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jkOnTheRun Review: HTC EVO 4G Superphone

Sprint (s s) is no doubt ecstatic over high sales numbers of the HTC EVO 4G late last week (although not as much as before). The EVO 4G is the lastest Android (s goog) phone to hit the market and is chock-full of features to appeal to any power user. The phone is large but thin, and has a fast Snapdragon processor to keep things snappy. The EVO is not for everyone, but for those looking for a phone with virtually every hardware feature available it just might be the one.


HTC set the bar with the HD2 released earlier this year, and the EVO 4G is the next generation of that handset. The first thing you notice about the EVO is the large 4.3-inch display, the same as the HD2. The phone is still very thin and the screen fills almost the entire front of the device so it is smaller than expected. That big screen is accompanied by two cameras (8 MP and 1.3 MP on front) along with an HDMI port for displaying the HD videos captured on the phone to a TV.

The EVO is not much bigger than the iPhone, but for those with small hands it may be too wide for comfortable use. I don’t find it too wide but have heard that complaint from others, so try before you buy. The EVO is a little heavier than some phones, although not by much considering how much is packed in the thin form.

There is a unique kickstand on the back of the phone, and while it seems like a gimmick it turns out to be a very useful feature. The big, gorgeous screen of the EVO is great for watching video, something that is very easy to do given the kickstand. It props the phone up just right for video calls, too. I works well in landscape orientation, and while it works in portrait it’s not stable to do safely.


  • Processor: Qualcomm (s qcom) SnapDragon, 1 GHz
  • Display: 4.3 inch LCD 480×800
  • Memory: 512 MB
  • Storage: 8 GB microSD included (up to 32 GB)
  • Radios: 4G, 3G (EVDO Rev A), Wi-Fi b/g, FM Radio, Bluetooth 2.1, GPS
  • Cameras: 8 MP (rear), 1.3 MP (front)
  • Ports: HDMI out, microUSB, 3.5 mm headphone
  • Battery: 1500 mAh
  • Dimensions: 4.8 x 2.6 x 0.5 inch, 6 ounces
  • OS: Android 2.1 with HTC Sense

Initial Boot

Sprint and HTC have a good first boot utility that runs the first time you power the EVO on. The phone was activated and then stepped through the various account configurations to maximize the Android/ Sense experience.  Those with Google (s goog) accounts (Gmail, etc.) enter in the login credentials and the EVO begins syncing contacts, Gmail and calendar events in the background. Social networks (Twitter, Facebook and Flickr) can also be configured at this time (or later) to have the phone syncing updates for them.

This configuration only takes a few minutes and the phone is ready to go when complete. HTC includes a lot of apps as part of the Sense package and these are ready to go immediately. Peep is the Sense app for Twitter, and it’s surprisingly good and will be all many owners need. Friendstream is an aggregator that pulls in updates from the three social networks into one stream for easy referral. There’s a Friendstream widget that fills one of the seven home screens, and the app that runs standalone to do the same thing.

It’s easy to spin through the seven home screens, where widgets and icons can be placed to access frequently used information. There are numerous HTC widgets, such as the famous clock/weather widget found on most Sense phones. All of the home screens can be configured to suit the owner, and moving from one to another is as simple as swiping left/right on the screen. Pinching in on any of the home screens activates a full-screen preview of all the home screens, allowing direct access to any one by tapping the thumbnail. Hitting the Home button on any one of the screen takes you back to the main (middle) home screen, and hitting that button twice also fires up the preview screen.

There are four touch-sensitive “buttons” on the bottom of the screen in portrait orientation: Home, Menu, Back and Search. Haptic feedback can be activated for verification when these buttons or the screen are pressed. The Menu button gives access to Settings and other system functions on the home screens, and specific app menus when an app is active. The Back button take you back one screen, and the Search activates the search from anywhere. Both text and voice searches are possible.

Phone functions

The EVO is first and foremost a phone, and audio quality is quite good; numerous callers have commented on its clarity. The speakerphone function works very well, as the speaker is very loud for a phone. The microphone is of decent quality, too.

Making a phone call is as simple as hitting the soft phone button on the bottom of the home screen. This fires up the dialer with a keypad on the screen. There is a smart search in the dialer that narrows down contacts as keys are pressed, and tapping the desired contact initiates the call.


The EVO has two cameras: an 8 MP camera with auto-focus on the back, and a 1.3 MP camera on the front. The front camera is a small lens just above the Sprint (s s) logo on the upper right of the EVO in portrait orientation. The rear camera has a dual LED flash, and can handle adjusting for background lighting quite well.

The front camera can be used with Qik (in the Android Market) to make video calls. The quality is reasonable and is a decent solution for mobile video chats. The free Fring app (also in the Market) can be used for video calls, and even works with Skype contact lists. A sample video shot with the front camera is here.

The rear camera can record 720p HD video of reasonable quality, along with full still recording. The auto-focus works well, and even has face detection to aid in that process. This camera will not win any awards, but is a solid tool for a phone. A sample video shot with the rear camera is here.


I’ve been using the Sprint-branded Telenav Navigation service on the Palm (s palm) Pre for a year, and it’s a great navigation tool. Sprint is including it for free on the EVO 4G, and it is great on the big screen of this phone. Sprint Navigation works well with the GPS on the EVO, and provides outstanding traffic reports while on trips. I have altered a route a number of times based on breaking traffic situations, and this is priceless. This Android version of Sprint Navigation is better than the webOS version found on the Palm Pre. I find the EVO GPS gets satellite reception better than the Pre, too.

Google Maps Navigation also works well on the EVO, and is a solution many will be happy with. It’s not quite as easy to operate as Sprint Navigation while on a route, but it’s a solid performer. It’s awesome having two great free navigation tools on the EVO 4G.


This phone is fast! I have tested many smartphones, including the Nexus One running Android 2.2, and I find the EVO to be the fastest. There is rarely any lag between doing something on the phone and the resultant action. Hit an icon and the app opens immediately. Web pages load up very quickly, almost as fast as my desktop. It’s a joy to use, even with lots of apps open and multitasking.

The EVO really shines as a media device, and I quickly replaced the included 8 GB microUSB card with my own 16 GB card. I put a lot of music and videos on the card and the EVO works well as both a music and video player. That big screen is great for video, and the speaker is very loud and quite good quality for listening to music on either the speaker or on Bluetooth stereo headphones.


The EVO does a great job moving between 3G (EVDO) and 4G (WiMAX) coverage as available. The throughput on 4G is wonderful, and feels more like a desktop system than a phone. When it steps down to 3G due to lack of 4G coverage, the Sprint network is still pretty fast and I have no complaints.

Sprint offers the Mobile Hotspot service for $29.99/month, which I signed up for at purchase time. It’s not contract-bound so it can be turned on and off a month at a time online. I want to try it out and if it keeps working as well as a hotspot as it has so far I will eat the ETF on my Overdrive and cancel it to use the EVO. The Overdrive is $60/month so the EVO hotspot service at half that price makes the ETF a good business decision.

The hotspot on the EVO will power eight devices at once, compared to five on the Overdrive. I’ve used up to three devices at once in my testing, and it’s worked flawlessly. Sharing a strong 4G connection is simply great, and has to be experienced to fully appreciate. When 4G is not available the hotspot shares the 3G connection, and that’s not bad, either. I don’t find the battery is hit unduly hard while the EVO is functioning as a hotspot.

Battery Life

I was concerned about battery life based on accounts I’d seen on the web prior to using the EVO. Those concerns were unfounded, as I find the battery lasts all day with fairly heavy usage. Battery drain depends on how the phone is used, and with so many radios in the EVO it can be hit hard. I find that a little diligence is all that’s needed to stretch the battery out all day. With normal use the lowest the battery has drained on a given day is 11 percent left in the tank at day’s end.

If I’m not using a given radio, I turn it off. That’s what I do with any smartphone, so there’s nothing unusual about the EVO in this regard. HTC has included some cool widgets for turning each radio on/off via a simple tap. There are widgets for GPS, Wi-Fi, 4G, Bluetooth and Hotspot that make it easy to stay on top of things. I’m still in the honeymoon stage with the EVO, meaning heavier use than normal, and the battery will get me through the entire day. It’s getting pretty empty by then, but it makes it. I will most likely buy a second battery for trips, just in case.

The heavy computer-like uses possible with the EVO no question hits the battery as hard as can be on a phone. I will state that apart from the bizarre issue I experienced early on — that I believe I inadvertently caused (due to the lack of information that anyone else on the web has reported it) — the EVO hits the battery no worse than other phones I’ve used. I have no concerns about the battery life on the EVO based on actually using the device heavily.

Sprint Plans, Included Software

The EVO 4G is only available in the U.S. on the Sprint network, which makes sense as it has the only 4G WiMAX network for phones. The carrier has included a lot of services and software to add value to the EVO owner. The EVO is running Android 2.1, and both Sprint and HTC have indicated version 2.2 will be available “soon.” The software included by Sprint and HTC as part of the Sense interface is quite extensive:

  • Sprint TV
  • Sprint Navigation
  • HTC Friendstream
  • FM Radio (wired headphone used as antenna– not included)
  • Google Maps (Navigation)
  • Amazon MP3 Store
  • PDF Viewer
  • Peep (HTC Twitter app)
  • Facebook
  • Sprint Nascar
  • Qik
  • Sprint Football (NFL)
  • Sprint Hotspot
  • Google Services (Talk, Voice, Gmail)
  • HTC Stocks
  • Assorted HTC widgets (radio toggles, etc.)
  • Voice Dialer
  • Voice Recorder
  • Voice Search
  • Visual Voicemail
  • Weather
  • YouTube
  • Teeter (game)
  • Search People
  • HTC News
  • Quickoffice
  • Music
  • Videos
  • Gallery
  • Desk Clock
  • Clock
  • Calculator

Sprint is including all of the additional services (Nascar, Sprint TV, Sprint Navigation) as part of the unlimited data plans for the EVO 4G. Sprint offers an Unlimited Everything plan that includes unlimited voice calls, data and texting for $109.99 per month. I don’t use the phone as much as data so I went with the Everything Data 450 plan that is unlimited everything but only 450 anytime minutes. This plan still gets me unlimited mobile-to-mobile minutes so is the best deal for me at $79.99/ month. Both of these monthly fees include the famous $10 “premium data” charge, for which Sprint is catching a lot of heat.

The phone is $199 at Sprint for qualified upgraders and new customers signing a 2-year contract. This is after a $100 mail-in rebate. Sprint unexpectedly bought my original Palm Pre back for $70 when I bought the EVO, so my total purchase price with contract was only $129. It might be worth a trip to the Sprint store to upgrade and ask about this buy-back program.


I don’t usually recommend a given phone as everyone’s needs are different. The EVO 4G is not for everyone; some will find it too big while others will need fewer features. I can only report what my own experience with a given phone is, and how a particular phone works for me. I will state that I tried the EVO for a few days and then bought one for myself. This is the best smartphone I have used so far, and it gets better every day as I get a chance to try different things with it. It’s a good phone, has a nice media player, stellar web appliance, a decent camera and a great navigation system. Geek that I am, I’m sure I’ll be lusting after another phone down the road. For now, I’m happy with the EVO 4G on Sprint.

Related content from GigaOM Pro (sub req’d): Google’s Mobile Strategy: Understanding the Nexus One

46 Responses to “jkOnTheRun Review: HTC EVO 4G Superphone”

  1. i just wanted to put this out there, not sure if anyone has actually done it or if you already got it… but i just went into my phone settings and went to the updates option, went into software updates and checked it for an update and the 2.2 is downloading on my phone now… it was checked for checking updates automatically but i did it manually and its now downloading…. well figured id let people know if you didnt already….

  2. kingsnarfer

    Anyone seeing EVO’s screen separating from the rest of the phone? I’m eligible for renewal and would like to stick with Sprint but I don’t want to invest in a $200 phone that will break on me in 6 months.

  3. As usual, an excellent and casual read from one of the most popular websites for objective and unbiased feedback.

    Outside of playing with my wife’s Hero for a few minutes here and there, I have had no experience with Android. I too was sporting a Palm Pre the past year, and while I love it I’m concerned about the future under HP. Yesterday my EVO arrived, and after a few hours of learning, customizing, installing and tinkering I will be keeping it. I was skeptical – I still think WebOS is the most intuitive, easy to use and manage smartphone OS there is – but am now sold. Speed, the display, some amazing applications, Sprint quality (I too am in VA, where AT&T coverage and quality are both pretty bad) and price all have me wowed.

    James, at some point in your spare time a comparison between HTC Evo and your experience with Palm Pre would be most welcome. I doubt anyone else will, its up to you!

  4. Just got one too. Coming from an iPhone for two years and Palm Pre for a few months and all I can say is WOW!

    You can do things on this phone that you just can’t do on any other phone!

    Very impressive screen as well. Just blown away!

  5. David I

    I have to say that independent of all the OS comparisons. The screen is just something you cannot beat. The ability to have such an expansive viewing real estate is a huge plus. You cannot even understand it until you do simple things like, email, browsing, looking at pictures on a daily basis it such a huge benefit.

    Eventually as our phone become our laptops , a screen between the EVO and the future Dell Streak might become the norm.

    The only delta’s of the EVO are the battery cover and the SD card slot operation. Its just

  6. Thank you James for a great level headed objective review.

    Too much of the press about this phone has turned into an ‘us vs. them’ fanboy flame fest.

    I personally love this phone and I know now that I have made the right decision in giving my iPhone a rest in the fail corner.

    I think this phone is a great sign of an alternative path of thought for people that not only rely on specifications for their shopping decisions but the potential for growth of a device in its lifecycle. (I stress potential) I personally am tired of throw away technology and magical walled gardens.

    With that said, the key to my satisfaction is the phone is right for ME.

    I live in Chicago, 4G is available.
    I work on three devices that can use the wifi hotspot and save money over my Clear subscription.
    I work in a frequent contact industry and need to have a stable phone call.
    I appreciate the video, music, and other entertainment features on the train during my commute.

    There are many more features that I can list that I appreciate but I don’t want to get picked apart by people that will argue that my decisions are not my own and I need to heed to their point of view.

    Thanks again James for being a professional in the tech arena.

  7. Bruce Wilson

    I was considering getting the EVO 4G and the Overdrive and just making the switch to Sprint for its Wimax capability. I’ve been using the original HTC Leo (HD2 – UK version) on AT&T but that’s limited to EVDO. Your comment about the EVO 4G hotspot got me thinking though — I’ve used my Leo/HD2 as a hotspot (AT&T doesn’t charge for it) but I find that I have to leave my phone near my PC or contact (and wifi) is lost, which is kind of restrictive. I have a GSM MiFi I purchased in Europe that works great on AT&T so I generally use that for my (and any other needy) PC which is why the Overdrive appeals to me — do you find the limitation I describe with using your EVO 4G as a hotspot….. won’t that constrain your use?

  8. Valley Bob

    You lost me at “Superphone”.

    Your next post should be titled:

    “How to save readers time by proving your review is disingenuous by parroting the ridiculous marketing buzzwords used by the products creator in the title, thereby ensuring the reader will not actually read the review”

    Maybe you can shorten it a bit.

    • Wow – a few of the people posting comments to James’ posts regarding the EVO are downright venomous. I am no Apple hater, but I must say it is pleasing to see how mad all of the Apple Fanboys are getting due to the attention the EVO is receiving…even after the new iphone was announced. The fact is that the new iphone doesn’t bring any immediate game changing features. Even the video call/chat feature is subpar as it is over wifi only. James’ review and other EVO-related posts should be taken for what they are – his honest observations based on his use of the device and appraisal of how it fits his needs. For what it is worth, I agree with 99% of his observations. I have had over 20 different “smartphones” from 2001 to present and used all of the major OSs. In my view, the EVO is the best so far….bar none. Hardware, software and network are excellent. 4G is revolutionary, even if not yet widespread. Given the specs, how can anyone complain about the device being described as a “superphone,” especially people who refer to the iphone as the jesusphone!

      • Robert

        I think it’s funny that he is claiming the review was basically using the buzzwords used by the products creator and yet all the Apple fans are out in force about how GREAT the new iPhone is. Hey don’t get me wrong… I think the new iPhone is pretty slick looking and the phone is not a piece of junk. The iPhone is a great tool and device in it’s own right. But not ONE of these reviews or writers/bloggers who are comparing the iPhone 4 to the EVO have even had a chance to touch it yet… Well maybe for a couple of minutes if they were at the Apple convention but no one has actually held an EVO and the iPhone 4 at the same time and ran head to head test….. All they are doing is quoting Steve Jobs speech and Steve Jobs is one of the WORLDS BEST salesmen.. Hands down PERIOD.. I personally spent 2 years with AT&T and when your in a good area the iPhone is great.. Awesome device… I enjoyed my time with the iPhone…. Then I got a Nexus One…. If not for T-Mobile I would still have it (Great device is only as great as the Network it operates on) so I dumped the Nexus One and I am now a proud owner of an EVO and IN MY WORLD and where I work, live and play….. Sprint is a better options and I get 30 days to test out the phone and the Network if not happy I can return it…. So far I am loving the device and the network it’s on….

    • pizzleini

      James, as always you give an objective review of any device you touch. You loved the Palm Pre. But, you plainly stated that after you used it for a while it wasn’t for you. Continue to ‘review’ the HTC Evo. I’m shure when you get the iPhone 4, you will give the phone the same consideration you gave to all of the devices you have reviewed. As for me: I love the Evo. The best phone I’ve ever had. Am I an iPhone hater? No. Just a Evo lover.

  9. Scotty

    At my condo I’ve always had marginal to non-existent cell phone service. The iPhone’s all had to be plugged in overnight or they’d have exhausted their batteries by morning trying to stay in contact with at&t.

    With the EVO 4G I was inspired to get Sprint’s Airave and for the first time in my life I can sleep with my smartphone unplugged and still have a 95% battery in the morning! The voice quality of the EVO 4G is so crystal clear that I’m getting ready to pull the plug on my home VoIP and switch all the way over to Sprint.

    When I’m out and about Sprint hasn’t dropped a call yet. On the bus ride home there are three dead zones on I-90 where at&t always drops a call (for five years and despite numerous calls to complain). Sprint gets me all the way home on one call. On the EVO 4G when I whip it out to check the weather: I get the weather. When I check the market: I get my market data. On at&t those operations were either likely to fail and require a re-try or take some variable number of seconds up to timing out.

    I also get full strength Pandora, not the watered down version at&t forces on iPhone users. The speaker on the EVO 4G is large and high quality enough to think of it as a portable Pandora radio. And of course I have Pandora whilst browsing now. Not some future date when the new iOS 4 enabled Pandora ships.

  10. Steve

    “If I’m not using a given radio, I turn it off. That’s what I do with any smartphone, so there’s nothing unusual about the EVO in this regard.”

    I’ve never done this, I look forward to NOT doing it in the future. What a pain!

  11. This is a lesser phone than iPhone 4 and iOS 4 is better that Froyo (when you get that).
    Having said that, I think its the best phone for those who for some reason cannot get themselves to buy an iPhone.

    • Slim.Killer

      How much is Apple paying you to go from site to site taking about the iphone maybe you didnt see but the aticle is about the sprint evo not the iphone so please go back to your day to day job of blowing steven jobs.. Thank you for your time

      • cheesus

        I’m afraid Rob is right. I really enjoying reading these reviews of the new HTC phones. Andriod is undoubtably going to smash the iPhone eventually. The EVO looks brilliant but it’s just not quite there yet. My biggest concerns are the battery life & ease of managing the phone with a host PC. The iOS is still more integrated and refined. The UI experience is absolutely flawless.

        When I get sick of the admittedly boring iPhone home screen – the EVO will be the first phone i look at.

      • Well I have the Incredible, which I believe is almost the same as the Evo. My problem with Sense is it essentially de-Googles Android a little and adds things I simply don’t want. When adding a Contact, you must specifically select “Google” or else the contact won’t even be added to Gmail, it will be added to the phone locally instead (this is 2 extra steps). Also, Sense removes the awesome Gallery app from Android which syncs seamlessly with Picasa. They also make various changes to the UI that are simply not as logical. The unlock/decline call screen is one example. I just prefer the lean & mean Droid and Nexus UI.

        My question for you is can you actually switch back to a standard Android UI, without Sense? This the thing I read on various blogs that sounded interesting.

  12. Robert

    Good review… At least your not bashing other phones.. I picked up an EVO on Friday and I have actually been pleasantly surprised with the battery life. After reading review after review after review stating horrible battery life I was worried. Well I easily get through a full day of moderate use. Over the weekend with pretty heavy use getting to know my device and testing it and customizing my screens I still got 18 hours before it turned yellow and fell below 30% battery life. Then when it got to 20% I actually turned on the 4G radio (I don’t get 4G where I live) and WiFi while also streaming HQ video from You Tube in an attempt to kill the battery and it took nearly 2 hours to go from 20% to flat dead so it’s been fairly nice to have. Saw the new iPhone release and I am impressed with what they did and they will sell a ton of phones. For me I look at it as mostly a wash between the two devices…. It’s just going to come down to which network works best for you where you live, work and play and which OS you like better…. Customizable Android or for the most part stock iPhone OS….

  13. I found that once I installed Fring on my EVO and just opened it up, the app spawned a background process that would not allow the phone to sleep (i.e. Awake Time was equal to Up Time) and, as a result, my battery life suffered. Once I killed the process (using SystemPanel) the phone returned to normal operation.

    Has anyone else seen this happen, or am I just running a unique set of applications that’s causing my phone to freak out ?

    Thanks for any information given !

    • NeoteriX

      For most applications that have no need to be persistent (like a calculator), when you hit back or home, Android will close the application. However, other applications have such a need — like Fring which is essentially a chat program. You have a buddy list in Fring with friends, and they will want to know when you are online and available so that they can chat/call yuou. Thus, when you run Fring there is a background process that is constantly running, even if you don’t have Fring up on screen.

      The solution is to make sure you are aware of what programs have background process needs, and ensure that you are properly managing the setting “in program.” In other words, for Fring, make sure you “sign off” or “exit” the app properly. Menu > More > Exit. If you do this, you will notice that there is no longer a Fring background process.

      For a while, you will have to roll up your sleeves, determine what programs are running background processes, and properly configure their settings. After that, things will be smooth sailing.

  14. Darwin

    The new iPhone spanks it hard. Android has too many gimmicks that nobody will use, an inferior screen, os, and overall integration of hardware, os, and apps. If you are going to be on a carrier with poor coverage it might as well be AT&T and the new iPhone instead of this and Sprint.

    • Slim.Killer

      If your an Iphone lover then why are you reading about the Evo. AT&T sucks in Va where i live for one two ive been with sprint for 3 years never had a problem with coverage and you cant beat the price. And wow all you can say is the screen is better and integration of hardware have fun payin 200 bucks for the iphone 4 when its just the 3gs witha front face camera. And one more thing have fun eating that AT&T bill.

    • bubbatex

      Is the iPhone a nice smartphone? Absolutely. I love my 3GS and “would” have bought the 4 had ATT been good enough to actually hold on to a call. I have had an EVO since last Friday and I hardly pick up the iPhone any more. Really, you can get used to something else pretty quickly – so until you try something else (instead of sitting on the sidelines and shooting it down when you have neither the EVO nor the 4) don’t pass judgement.

      Oh, Sprint has excellent voice quality and better data speeds FOR ME. YMMV.

  15. Same here. Battery life is acceptable and the EVO doesn’t feel too big for any pocket I’ve put it in. They did a great job of keeping it thin and light.

    Two things I noticed so far. First is that some apps seem to start running themselves and drain the battery, so I use Advanced Task Killer regularly. For example, Sprint Navigation and Qik were running just now and I know I haven’t touched either since yesterday. Second, the Foursquare app seems to cause problems. Shortly after using the Foursquare app my screen will freeze and go black. The phone seems to be working but I can’t get the screen on again without pulling the battery.

  16. popo341

    Umm that video from the 8mp camera was ehhhh? The rest of the review seemed good. Still not sure if I want to get the evo or hold out to see what Palm/HP has in store. I have the Pre right now and I don’t mind it.

  17. Jeremiah

    Totally agree James! The battery life is no worse than any other smartphone I have used in the last several years (iPhone 2G, 3G, 3GS, Pre, Hero, Nexus, and N900). Loving my Evo!

  18. That is the most thorough review on the EVO I’ve seen to date. Nice job.

    I think the 4.3″ is a great size as I’ve found the MyTouch 3.5 too small for my fingers and browsing the web.

  19. karenclassic

    Excellent review — validates what I’m also experiencing with EVO…. fast, full-featured, great screen, good battery life. I like Sprint’s data plan approach and was happy to find call quality is excellent.

    From photos, I thought the phone was huge but seeing it up close and using it, it doesn’t seem too large. Very nice device!