Friday was a pretty big day for Sprint and HTC, joining up to launch the HTC EVO 4G (codename Supersonic). The EVO is the first mainstream 4G smartphone to launch in the US and runs on Sprint's fledgling 4G WiMAX network. I've got one, and I must say, it's a pretty beastly device, for reasons both good and bad. But we'll get to that in a minute. This isn't a full review, Anand is still waiting on his review sample before tackling that beast, but I thought I'd share some of my first impressions.

First off, for those of you who have been hiding under a rock for the last few months, the EVO 4G is basically the biggest, baddest phone on the market. It's similar to the HD2 and carries over the same 4.3" 800x480 capacitive multitouch display and 1GHz Qualcomm Snapdragon SoC. On top of that, it has 512MB RAM, an 8 megapixel camera with 720p video recording, dual LED flash, a 1.3MP front facing camera for video chatting, Sense UI running on top of Eclair (Android 2.1), a 1500 mAh battery, and an 8GB microSD card included right out of the box. Think of it as a souped-up, Android-running HD2, or even a super-sized HTC Droid Incredible. Either way, this is one serious piece of kit.

In person, it's a pretty huge phone. There's not much wasted space on the device, but the screen itself is nearly the same size as the entire iPhone 3G front face. A few millimeters larger than the iPhone in every direction, it ends up feeling a lot larger. More than the size, though, is the sheer mass of the EVO, weighing in at 6 ounces. That's a full 1.4 oz heavier than the iPhone 3G, and definitely noticeable in hand.

But once you turn it on, all concerns about size wash away - that screen makes it all worth it. I'm a longtime iPhone user, and the WVGA resolution is pretty awesome compared to the 480x320 iPhone screen. Not that the iPhone screen is bad, just that the EVO has 2.5 times the number of pixels. It's so crisp, so amazing. Granted, the new iPhone 4 will ship with a 960x640 IPS screen by the end of the month, so the EVO won't stay amazing for long, but for now, it's a brilliant screen.

Smartphone Spec Comparison
  HTC EVO 4G Apple iPhone 4 Apple iPhone 3GS
Network Sprint 3G/4G AT&T 3G AT&T 3G
SoC 65nm Qualcomm Snapdragon 45nm Apple A4 65nm Apple A3/Samsung
CPU Qualcomm Scorpion 1GHz ARM Cortex A8 (1GHz?) ARM Cortex A8 600MHz
GPU Qualcomm Adreno 200 PowerVR SGX 535 200MHz PowerVR SGX 535 200MHz
Storage 8GB microSD, up to 32GB 16GB/32GB on-board NAND 16GB/32GB on-board NAND
Display 4.3" 800 x 480 3.5" 960 x 640 3.5" 480 x 320
Camera 8MP Rear + 1.3MP Front 5MP Rear + VGA Front 3MP Rear
Video Recording 720p25 720p30 480p30
Dimensions 4.8" x 2.6" x 0.5" 4.5" x 2.3" x 0.37" 4.5" x 2.4" x 0.48"
Weight 6 oz 4.8 oz 4.7 oz
Price $199 after $100 MIR $199 - $299 $199 - $299 at launch

The Sense UI skin is pretty much the same as previous HTC devices, so it's familiar and works well. The UI is pretty slick, with more eye-candy than the iPhone, but an overall busier user experience. The Snapdragon processor slices through the interface like a hot knife through butter; it makes my old iPhone 3G feel like it operates in slow motion. I haven't run it side by side with an Incredible to verify Engadget's claim that the HTC Incredible runs significantly faster (despite having the same internals and OS), but either way, the EVO is nowhere near slow.

My experience with 4G is still fairly limited at this point - Sprint's WiMax network has pretty good coverage in Seattle (significantly better than T-Mobile in my area, not quite as good as AT&T 3G) and speed tests show around 2.5 Mbps down and 1 Mbps upload. This isn't quite as good as expected, but I have some doubts with the Speedtest.net Android application itself, so we'll see. There are some other well-reviewed speed test apps in the Android Market that I plan to check out.

But regardless of 4G speed, one thing the 4G radio definitely does is massacre battery life. You can basically kiss it goodbye if you have the 4G radio enabled. On launch day, I had to run almost as soon as I got my hands on the phone, so I just basically turned it on and threw it in my backpack. It was at around 40% battery when I did that. Two hours (of completely idle time) later, it gave me a 10% battery warning and a half hour after that it was dead. Apparently, 4G and GPS were enabled out of the box and I hadn't looked at that beforehand. With the 4G radio running, expect around 6 hours of IDLE battery life. If you're really hitting the 4G, expect far, far less than that. When we do our full review of the device we'll have detailed battery life tests.

More reasonable real world battery tests give me more optimism that the EVO can last a full day of use, if you're careful. 15 hours of use with quite a few phone calls, some texting/email, GPS navigation to dinner, and a bit of 3G browsing took me from full charge to about 60% remaining (4G, GPS, Wifi, and Bluetooth radios all off). I got similar battery life on WiFi with zero phone calls, some email and browsing, and a 1 hour long Skype video chat through Fring. So, most people who aren't going crazy with the 4G can get a full day of use out of it (but not more than that).

Still, it's pretty disappointing that the EVO's most touted feature is also  the feature to avoid if you actually want to use the phone - I accidentally left 4G running (again), the battery died within a couple of hours, and I was basically without a phone for the rest of the day since I didn't notice the dead battery before running out the door. Essentially, use 4G at your peril. Other than that, though, it's great.

The EVO goes up head to head against the similar HTC Droid Incredible on Verizon, the hotly anticipated iPhone 4 on AT&T, and the Samsung Galaxy S, which is rumoured to launch on T-Mobile this summer. With a lengthy list of standard features, the bleeding edge WiMax network, and Sprint's very reasonable data charges, it's a lot easier to overlook the suspect battery life and any other annoyances. If you're looking for a good reason to go for a more open platform than Apple's iOS, the EVO gives you a very enticing option.

Apparently, the general public thinks so as well, with the EVO 4G selling out nationwide today, just five days after launch. Most stores had lines starting from the night before, and Sprint says this is their most successful device launch ever. After using the EVO 4G for a few days, I think it’s easy to see why.

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  • Soldier1969 - Wednesday, June 9, 2010 - link

    Iphone 4 FTW. 10- 14 hours of battery life doing usual stuff,browsing, video, calls, emails, texting 10 - 20 a day with pics mms. Execellent 3G coverage in my city. The sceen for the Evo is the only thing going for it, but 2 hours of battery life with 4G really? so those 3 people that actually have 4G are happy about that Im sure. Yes im trolling, your Evo punks come to our Apple sites to bash so its my turn! Reply
  • cknobman - Wednesday, June 9, 2010 - link

    10-14 hrs you know this how? Is the phone out yet and have you verified this personally or are you just going off what specs on paper claim?

    Also hope you and the rest of the apple club love your data caps and tethering. LOL, more $$$$ than sense.
    Reply
  • Zebo - Wednesday, June 9, 2010 - link

    Data caps are a joke as well with iPhone. Good luck with that new netflix app when you only get 2GB/mo - that's one movie. Reply
  • solipsism - Wednesday, June 9, 2010 - link

    That's over 15 hours of video on Netflix. Reply
  • NCAM - Thursday, June 10, 2010 - link

    @Zebo, who wrote: "Good luck with that new netflix app when you only get 2GB/mo - that's one movie."

    And good luck to you trying to download a 2GB movie over any cellular network using any handset. Do the math and figure out how many hours that would take, even if you could maintain the connection.

    Get used to it: cellular spectrum and bandwidth are a commodities in short supply. As such it's inevitable that data will be priced/limited accordingly.
    Reply
  • Donkey2008 - Wednesday, June 9, 2010 - link

    Uh, the new data caps do not apply to us current iPhone users upgrading to 4. Besides, ALL carriers are going to have data caps within the next 18 months, so your point is hypocritical. Good to see yet another well-informed, knowledgable Android user. Reply
  • Xenoterranos - Friday, June 11, 2010 - link

    Sprint's 4G network is truly unlimited. It's basically the Clear infrastructure, which is also truly unlimited. I don't forsee them crushing what little headway they've made by instituting caps. Mind you, there may be softcaps hidden somewhere in their service, but I've never come across someone hitting them. Reply
  • Zebo - Wednesday, June 9, 2010 - link

    Only thing over iPhone4 besides
    -Flash
    -Monopolistic browser, no opera, dolphin, etc
    -Purposeful widgets on desktop
    -easier connectivity options
    -add music w/o itunes
    -Endless personalization
    -More free apps, better free apps and more to come
    -Better Google integration
    -cheaper by the month
    -cheaper initially
    -no iAds

    The list is endless.
    Reply
  • Zebo - Wednesday, June 9, 2010 - link

    Meant to say ..No Monopolistic browser, no opera, dolphin, etc Reply
  • DLeRium - Wednesday, June 9, 2010 - link

    Except Safari > xScope > Dolphin HD > Stock Browser

    Yes I'm an Android user. Flash is nice but almost useless on every website. Look at AT forums. Half the people talk about FlashBlock, NoScript, etc, disabling flash when they view websites. It's great for Hulu, Youtube, TV shows, and that's about it.

    And if you talk about games, the iPhone games > flash games > Android games anyday. you don't NEED flash. I see this as a point people cry about but in raelity it's just meh.

    "More free apps" - Except most Android apps suck. Free doesn't change a thing.

    "Cheaper by the month" - How so? Use an N1 on AT&T and you get booted to $30/month. It's the same.

    Quite honestly the iPhone's made many leaps and bounds just like Android has. I don't think the two are that far apart. Google still has a LOT of maturing to do.
    Reply

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