Mobile Tech Manor #96: EVO 4G One Month In

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It’s Friday and my favorite day of the week as I get to share the happenings at Mobile Tech Manor once again. Mobile Tech Manor is my home office, but since I work mobile as often as I can it can easily be anywhere I set up shop. This week represented one month with the HTC EVO 4G smartphone, so I paid particular attention to how I used the phone to give my thoughts on how it’s been so far.

I have used many, many smartphones, both those I have purchased and others I have evaluated for the site. I consider myself a heavy smartphone user, as I tend to do a lot of things with the phones I use. Having used the EVO 4G for a month, and given it a lot of thought this week, I can truthfully say it is the best phone I have ever used.

It’s a phone first

The EVO handles everything I throw at it with ease, and makes it all enjoyable. It is an outstanding phone, as calls have been good quality without a single drop. The handset audio quality is good, the speakerphone is very loud for a phone, and performance with a Bluetooth headset has been great. The dialer app is easy to use with big buttons, and the smart dialer is as good as any I have used. That’s the dialer that searches the contact list as you tap numbers on the keypad, narrowing the list as each additional key is pressed. After just a few taps the right name is sitting there ready to tap to dial.

It’s a web appliance

The Android platform is designed from the ground up to be good at working with the web, and HTC adds features in the Sense interface that even improves on that. The EVO seamlessly links my Google contacts with both my Twitter and Facebook friends, so I stay updated on all of my people’s happenings all the time.

The stock web browser is very good, and the large 4.3-inch display makes web browsing a very desktop-like experience. It is the best browsing experience I have enjoyed on any phone, bar none. The touch interface is well implemented, with good finger scrolling and pinch zooming. I like working the web on the EVO.

Even though this browser is good, I also like using the Dolphin HD browser. It makes tabbed browsing a little easier to do than on the stock browser, and I really like how swiping left brings the bookmark menu onscreen. It becomes so natural to do this that I wish such an easy way to interact with my bookmarks existed on my desktop systems. It is that good.

I have been using Twitter more this past month than ever before, and that is due to how well the EVO serves this function. There is no shortage of good Twitter apps in the Android Market, and checking for Twitter updates is a standard part of my routine now. I have settled on the Touiteur Premium app for Twitter after trying four others, as I like how it utilizes the display. I have been asked and subsequently answered many questions about the EVO on Twitter, so if you don’t follow me (@jkendrick) and you’re interested in this phone (or other mobile stuff) you’re missing out on information you might like.

It’s an e-book reader

It is no secret I read e-books, and probably as many in a week as anyone you will meet. I have been reading them for a decade, which is about a hundred years in tech years. I have long used mobile devices as a reader, so giving the EVO a go as a reader was not a stretch. The big screen is a natural for reading e-books, and I find myself using the EVO even more than the iPad which had become my only reader since picking that up.

There are now lots of good reader apps for Android phones, and I am using two of them a lot. The Kindle app has become my favorite since it was recently released, as it interacts with the app on the iPad when needed. I also use the Kobo app since I have a few books in that library, but it doesn’t sync up with the iPad version very well so I like Kindle better. Now that Amazon has a Kindle app for all of my devices, I will be sticking with it in the future to buy all my e-books. I read mostly newer novels, so price is not a factor.

It’s a mobile hotspot

I work in different places, and this month I took a short business trip, too. The EVO has the mobile hotspot feature that I have been using a lot. It has worked as advertised, dishing out either 3G or 4G to multiple devices, and all with a simple tap on the screen. It is easier and quicker to connect than either the MiFi I used for a while on Verizon or the Overdrive I used on Sprint.

Sharing the 4G (WiMAX) connection is simply wonderful. The speed is awesome for a mobile device, and to share it with up to 8 devices is incredible. I have only shared it with as many as 3 devices, but even that’s worth the price of admission ($29.99 monthly).

When 4G is not available, and it wasn’t on my Florida trip, the Sprint 3G network is good enough to share. I used it the entire trip and it was solid enough I forgot I was on 3G most of the time. I would tap the hotspot toggle, and then my iPad and MacBook were almost instantly connected to the web over the EVO Wi-Fi. It is a great way to travel.

It’s a messaging phone

I do a lot of text messaging with family members, email with everybody and Google Talk with colleagues. The EVO does all of this with ease. HTC has a good messaging app for the texting, the GMail app works well for the email and Talk works well for IM sessions.

I have done more text entry on the EVO 4G than on any phone I have used in the past. The HTC onscreen keyboard is quite good, but I installed Swype when it became available a few weeks ago. I find I can enter text using Swype faster than I can type using the HTC keyboard, and I was happily using Swype with three exceptions.

The HTC keyboard is one of the few onscreen keyboards that has four arrow keys, which makes editing text much easier. I found myself constantly missing those keys while using Swype. I also missed the context keys that the HTC keyboard presents when needed. These are keys like the .COM key while working in fields expecting URLs to be entered. Swype doesn’t do that, and I really missed them. Thirdly, the Swype keyboard doesn’t have the microphone key to allow voice input, and as a result I had been neglecting to use that nice feature.

This week I toggled the HTC keyboard back on, and I am finding it makes using the EVO more productive. I may try Swype again at some point as I can type really fast with it, but for now I’m leaving it off. The voice input feature on the EVO works really well, and I have not been using it nearly enough due to the Swype experiment. I am going to force myself to use speech as much as possible.

It’s a blogging phone

WordPress released an Android version of the blogging app that is the best on any mobile platform. I have lamented the lack of a visual editor on the iPad version of WordPress, and amazingly the Android version has one. The Android version also accesses the blog statistics, something every blogger does many times a day.

WordPress on the EVO is a joy to use, and while I wouldn’t use the phone to do a lot of heavy blogging, I can easily keep up with the site and edit posts when needed. WordPress and the EVO is a very powerful combination for me.

It’s an app phone

David Pogue calls superphones “app phones”, and that term applies to the EVO. The performance of the phone is outstanding, and there is plenty of memory for running apps. I admit I have been app happy with the EVO, as the list of apps currently installed from the Android Market demonstrates:

  • Twidroyd for Twitter
  • WordPress
  • Handcent TMS
  • ASTRO File Manager
  • Jorte
  • twicca
  • Touiteur Premium
  • Google Earth
  • Dolphin Browser HD
  • Qik for HTC EVO 4G
  • Kindle for Android
  • eBooks by Kobo
  • RedEye Scanner Live
  • Nexus Revamped Live
  • Silhouette Live Wallpaper
  • Google Maps
  • Bookmarks I/O
  • NexusMod Live Wallpaer
  • fring
  • SystemPanel App
  • Pandora Radio
  • Quick Settings
  • Got To Do
  • Bookmarks to SD
  • Bookmarks Widget
  • Speedtest.net Speed App
  • Evernote
  • NYTimes
  • Facebook for Android
  • Google Goggles
  • vizBattery Widget
  • Twitter
  • Pure Grid calendar

The apps I regularly use constitutes a much shorter list:

  • WordPress
  • ASTRO File Manager
  • Jorte
  • Touiteur Premium
  • Google Earth
  • Dolphin Browser HD
  • Qik for HTC EVO 4G
  • Kindle for Android
  • eBooks by Kobo
  • Google Maps
  • fring
  • SystemPanel App
  • Pandora Radio
  • Got To Do
  • Speedtest.net Speed App
  • vizBattery Widget

So what’s the catch?

If you’ve stayed with me so far, you are no doubt thinking that no phone is perfect, so what’s the catch? I admit as I gave a lot of thought to my use of the EVO this week, I aggressively tried to come up with things I was not happy with; or things I wish were different. I can truthfully say there is nothing I don’t like about using the EVO. Everything works as advertised, and while there are a few things that might be improved there is nothing requiring a change for my use.

I have always found things I would change on phones I’ve used, and my total satisfaction with the EVO surprises me more than you can know. I have wracked my brain for something less than acceptable, and I simply cannot find even one thing. I would change the four touch-sensitive buttons on the front of the phone to real buttons, but it’s not because they don’t work well. I would change that simply because I prefer real buttons.

I am still asked about the battery life of the EVO every day, due to the reports about poor battery life that have appeared in various places on the web. I answer these questions the same every time I am asked — the EVO battery life is no better nor worse than any smartphone I have used. I use the EVO more heavily than any other phone, and the battery lasts all day without fail. It usually has >40 percent left in the tank at the end of the day.

I charge it every night as I do all of my gear so it’s topped off in the mornings. I make sure I don’t run lots of widgets that require constant web connections to do updating in the background. I use Twitter apps all day, but I close them when I am not actively using them. I never, ever run any Twitter widget on the home screens as I have seen those hit every Android phone hard. I don’t use the HTC Friendstream widget as that forces lots of background updating, even if the widget is not on the active screen.

e-Book of the week

This week I read four short novels I got free at the Kindle bookstore. These were the Star Wars: Lost Tribe of the Sith 1-4, and they were good. There are lots of Star Wars novels in the Kindle store, and I am just getting started with them. It’s surprising (and wonderful) that all four of these short novels are free. Worth every penny.

Wrap-up

That’s the week, sorry it was all EVO, all the time. The phone is still impressing me each day, and I am glad I bought it. Until this time next week, take care and be safe.

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