HTC Evo 4G LTE $300
22nd May 2012 | 11:02
The HTC One X gets a makeover
To the untrained eye, the HTC Evo 4G LTE isn't like the HTC One X, it is the One X. The dual-core 1.5GHz Snapdragon processor, the 8MP rear-facing camera (that stops down to an impressive f/2), the gorgeous 4.7" Super IPS LCD 2 technology - all these specs are identical to what's found in the One X Even the the One X's gorgeous display is copied in the Evo, meaning the acronymous HTC has a similar pixel density to the iPhone - even with its enormous screen.
So you'd be forgiven for thinking the HTC Evo 4G LTE was just a Sprint-rebranded One X. But you'd also be wrong.
The HTC Evo 4G LTE brings more to the table - and bests HTC's flagship One series at every angle.
Like the One X, the Evo 4G LTE has 16GB of onboard memory, but unlike the One X, the Evo 4G LTE is expandable to 32GB via microSD.
That alleviates one of our main pain points with the wonderful One X, and we'll happily be planting plenty of content on the spacious 32GBs.
The HTC Evo 4G LTE also has an NFC chip, which explains why the top quarter of the phone's back is plastic (we're told NFC can't get through the solid industrial aluminum that composes the bottom 1/3 of the back of the phone).
That plastic tends to become an unappealing smudge center, but even with it, the design of the phone is absolutely gorgeous.
A metallic red ring circles the camera, and a red band separates the plastic and aluminum. This red band also indicates the kickstand - an Evo trademark - that has been strategically updated.
You see, this time around you can finally use the kickstand while you charge your device. Just like that, the novelty kickstand goes from exceptionally gimmicky to exceptionally useable.
This usability is compounded by the fact that the kickstand works in three orientations, on both sides and in a semi-precarious (but still useful) vertical orientation. These orientations give you a way to watch videos or consume any visual media on that lovely 4.7" without holding the phone the entire time.
That's lucky, as the phone has a tendency to get a bit warm during playback.
The HTC Evo 4G LTE comes packed with Android 4.0: Ice Cream Sandwich complete with HTC Sense 4.0, and HTC has adopted Google's preference for three home buttons. On the bottom of the device are three touch capacitive buttons: back, home, and recent apps buttons.
The HTC Evo 4G LTE has an attractive brushed metal chassis (which is more than a little reminiscent of the iPhone 4S and iPhone 3GS). This houses the device's 3.5mm headphone jack on the top edge, volume rocker and brushed metal camera button on the right edge.
The Evo 4G LTE utilizes a microUSB plug, like that of the One X. The top plastic piece can be plied away to give limited access to the phone's internals - you can get your hands on the expandable Micro SD memory card slot but not the battery, for instance.
While some might find the tri-tone back cover less appealing than the HTC One X's solid plastic back, we preferred it, as well as the feel of the lower aluminum.
The HTC Evo 4G LTE comes with HTC Sense 4.0, which can feel bloated when compared to Google's pure ICS experience. But anyone who's used Sense 3.0 will notice the love that's been put into Sense 4.0 - it frequently feels faster and beautifully minimalized from its prior bloat-tastic incarnation.
We won't go into all the details regarding TK, but feel free to check out the HTC One X review for more information on this Sense 4.0 interface, but suffice it to say what feels good on the HTC One X will feel just as good on the Evo 4G LTE (due in no small part to the near-identical internals).
Unlike Europe's quad-core HTC One X, however, Americans are limited to a dual-core 1.5GHz.
Settings can be quickly accessed from the notifications bar, and while this might take a few minutes to get used to, it feels superior to a hardware button (and just about as fast).
Like the One X, the HTC Evo 4G LTE can suffer from a bit of slowdown in the Recent Apps pane, with just the hint of lag when you open the pane - which might be more than often.
We also found the Recent Apps pane felt decidedly ugly when compared to other aesthetic elements - panes line up like luminescent dominos on a black background, where they are highly reflective, and an app icon sits under each.
For such a simple window, there is surely a lot going on - not much of which looks good when mashed together.
The Apps menu is another place where we're ambivalent about the changes.
There's a banner bar which somehow manages to cram a Search, Google Play, and Menu button inside, and below is an option for All apps, Frequent Apps, and Downloads.
In our time with the phone, we've managed to search for apps in the wrong categorization multiple times, before realizing it wasn't one of our frequently used apps, or our downloaded apps.
The Lock Screen
From the Lock Screen you can pull a ring to unlock the phone, as well as drag a few shortcuts - Phone, Mail, Messages, and Camera to the ring to unlock straight to those apps.
You can also view notifications from the lock screen, including unread text messages, which might make a few privacy-concerned folks concerned for their privacy, unless they want to set a proper, coded lock screen.
Contacts and calling
Contacts are as svelte as ever on the HTC Evo 4G LTE.
You can connect your Facebook and Twitter, which will improve your information density immensely. But, if you do opt to link your Twitter contacts, you'll have plenty of bands or sports teams, or whatever it is you follow on Twitter, that will feed right into your contacts pane.
You might want to sweep through your Contacts to delete all the excess accounts.
Contacts can be accessed from both the phone icon, and the People icon, which bring you to two different panes of the same application.
As per usual, there is also a Groups pane, which allows you to group people together. The HTC Evo 4G LTE gives you plenty of tabs to get started, ranging from Co-workers to Family to VIP - each of which boast their own little icon. It all feels more valuable and polished than it has in the past - it's not a stretch to imagine snapping a picture of the In N Out drive-thru sign, making a group called Restaurants and filling it with Pizza joints and local restaurants.
The large dialer pane allows for T9 predictive text, meaning hitting 6 once will bring up "Mom" and hitting a "5-2" might suggest Kasey and Kaleb.
If you'd rather just scroll through the contacts list, a hide keyboard button lies on the bottom left of the keyboard pane, while a voice dictation button lies on the bottom right (which we suggest using at your own risk, since these things tend to be a little less than accurate).
Call quality is another beast altogether though. Sprint's isn't known for being the best carrier in the US for call quality, and if you're not absolutely committed to the Big Yellow for your network of choice, you might want to double-check that call quality works as expected in your locale.
For our part, we tested Sprint in San Francisco - where it ran pretty much flawlessly, and in New Orleans - where we dropped a few calls.
It's important to remember that a carrier's call quality is the most important mileage-may-vary criteria in searching for a new phone - so make sure your future carrier works for you!
HD Voice won't be on the HTC Evo 4G LTE until late 2012, but the phone already delivers big with Qualcomm's dual-microphone noise cancellation system which delivers slightly clearer audio than comparable headsets.
It's no replacement for true HD Voice and it's just another promise the HTC Evo 4G LTE has yet to live up to, but we're hardly complaining about an awesome feature that just hasn't happened yet.
If it turns out to work out according to plan, it'll give HTC Evo 4G LTE users tons to look forward to as their phones get better and better throughout their two year contract.
Messaging is similarly identical to that found on the HTC One X - which is great, because it's awesome on both. SMS and MMS, as well as Google Talk and email, are available on the device from the get-go - no Google Play store needed.
Of course, inside the Play store are the familiar IM+, Skype, Facebook messages, and everything else, but it's what's already on the phone that's been so impressive.
Set up happens upon boot up and you'll be prompted to sign into Google, which will sync your Google mail - from there, you'll have to set up your other email addresses - including those pesky Exchange accounts and anything else mandatory for your phone.
The keyboard is one of our favorites, and we clocked some of our fastest non-Swype typing on the 4.7" HTC Evo 4G LTE. As with the HTC One X, accuracy seems to have improved from prior HTC phones - but if you must have a replacement keyboard there are a billion compatible options in the Google Play Store.
Landscape typing is a bit finicky still, and we're not fond of the way colons are used as alternative keys behind the period, but typing is overall an enjoyable experience on the Evo 4G LTE.
We had mediocre luck with the voice dictation, with some texts loading flawlessly and others loading with more problems then it was worth.
It's no replacement for just typing out the emoticons and LOLs that are all the rage with the kids these days.
As mentioned earlier, the ability to open messages from the lock screen is a nice feature, and the ability to read them from the notifications pane without unlocking your phone means you don't have to go through the unlock just to read your messages, unless of course you have a passcode - which will keep your messages locked down.
Tangent: We did find the transition from Ring pull to passcode lock to be a bit ugly - it goes straight to a jarring black for no discernible reason (why not keep the wallpaper?).
The Evo also has a feature called Smart Sync, which figures out how often you check your messages and starts to sync at those cycles. A novel feature, but we didn't really notice any significant changes in the way our messages loaded (or our battery drained).
If specs are the HTC Evo 4G LTE's strength, then Internet is its Achilles' heel. It's not any worse than any other 3G-only phone on Sprint, but that's just it - it says 4G LTE right in the name! Why is it neither WiMAX-capable, nor connect to any LTE?
Well, unfortunately, because these features are just one of many future-proofing promises the HTC Evo 4G LTE is based upon.
As we mentioned in our Best Carrier in the US article, Sprint's LTE is due to begin a very slow roll out in mid 2012 (so, soon).
That very selective LTE roll-out will certainly change browsing speeds on the HTC Evo 4G LTE (and, inevitably, the battery), but until then, it's best to gauge the HTC Evo 4G LTE as what it is: a 3G phone.
This one limitation may irk some people, but we were a little relieved to have a phone that could last an entire day.
Of course that surge in battery comes with a pretty steep price - Sprint's mind-numbingly slow 3G network. Our download speeds rested around 2.25Mbps or worse, while our upload speeds rarely surpassed 1Mbps.
A bookmarks tab and Google search widget make it easy to find what you're looking for on the internet. And then, of course, the HTC Evo 4G LTE's native browser has all the bells and whistles of the HTC One X, including a wonderful text reflow.
That text reflow feature makes it frequently just as appealing to view classic sites as their mobile counterparts.
Simply double-tapping on a column of text will fit it to your screen, and if you want, you can pinch in to zoom even closer to the text and it will reformat itself to fit inside your new column.
You can set the phone to automatically bypass the mobile site in favor of a desktop mode in the Settings (it's called "Desktop mode").
Camera and Video
The HTC Evo 4G LTE's camera is one of its tentpole features - a selling point in every advertisement - and we're not surprised.
Like any camera phone worth its salt, it has a dedicated hardware button. While shooting, if you hold it down, it continues to snap photos. Once you've finished taking the photos, it gives you the option to select one as the Best Photo. Or not. If you decide not to select a best photo, the Evo will save all of them. But it won't muck up your gallery, instead that grouping of picture will display as a single thumbnail, ready to be pinched to expose the extra photos.
This is ingenious, and in our time with the phone we could tell this is the logical evolution of the frustratingly inefficient "take a picture, check, take another picture" system.
But HTC isn't content with just burst capture, and you'll notice upon opening your camera app that both the camera and video buttons are tappable at one time. When you begin recording, the camera button doesn't disappear because - you guessed it - you can continue to take pictures, even while recording videos.
Now you really have no excuse to miss the shot.
The hardware camera button requires you to hold it down for a second before loading the camera, and here is another area the HTC Evo 4G LTE suffered just the slightest lag.
This can actually be surprisingly annoying when you're unsure of whether you've actually opened the app or not - fortunately, the phone puts out the slightest vibration upon opening, which you might not notice at first.
There is a lens icon in the top right corner that allows you to take pictures with various (mostly ugly) filters and effects. These effects range from fun PhotoBooth-style distortion and auto-tilt-shifting, to a hand fill of filters you'd do well to avoid entirely.
The HTC Evo 4G LTE has a near identical media experience to the One X - which is to say, great. It has a the same identical, gorgeous screen to watch movies on, has the same Beats integration, and plenty of widgets and downloadable media-playing apps - but where it really shines is the improvements it makes to the One X.
Perhaps, most importantly, the HTC Evo 4G LTE has expandable memory up to 32GB via microSD.
Then there's that kickstand - the gimmick of yesteryear is a welcome addition to the Evo 4G LTE, chiefly due to massive improvements.
Other than that, things are unsurprisingly similar to what you'll find on the HTC One X, so if you're looking for a detailed account of all things media, check out the HTC One X review.
Opening the music app reveals four music apps (more if you've downloaded the likes of Spotify, Rdio, etc).
Those four apps are My Phone, Sprint Music Player, SoundHound, and TuneIn Radio. Except for "My Phone," each of these shortcuts can be removed with a simple long press (even Sprint's Music Player).
The SoundHound included is not a trial version - it's the real deal, and will help you find which song is playing over those loud speakers at the bar, or in the car, or on that TV show.
The HTC Evo 4G LTE has the same FM radio as the HTC One X, and while most people will fire up Spotify before a radio app these days, having the ability to listen to NPR's Fresh Air live from your phone is a treat.
Like the One X, you can't record or name stations, but the audio sounds fine. Obviously, this is more a novelty app for radio heads, but we're just happy to have it.
Like all HTC phones, the Evo 4G LTE has opted to forego a videoplayer in favor of a photo and video integrated gallery. That's great for simplicity, but makes for a messy user experience that requires too many taps to get anything done.
This inevitably ends with too many similar-looking thumbnails. If you took four videos of a parade marching by, for instance, they'd inevitably look almost identical and with no real way of telling the difference between them, without actually watching them.
Battery life and connectivity
The battery of the HTC Evo 4G LTE is not removable, and while it's not the best battery we've ever encountered (that award goes to the Droid Razr Maxx), it's certainly better than the HTC One X.
The reason is simple - it's bigger. While the HTC One X maxes out at 1800mAh, the HTC Evo 4G LTE (somehow) manages to cram in a 2000mAh battery. Coupled with the fact that there's really no LTE to speak of on Sprint, that means the battery stays alive as long as you'd hope.
The HTC Evo 4G LTE has an advertised 12 hours talk time, 150 hours standby time. Surfing is equally impressive without the drain of LTE on the phone.
However, the screen is huge, and is the main power-suck on the battery. Any intense display usage, from a movie or an app will predictably kill your battery faster than you'd like.
That also means that Nyan Gareth would likely do some damage to the Evo 4G LTE, but that extra battery space might not make it quite as drastic. The Evo 4G LTE easily lasts a day under light to slightly-heavier-than-medium usage.
The HTC Evo 4G LTE has the standard range of high-grade connections - from Bluetooth 4.0 to Wi-Fi 802.11n. It also comes packing NFC, which can take advantage of Google Wallet, which is kindly left alone on the phone by Sprint.
The Evo 4G LTE also has Google Beam (hidden under a few layers of settings), so you can beam some Google Maps or YouTube videos to your friends on other Ice Cream Sandwich-NFC enabled phones (like, say, the HTC One X).
The HTC Evo 4G LTE has the same power to connect to a TV with a dongle not included in the box, via the microUSB port on the phone's left edge.
Maps and apps
Google Maps will be your go to application for finding places on the HTC Evo 4G LTE, and comes with all the expected upgrades you've probably read about.
Directions are very readable on the large device and layers make it easier than ever to avoid traffic in your car, avoid hills on your bike, or save commonly used routes. It's a little slower than we'd like, especially when rendering the city in close-up, but it's still a small price to pay for an app this functional.
The other location app on the phone is Google Navigation, which is expressly meant to replace your car's GPS system. It's fast and works well, but replicates much of the same functionality of Google Maps, and we're not sure it adds too much besides a blown-up fullscreen view.
The HTC Evo 4G LTE comes with loads of pre-installed apps that don't just clutter up the device.
In fact, it was a few days before we even needed to open the Google Play store to download something not on the phone (it was Spotify, for the record).
The Dropbox partnership means throwing the app on your phone will wield you another 23 gigs (for twenty-four months, anyway).
That makes it perfectly likely that your 16 to 32GBs of memory will be quite enough, since you can just throw anything else in the cloud.
To make your life even easier, you can sync Dropbox to auto-upload your photos and movies.
Sprint has been insanely merciful, and instead of loading your device with bogus subscription-based apps, there is only Sprint Zone - a well-designed and helpful app that allows you to view your account information and pay your bills.
After spending so much time with AT&T devices absolutely busting at the seems with garbage bloatware, suffice it to say we were pleasantly surprised.
We were already huge fans of the HTC One X, but the Evo delivers on many of the front's that the One X simply fell flat. The expandable memory makes it a boon for delivering quality media content with limited restrictions. And then there's the matter of the battery, which has been chiefly resolved by just (somehow) managing to fit a larger battery inside.
So much of this phone is still on the way. While buying it now will give you plenty of worthy features, you'll be stuck waiting for HD Voice, and LTE might not come to your neighborhood for years - either way it's a lot of trust to ask your customers for.
The Evo has a tendency to get a bit hot under heavy usage, especially the upper most plastic part on the back. Which leads us to another part - as much as we like the aesthetic of the phone, the plastic on the back is always grubby.
Plus, did we mention how weird the Recent Apps pane looks? Because it looks weird.
A bigger battery alleviates many of our problems with the HTC One X. We can (finally) watch videos, run with our phone, and play games for a majority of the day without feeling completely anchored to our desk and our phone charger. It's still not perfect, but it's a huge improvement, even though it's only a small upgrade.
Call us relentless optimists, but not having LTE is a bit of a relief. We've been saying it all along, but if a phone is already struggling with battery problems, we'd just as much rather have an LTE-less phone than a paper weight.
There's no bloatware on the device and the Dropbox partnership, super fast keyboard, Beats Audio integration, camera enhancements, and Sense 4.0's all give the phone a sense of quality. They all make this feel like much more than a HTC One X rebranded for Sprint's network. Make no mistakes about it - this is the best HTC phone around.
We already loved the HTC One X's chassis, but this phone feels even better. The aluminum bottom feels great in the hand, and we actually (really, seriously) love the new kickstand. Being able to prop the phone up in three different ways is absolutely wonderful, about 10% of the time, and when it's not, well, it's out of the way.
Simply put, the HTC Evo 4G LTE is the best phone on Sprint. In fact, Sprint is really the major negative about this phone. For many, that won't matter. If you're tied to the network for some reason or another, the HTC Evo 4G LTE is your best bet.
If it takes Sprint a year to roll out LTE in your city, then you'll have LTE on your phone as soon as anyone else on Sprint's network does - and while those yet unfulfilled promises might make it a risky purchase, it's simply too good of a phone to really care.
From snapping photos to Dropbox integration, to a very sleek and very sexy chassis this is a phone you have every right to brag about, and should be proud of - promises yet fulfilled or no.