

By irev210 on 7/15/2010 2:33:35 PM , Rating: 3
Get Swype, and the keyboard will rock your world. Takes a few days of getting used to, but after that - typing is no longer a pain in the neck.

Also, test 4G. In Boston (while not officially launched) I get 4G on my way to work every day. I have no problems getting between 3-6mbit down / 1mbit up (upload is capped).

Battery life is fickle. Turn off Google Talk, along with a few other battery hogging apps and all of a sudden 2 days is not out of the question. Having 4G on in a no-go 4G zone = lots of time searching for signal which = poor battery life.

By Mojo the Monkey on 7/16/2010 2:07:58 PM , Rating: 2
I agree. Swype is amazing. I took a leap and left my qwerty G1 and got myself a samsung vibrant. Holy hell. Amazingness of everything else aside, the swype keyboard is actually as fast or faster than my G1-tuned fingers the physical keyboard.

I think swype is the way forward. I also really dig the voice transcription for texting on the android input method.

The package
By Etern205 on 7/17/2010 10:58:28 PM , Rating: 2
some how reminds me of instant ramen. :P

RE: The package
By bodar on 7/20/2010 2:48:25 AM , Rating: 2
It's actually closer to an egg carton, very fibrous.

By ChronoReverse on 7/15/2010 10:43:29 AM , Rating: 2
Not sure if the beta is closed yet (I installed it before it closed and I plan to get this when the full version comes out) but if you can get it, you really must (there should be an older beta floating around you could try out too).

At first I wasn't convinced because the accuracy didn't seem very good. But as I taught it more words, it became my sole choice in portrait mode. It's nice being able to do what would appear to be some swirls and pop out long email address that would otherwise be a pain to type out.

In any case, see if you already have another keyboard installed; hold down the bottom left key (IIRC) and it should pop up a list of available keyboards. There's a number of free (beta and otherwise) keyboards you could try out too.

EVO 4G is for those folks leaving WinMo
By vision33r on 7/16/10, Rating: -1
By CanadianPre on 7/16/2010 12:21:54 PM , Rating: 2
Too Big of a screen? Not for the people I deal with. I'm a tech by trade and everyone in my field wants bigger screens. When I go home, my kids 13/17 want bigger screens. Their friends come over and talk about more screen space to see without squinting or fumbling over tiny web page buttons. Not sure who you deal with that feels the phone is too 'big'.

The iPhone 4 screen is quite nice...but lets be honest. No one really cared a year ago that you could get a 3.5" screen with a higher res than the iPhone 3; so it won't be a selling point now for the majority.

As for a 'potential' Apple tablet with a Retina display...correct me if I'm wrong, but isn't the current display on the tablet LOWER than the iPhone 4? And since when has Apple stated they will manufacture a new tablet with the Retina display. They have a track record for putting out what they want to put out when they want to do it.

While on the tablet side of things....what do you think of the upcoming Android tablets & PHONES that will support higher resolutions than the Retina display. And you won't even have to wait a year....more like 4-5 months. :)

RE: EVO 4G is for those folks leaving WinMo
By bodar on 7/19/2010 11:56:21 PM , Rating: 2
OK, first of all, there's only one Android distro, just different versions (like XP, Vista, Win7). The only differences are in the manufacturer UIs and the carrier-specific apps. This does have its pros/cons, but the fact that Android is customizable means that a replacement is only a download away. Don't like the browser? There's several to choose from. If you don't want to do things the iOS/AT&T way, you're SOL.

Second, I don't find it bulky at all, even in a case. The screen real estate makes it totally worthwhile, unless you only wear tight pants or have a really small purse.

The iPhone 4 IPS screen is indeed gorgeous (my buddy has one and I've put it through its paces). Actually, the iPad does use IPS, and at a slightly higher res than iPhone 4 -- I've played with it briefly as well.

4G is usually faster than 3 Mbps, at least in the lower 48. I'm in HI and I get between 3-4 Mbps, but that's slow for 4G (price for living in paradise, eh?). A lot of people are pulling 5-7mpbs easy, with peaks up to 9 Mbps(!). I agree that it seems less worthwhile if you live in a 3G-only zone, until you consider that Sprint is usually cheaper than other carriers (except T-Mo) to begin with:

-Sprint: 450 Anytime min and Uncapped text/data, with $10 "EVO" charge = $80/month


-AT&T: 450 Anytime min and 5GB data (not sure if texts are included) = $100/month

For me, the EVO is better because I like the way Android works, the customization, the larger screen, plus the notifications are way better than iOS 4. I can't tell you how many times I'd be playing with the iPhone 4 and some text msg would pop-up over the app like an ignored child with ADHD. So annoying. I just can't get into iOS at all, despite the very, very nice hardware (the screen/UI response is also quite snappy) and the vastly superior game library.

By bodar on 7/20/2010 2:47:09 AM , Rating: 2
P.S. - That's not to say that EVO & Android 2.1 is all rainbows and sunshine. There are some "usability" issues here and there that could be tightened up, the effective Wi-Fi range is shorter than other Android phones, and scrolling/landscape transitions are never 100% silky smooth. The pros just outweigh the cons, for me. Battery life is actually far better since the OTA update, compared to at launch.

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