21
May
HTC EVO 4G First Impressions And A Mini Hands-On Review
Last Updated: July 24th, 2011

After I've finished unboxing the HTC EVO 4G that Google gave out at the Google I/O conference, I started playing with the phone and noting down things that are different from other phones, things that are interesting, and things that bug me.

Note that this is not meant to be a full review - the bullet points are just my first impressions after 2 hours of use. Think of this post as a mini hands-on review:

The Screen

  • The first thing you notice is the screen THE SCREEN. It is HUGE.
  • The screen is quite glossy, I think quite a bit glossier than my Hero's but that could be because it's so much bigger. This is not a good thing - I had a lot of trouble taking pictures without having some sort of reflections.
  • The screen looks kind of washed out if you look at it at an angle. I am not a big fan. It is relatively crisp though and looks good when looked at straight.
  • It is also a fingerprint magnet - ughhh.
  • By the way, the screen on the Samsung Galaxy S was absolutely insane. The Super AMOLED technology dropped my jaw to the ground - it was like comparing a super crisp matte photo to a bit washed out, average, glossy one. I literally thought I could touch the objects inside the screen when I was playing with the Galaxy S. Still can't get over that.
  • There was a really weird bug where if the phone is charging, the screen becomes almost unresponsive (at least when the battery is low). I couldn't even enter the unlock pattern until I unplugged it. I'm not sure if this will happen again but if you've seen it too, please comment.

The Body

  • EVO 4G has a beautiful body, both in the back and in the front
  • There are 2 ports on the bottom - HDMI and MicroUSB
  • The volume buttons are on the right side of the screen instead of the left, which actually makes a lot of sense with a screen this size, as pressing them with my thumb is more comfortable.
  • The power button at the top and the inability to turn the screen on by holding Menu like I could on the Hero is quite annoying right now. It makes one-handed operation a lot harder and I always thought those power buttons on top were never easy to press. Maybe I'll get used to this.
  • Having said that, the new power button allows turning the screen on and off while on a call, which was impossible with the HTC Hero (you couldn't turn the screen off as it would hang up the call)
  • The haptic feedback is kind of odd and annoying. Sometimes it switches to a nice soft vibration and is really nice but a lot of other times, it's kind of annoying and has that plasticy/metallic vibrate feeling and sound. I wonder if there is a way to force it to use that soft vibration all the time somehow.
  • I just realized there was no rocker/trackball and instead the left/right/down/up buttons were part of the on-screen keyboard. That has me kind of bummed and I am definitely going to miss it.
  • The notification LED is there, in case you were wondering - it's hidden behind the speaker at the top.

Speed

  • The EVO is very-very fast. I went on an installation spree in the Market and I couldn't click Install fast enough for it to even show any signs of lag - by the time I moved on to the next program, the previous one was already installed. Everything is very snappy.
  • There is sometimes some minor lag with scrolling and complex web pages are not as smooth as, say, the iPad (I know, I know but iPads are pretty amazing devices) but everything is still totally usable.
  • I'm sure Froyo will speed this bad boy up, as Google engineers told me at the conference that they've optimized pretty much every aspect of the OS in Froyo.

Other

  • Not a big surprise: It comes preloaded with the same crappy Sprint apps as every other Sprint Android phone, and I am looking forward to rooting it as soon as someone figures out how, so I can remove them.
  • There is a 4G widget that allows you to turn 4G on and off separately from 3G.
  • There is a Spring Mobile Hotspot app which has security going up from None all the way up to WPA2, which is great. Remember though, using the hotspot feature costs $30/mo. I wonder how Froyo, which comes with native WiFi hotspot capabilities, will work with the EVO and whether Sprint will cut it right out.
    I have reviewed the mobile hotspot app separately here.
  • Live wallpapers are included and look very nice. I shot a quick rundown of some of them which you can find below.
  • FriendStream, which is a widget combining multiple social networks is present as well.
  • The FM Radio app is present and requires earbuds or a headset to be plugged in to be used as an antenna.
  • The phone came with a class 2 8GB Sandisk microUSB card, which should be plenty for now. Too bad it's not class 6 - if you need that, you can pick a really nice 16GB one that I reviewed here instead.

Here are a few photos of the Live wallpapers in action, followed by a video:

IMG_5733 IMG_5734 IMG_5737

I was trying to figure if the wallpapers react to touch while you're setting them up, and they didn't. Some of them do, however, after you set them and go to the home screen (for example, the Nexus wallpaper).

For more photos of the EVO, check out the EVO 4G unboxing post.

I am off to play with the EVO some more now and do a brain dump of everything I learned at the conference in the last 2 days.

Artem Russakovskii
Artem is a die-hard Android fan, passionate tech blogger, obsessive-compulsive editor, bug hunting programmer, and the founder of Android Police.
Most of the time, you will find Artem either hacking away at code or thinking of the next 15 blog posts.

  • http://iandouglas.com/ Ian Douglas

    Sounds like the same screen/glass as the Nexus One -- can't see crap on it outdoors, and other times, all you see are the fingerprints or smears where you had to drag your finger for something.

    Questions:
    1. How does the Sprint Navigation app compare to Google Maps built-in Navigation?

    2. Speed: what's the linpack benchmark compared to my Nexus One running Froyo?

    And finally ...

    Is the Android development book under the EVO any good? ;o)

    • http://www.AndroidPolice.com Artem Russakovskii

      1. Sprint Nav takes longer and is waaaaay more annoying to enter information on and search for things but it's pretty decent as a nav. Google Nav is my choice 100% of the time, so I don't even keep Sprint Nav when I remove programs.

      2. I got about the same as the Nexus One, which, considering it's the same CPU and OS, makes sense: 6.8 MFLOPS or so.

      Not sure about the book yet but I've heard very good things about it. The author who was signing it looked very intelligent and works for Google on the Android team.

      • Xcom923

        I know this is not really a question specific to the evo (btw I put in my preorder) but does the google nav give voice turn by turn directions?? for example does it say when to turn?

        • http://www.AndroidPolice.com Artem Russakovskii

          Yes, it does, exactly the way you would expect from a traditional GPS.

  • Stevo

    So is the screen glass? Or is it scratch-magnet plastic? Oddly enough, haven't been able to find that info anywhere.

    • http://www.AndroidPolice.com Artem Russakovskii

      I don't really know how to tell for sure but tapping on it produces a plasticy feel rather than glass, so my guess is it's plastic.

  • Iliyan

    Mine is not a question but more of a concern. I recently switched from HD2 to Desire and actually like the form factor better. Yes, the Desire has a smaller screen, but it's so much easier to handle with one hand... And the HD2 doesn't have the power button on the top, which makes the EVO even harder to operate..

    Large screen is good, yes, but at some point it becomes too large, and I think HD2/EVO have gone beyond this point.. And no navigation buttons? Ah.. And the touch buttons on the EVO? Double ah...

    • http://www.AndroidPolice.com Artem Russakovskii

      I have to agree with you, at least at this point. I feel like I am playing with something too big for my hand. I think 4" is the perfect size - 4.3" is pushing it.

      I am sure I will still love it, but the strength of this love may not be the same as I expected.

  • Chts

    This mini review makes me slightly regret my pre-order of this device. I've heard nothing but praise for this phone, other than lack of 4G coverage in the area. The 3 things you mentioned that make me hesitant:

    1. Size: too big of a phone.
    2. Screen: A bit washed out.
    3. No scroll bar, navigation buttons.

    Coming from the Pre, this will be a great upgrade but a big change in size. I worry about the pocketability. But I look forward to reading blogs and watching video on the device.

    I do not worry about the glossy screen because I have always put an Anti-glare screen protector on my phones. I find this protector has better texture for touchscreen phones, made the Pre and Iphone screens much better to control.

    • http://www.AndroidPolice.com Artem Russakovskii

      Chts, never mind what I was saying - after using it for a few days, this is hands down the best phone I'd ever seen/used/smelled/touched. I am in love (don't tell my wife).

      Get it and don't even think about looking back - you won't want to.

  • DMV DJ

    Thanks for the great coverage so far! I can't wait to get my Evo!

    Question:
    1. This is for those of us that live near, but outside of, a 4G city. If I were to disable 4G for a whole day (or however long it takes to drain the battery), what kind of battery life would I have on a 3G connection with high use? With moderate use? I am yet to see any concrete battery results in anyone's review, especially results without using 4G. I'm coming from a launch-day Palm Pre so I assume all I can do is go up, but I'm still curious.

    2. Assuming you've had some time with WebOS, how would you compare the EVO's multiple home screens and 'scenes' with the WebOS's multitasking? If I wanted to have an instant messaging app, a twitter app, a SMS messaging app, and a web browser app open simultaneously (fairly typical), am I looking at a large amount of suspending and resuming, or is this all possible?

    Thanks!

    • http://www.AndroidPolice.com Artem Russakovskii

      Hi DMV DJ,

      1. I am traveling right now so I can't test battery very well. It is quite good so far, not worse than other similar phones, considering the screen is massive. Also, I think 4G doesn't necessarily use more power but I can't confirm it from here.

      2. The EVO multitasking is absolutely superb (especially if you remember the "hold Home" for recently used apps shortcut). It is so fast and snappy, and the keyboard is so big, I can type almost as fast as on my keyboard at home.

      Love it.

      • DMV DJ

        thanks for the quick response! This sounds great! I can't wait for launch day!!

  • Wolf

    How effective is the notification light? Also, is it only red/green, or is there the possibility of using other colors for different notifications?

    • http://www.AndroidPolice.com Artem Russakovskii

      It's just as effective as on any other phone. So far I've only seen it red and green. Note it is not the same as the trackball light that exists on some other phones - this light is not present here as there's no trackball.

  • dixie1

    Great site and excellent review!
    I am a sucker for a beautiful display. Hence, your comments on the Galaxy S comparison gave me a sick feeling. You were spot on when you said you it felt like you could reach down into the screen.
    I really want to purchase the evo, so has your initial feeling about the “washed out” look of the screen changed now that you have played with her a bit and fallen in love?

    • http://www.AndroidPolice.com Artem Russakovskii

      It's only washed out when viewed at an angle, and while it will never be the same as the Galaxy S, it is an amazing and magnificent phone.

      Have no doubt about ordering it - I've been incredibly happy with it.

  • northstar

    Does anyone know the process of releasing the ESN on these phones. I received an Evo 4G as well from the conference, attempted to transfer the phone onto my current Sprint plan and Sprint is telling me the provider needs to release the ESN. Any recomendations? A conference contact number will assist as well.

    • http://www.AndroidPolice.com Artem Russakovskii

      Yeah, you should have received a special Sprint number to call that would handle it, as well as offer you some cheaper plans to offset the $10 a month fee. It was on a piece of paper that came with the phone.

  • jmaz

    It looks like HTC has gotten fat and sloppy with its smart phones offerings

    MY experience with the HTC EVO:

    I read and researched all the reviews before the phone came out and they were all great reviews. I visited many of the familiar tech blogs sites such as engadget.com, gizmodo.com, etc. and they all gave the phone more or less stellar reviews. Needless to say, I rushed out and got this phone from RadioSchack. The first thing I noticed was a nagging high pitched static sound on recorded videos and anything recorded with the mike. The videos themselves were highly compressed which made it impossible to watch them on a high def monitor through an HDMI cable. What 720p? I took this phone (first batch, series 0002 ) back to RadioShack and got a new one from the new 0003 batch. This one had a different color processing chip that performed worse than the one in the 0002 series. Guess what, the same problems with the sound, and casing resonance, and video. I took it back, got my money back and closed my Sprint account. They should deliver what they promise.

    I got to thinking, how can a phone maker design and make such a complex communication/entertainment device and do such a poor engineering job where it really counts-the sound. I mean that should be the most important element of any kind of telephone. In the EVO’s case there is some bad engineering going on. For example, the speaker membrane seems to be made from inferior material and is exposed and poorly secured to the phone body. This contributes to the nagging high pitched static sound that I experienced on these two HTC EVO’s. The second bad design element is that the back cover is made of thin hollow plastic which causes the distortion coming out of the speaker to resonate and thus become more noticeable. The sound is distorted, tinny and not clear. If you add to this all the problems that this phone has been having with the SD card, the battery and the 30fps video cap, you might have to consider that this phone is indeed a highly flawed phone as has been claimed by someone out there. Of course, I also fell for the front camera with the mirrored output image, the unusable Qik utility, the YouTube utility that does not work on 3G, and the nonexistent 4G signal, but there is nothing like having a phone that you can use to make clear, undistorted phone calls. It is such a satisfying feeling to be able to make clear telephone calls. In my experience, the EVO is not made for this. For those of you who must have your EVO no matter what or that have not noticed any of these defects yet, I say to you good luck with your EVO my friend.
    Be careful when you read the crap put out by those overly excited and overly enthused tech bloggers out there in blog land. When they review tech equipment is as if they are getting a brand new toy for the first time so they forget to do any kind of in-depth testing of the devices that they review. This is especially true when they review the new so called smart phones. So, with a phone that has as many problems as features- and more appearing everyday-as the EVO I say be ready for disappointments.

  • Scott

    Has anyone ever complained about the ear speaker crackling or sounding like a blown speaker? If so is there an easy fix? Thx in advance, Scott

  • http://www.androidpolice.com Brian Higgins

    I just ordered a live wallpaper for my EVO (Greenich Livewallpaper Berlin Live Wallpaper). It looked great when I previewed it, and when you bring it up to tap "set wallpaper." But once you set it, it shows up much smaller (doesn't cover the whole screen) and its greatly offset high and to the left. Is there anyway to change the settings on you wallpaper, so that android apps will fit the EVO screen?

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