Friday, May 14, 2010

Sprint HTC Evo 4G: A Formidable Android Powerhouse

If you get your hands on the new HTC Evo 4G cell phone for Sprint and you're not impressed with its 4.3-inch display, solid feel and sleek lines, just remove the battery cover. The engineering inside is just as elegant as it is outside. Even its battery is color-matched to its innards.

At a splashy press event in New York Wednesday, Sprint introduced the HTC Evo 4G, the first 4G cell phone to come to market in the U.S. The unit ($199.99 after a $100 rebate and with a two-year service agreement) arrives at Sprint stores on June 4. According to Sprint representatives, 4G data service is up to ten times faster than today's 3G networks, like the one used by the Apple iPhone 3G S.

One thing that didn't arrive in New York with the May 12 launch event, however, was the 4G network. While Sprint's 4G service is already available in Atlanta, Baltimore, Chicago, Houston, Las Vegas, Philadelphia, Seattle and a handful of other cities, New York is listed as "soon." However a temporary 4G cell was set up near the event site so that the 4G features of the phone could be demonstrated to the press.

Sprint officials said that since they knew that 4G coverage would be spotty for some time, the goal in creating the Evo 4G was to create the best possible 3G phone--with 4G capabilities. Also, since the 4G circuitry is rather power hungry, most users would not want to leave the 4G capability on all the time, the Sprint officials said.

"If you're going to build a great product for 4G, you better have a large display," said David Owens, vice president of consumer marketing for Sprint in a meeting before the press event. "This will impact gaming, as you will see."

Indeed, the bright, 4.3-inch display is stunning. Combined with the unit's one-gigahertz processor, high-quality YouTube videos run smoothly and without audio problems. While the HTC Evo 4G isn't the first cell phone with a front-facing webcam (the Pharos Traveler 137introduced in 2009, is one example), the combination of the 1.3-megapixel webcam with an 8-megapixel, back-mounted digital camera makes the HTC Evo 4G a rather formidable communications and image-recording tool for both casual and professional use.

"I see more utility in this than I see in a netbook," said Owens, who also noted that the phone can used as mobile Wi-Fi hotspot for other devices.

Included among the preloaded Android applications is Google Goggles, an interesting utility that makes good use of the phone's camera and Google's archive of images. Point the camera at an object or a photo and the software will try to figure out what it is. During the press event, the phone successfully recognized a photo of the Guggenheim Museum (see video).

Also preloaded on the HTC Evo 4G is Qik, a service which lets you stream live videos from your phone. However if you enable an upgrade to the software, you can use Qik to engage in live video chats with other mobile devices or with desktop computers. An attempt to demonstrate the utility on stage at the press event failed quietly (see video), but the Qik app worked perfectly when shown off at a demonstration table afterward.

At a price just under $200 and with data plans that are significantly cheaper than those of other major carriers, the HTC Evo 4G may quickly evolve into a true competitor to other top-shelf cell phones like iPhone 3G S, Google Nexus, and Motorola Droid. Only time, and the speed of the growth of Sprint's 4G network, will tell.

Image courtesy of Sprint
Text and videos Copyright 2010 Stadium Circle Features 

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