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:
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
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