HTC EVO Design 4G for Sprint Review

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As smartphones continue their march into the mainstream the challenge of choosing the right phone for you grows ever-more challenging. This challenge is compounded by the fact that so many of HTC’s phones seems to be a slight variation on the same theme over and over and over again. (The same holds true for Samsung’s phones which all offer slight changes in screen size, features etc while remaining largely the same.) As Judie wrote in her review of the HTC Rhyme a few weeks ago,

I like items that have their own personality and that aren’t similar to every one else’s, but lately it seems like all of the HTC Android phones that I have been posting about have been basically the same phone — albeit with different features or screen sizes. Has it seemed that way to you?

It does!! And the HTC EVO Design 4G for Sprint I had a chance to use recently falls squarely into this. It is immediately recognizable as an HTC handset and does little to differentiate itself in any manner. Still, I came away impressed by it and can see it as the right phone for some looking for a new smartphone. While we won’t go into a full in-depth review here, we will take a look at the phones specs, share a few “live” shots of it and offer some closing thoughts.

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The Hype:

HTC EVO Design 4G for Sprint, the first EVO family member touting world phone capabilities, has many of the “must-have” features of its predecessors, including Sprint 4G and a large touchscreen display. It sports a slim, aluminum unibody design. Designed for customers who want to stay connected and be entertained, HTC EVO Design 4G combines the acclaimed HTC Sense experience with a stylish and robust feature set to make the 4G experience more accessible than ever. HTC Sense lets you do more in fewer steps and brings everything you care about right to the surface. Its snappy 1.2GHz processor combined with Sprint’s 4G speeds will help you make things happen. HTC EVO Design 4G has a 5MP camera with HD video recording. A 1.3MP front-facing camera offers video chat capabilities and can help snap perfect profile pics. With built-in Mobile Hotspot functionality, HTC EVO Design 4G also allows up to 8 Wi-Fi enabled devices to enjoy the benefits of 3G or 4G speeds on the go.

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My Take:

The EVO Design was a bit of a surprise to me. The phone is slightly smaller than I am used to using. I like the understated look of it a great deal. There is no flash, no gimmicks or other such differentiating factors but that didn’t matter for me. In fact, I actually appreciate the simple design.

The phone sport’s HTC’s unibody design that wraps the phone in one piece of aluminum. As we have seen previously, if you flip the phone over you will immediately notice that two areas, one toward the top and the other toward the bottom have been carved out and replaced by soft-touch rubber. One of the two soft-touch areas is removable and reveals the battery, SD card slot and the mini-SIM card slot that lets this CDMA phone be a true world phone. That’s no small thing and makes this phone more than a bit attractive for people who travel a great deal.

We’ve seen the “metal and rubber panel” approach numerous times on HTC phones and, in some cases, the pieces didn’t seem to fit together properly. That’s not the case here as everything felt completely tight and solid. It was almost as if it WAS a single piece despite being made from different materials. In other phone HTC tried to “jazz” things up a bit by adding color to the two soft-touch areas. Thankfully they did not do that here and the entire phone has a consistent, subtle look that matches the feel quite nicely.

All of this lends itself to this being as solid a smartphone as you are going to find. It is a bit boring but solid none-the-less. In fact, while I was using it I kept thinking- “This is kinda like the Chevy of Android phones!” and I did NOT mean that in a negative way.

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What’s In the Box:

microSD Card – 8GB microSD

USB Cable – microUSB Cable

Reference Guide – Getting Started Guide (English, Spanish), Basic Users Guide, Terms & Conditions

Charger – Yes

Battery – Yes

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Tech Specs:

A 4″ qHD Pinch-to-zoom display, 960 x 540 Pixels, 16,000,000 Colors, qHD Super LCD Display

World Phone Capabilities

Aluminum Unibody Design

A 1.2GHz Processor

Android OS 2.3 “Gingerbread”

Full access to the Android Market

3G/4G Mobile Hotspot Capability for up To 8 WiFi-enabled Devices at Once

Simultaneous Voice and Data Capability In 4G and WiFi Coverage Areas

HTC Sense

Bluetooth Stereo Headset (A2DP) – Yes

DLNA – Wirelessly Streaming

Integrated GPS

Talk Time – Up To 6 Hours

Dimensions – 4.8″ x 2.4″ x 0.5″

Weight – 5.22 Ounces

The phone only has a single core processor. That worried me at first since I am not quite used to using mobile devices with dual-cores and, often times, more speed too. At the same time however, I didn’t find the phone laggy except when scrolling through apps. Then again, I approached it KNOWING it was a single core so my expectations weren’t all that high.

The phone runs Gingerbread and has been skinned with HTC Sense. Some don’t like Sense. They worry about it consuming valuable system resources and don’t see a need for it now that Android has matured as much as it has. I’m not one of them and really like handsets that have it. For me, Sense of actually one of the main draws of an HTC phone.

The phone has a usable 1.3 megapixel front-facing camera that sits next to a LED for notifications. Both are at the top where the speaker grill is. Speaking of which, the speaker grill is, thankfully, more subtle than what we have seen elsewhere. On the back is the 5 megapixel camera and its flash. The extend out from the body of the phone in a manner that might well turn off some folks. I didn’t mind it but it DOES cut into the lines of the device. The camera does a decent enough job but in the age of camera phones that can possible be your only camera it falls into the “Meh, not all that exciting” category. While testing it out I kept thinking, “This analogy that ‘This is kinda like the Chevy of Android phones.’ extends to the camera too!!”

Call quality was on par with what I have experienced with other HTC Android handsets. That’s neither a good nor a bad thing but simply is. Prior to using the iPhone 4S I would have put the call quality on the same level of the iPhone but the quality of the call on the 4S definitely trumps this. I would, however, be remiss not to note that the speaker phone on it is “typical HTC” and I DO mean that in a negative way. The speaker phone on HTC handsets has always been weak and tinny and this is no exception.

The best thing I can say about the EVO Design is that it is a decent smartphone, its screen is quite nice and it is solid as a rock. The processor holds up quite well to most tasks and, if you are in a Sprint 4G area (I am not) you will get the added benefit of a super-fast data connection. It is a true world phone that brings CDMA and GSM goodness together in one small, albeit somewhat thick, package. The most attractive thing about this phone however is the price. For under $100 on contract you can get a current generation smartphone that will be a pleasure to use. Compare that to Apple’s offering of low-priced phones that are two and three years old and you see the benefit.

So at the end of the day my initial thought of “This is kinda like the Chevy of Android phones!” was actually quite accurate. You won’t be jumping up and down with excitement when you get this phone but it will get you where you need to go and let you do the things you need to do along the way.

MSRP: $399.99; $99.99 on contact

What I Like: Solidly built phone; Nice screen; Easy to hold and use; Compact design despite the 4″ screen

What Needs Improvement: Speaker still wanting; Battery life on 4G will likely be terrible (I was not able to test)

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