The Sprint HTC EVO Review Roundup

Dave Zatz —  May 20, 2010 — 25 Comments

After drooling over Sprint’s pre-release HTC EVO, I made a practical decision to go with the CDMA Nexus One instead. As I saw limited benefit from a 4G smartphone and felt the EVO was just too big. Also, real world battery life and 3G/4G switching were undocumented. Unfortunately, Google blew up their Nexus One experiment and the CDMA version has been cancelled. At least for the time being and with that branding. Having said that, the EVO ($200, $80/mo) still excites me. But after perusing a number of reviews, I’m less interested in becoming an EVO early adopter. Excerpts from the initial reviews follow:

Engadget

When we got a [4G] signal, it was amazing. Hell, it was straight-up epic — full, desktop-caliber websites and apps like the Market loaded with honest-to-goodness WiFi-like speed, and we were able to make calls over CDMA at the same time. Of course, we imagine this is partially a function of the fact that Sprint’s 4G network is practically a ghost town.

Wall Street Journal

When using 4G, the EVO’s battery runs down alarmingly fast. In my tests, it didn’t last through a full day with 4G turned on. The carrier, in fact, is thinking of advising users to turn off the 4G network access when they don’t think they need it, to save battery life. This undercuts the whole idea of faster cellular speeds.

Gizmodo

Bigger isn’t better everywhere, however. The cameras—the front and the back—are disappointing based on the initial stuff I’ve shot, quite frankly. The 720p video is solid proof resolution isn’t everything. It’s safe to say this thing is the Escalade of smartphones: Big, brash, occasionally clumsy.

PC Mag (4/5 stars)

Call quality on this phone with Sprint’s 3G CDMA network isn’t that great. The sharp top edge of the phone wasn’t very comfortable against my ear, and calls sounded rough and harsh as well. It’s loud, but not clear. The speakerphone is loud but sound is somewhat thready and hollow.

CNET (8.3/10 rating)

To get a better measure of speeds, we tried out the mobile hot-spot feature and used the Evo 4G as our only source for getting online. Setup was a breeze with the preloaded Sprint Hotspot app, allowing us to connect the Evo to our Lenovo T61 laptop and iPod Touch with no problem. The Evo averaged download speeds of 3.42Mbps and upload speeds of 0.93Mpbs and reached a peak speed of 4.76Mpbs.

Laptop Mag (4/5 stars)

While the keyboard could be better and the battery life longer, the Evo 4G richly deserves our Editors’ Choice award. It’s a no-brainer for Sprint customers, and a tempting choice for those on other carriers.We just wish the device ran Android 2.2 now instead of later so you could enjoy Flash Player 10.1 out of the box.

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25 responses to The Sprint HTC EVO Review Roundup

  1. Dave, Im surprised more of you blogger types aren’t ripping Sprint for the $10 mandatory surcharge for 4G service even if its not in the area you live in. I haven’t read the WSJ review yet but I’m assuming its Walt. If what he is saying is true about Sprint possibly recommending turning off the 4G when not needed, then it makes that mandatory charge seem even more ridiculous. I just wish people would make more of a big deal about this. Its comical to me that someone would ask customers to pay for a network that is “almost” ready..

  2. That’s exactly why I chose that quote — to emphasize the ridiculousness of the data surcharge. However, I’m probably not more spun up because Sprint does offer the most competitive rates these days and on the EVO there is NO 5GB data cap on 3G or 4G usage (should one choose to figure out an alternate and free method of tethering…).

  3. Scott Habicht May 20, 2010 at 10:33 am

    “should one choose to figure out an alternate and free method of tethering…”
    :-)

  4. Despite the negative points most of those reviews actually had quite a bit more positive to say than negative. Every phone will have it’s drawback and the battery life doesn’t seem that bad, not everyone complained about it, realizing you don’t get a powerhouse of a phone to have the best battery life, just like you don’t get laptop with an i7 and mega gaming card for battery life.

    I actually think the battery life was quite good considering all the things the reviewers were using the phone for, way more than normal phone usage. If we start using phones as more than phones as net browsers, media streamers, mobile hotspots for other devices, we should expect it to use more power than if we don’t use those features.

    In the end those reviewers almost all had much much more good to say than bad about the phone, why Cnet gave it a 4/5 as well as laptopmag.

  5. That’s a good point lost amongst my select excerpts. I’m adding their ratings above for additional context. However, as a consumer, I’m not biting. Not yet anyway. Leaning towards the Incredible on Verizon at this point.

  6. I can definitely understand… Basically no phone at this point will offer anything game changing for everyone. If you’re in a good 4G area then this may be the case (I am).

    Though I have to still wonder why go to the Incredible and Verizon? Even with the $10 premium (which I have heard it re-mentioned but not confirmed by Sprint that this removes your 3G data cap, which is worth it in my opinion even without 4G, if that is the case of course) It’s still $80 vs. $90 plan and the Incredible is quite similar but quite honestly a slightly inferior phone… No 4g capability at all (might be nice for traveling etc), no hotspot option at all that I know of(sure you have to pay for it, but it’s nice to have the option to buy that), and no front facing camera.

    Unless you have brand loyalty to Verizon that just doesn’t make sense to pay more for less service and a slightly lesser phone.

    I’m switching over from the iPhone myself.

  7. Sorry for the double post, but their nitpicks are mostly self admitted nitpicks, on at least a couple of them they mentioned that the minor things they found (outside of limited 4G) were pretty inconsequential… Except battery of course, though the Incredible has the same power issues and even a smaller battery. Engadget seemed much more objective on the battery life, knowing that if you use your phone for constant usage like a netbook it’s going to have battery life issues.

  8. The non-data cap was confirmed by a few Sprint reps on Twitter the evening of the second reveal (in NYC).

    As for me, I have no loyalty to any brand or manufacturer. I want the best product for my situation. In the office, I have zero AT&T coverage. Whereas Sprint is the best BY FAR. Verizon is hit or miss depending where I am. But even sporadic network connectivity 8 hours a day is a huge improvement over my current iPhone 3GS brick.

    The front-facing camera doesn’t do anything for me and I was previously a 4G aircard subscriber – it’s not compelling enough to jump. Sure, I’ll take the extra speed if/when available. But I’d rather not be a guinea pig or give up battery life. (The Overdrive has issues, hence my 3G/4G switching concerns.) My biggest complaint is simply the size. I’m familiar with the HD2 and it’s too big.

    Monthly service on Verizon would run me a few bucks less and is not an issue either way – despite their ridiculous $2.99 visual voicemail surcharge and because I don’t text or talk much. Also, I can get a 1 year contract. Something Sprint offers on many phones… OTHER than the EVO.

  9. If you get an Incredible, why use Verizon’s VVM when Google Voice offers that for free?

  10. Dave, your complaints about the battery life made it seem like you read a different review than I did.

    Take a look at this quote from the engadget review:
    We know what you’re thinking, though: what about battery life? Amazingly, we got some three hours and 13 minutes of run time while using the EVO continuously as a 4G hotspot — and when we say “continuously,” we mean we were streaming high-quality audio the entire time. What’s more, the phone wasn’t even fresh off the charger when we started; it had been on and in heavy use for two hours and four minutes prior. Bottom line, this thing seems to be a champion on a 1500mAh battery; we can’t even begin to fathom what a massive aftermarket pack would do to it.

    Anyway, I think the battery concerns are overblown.

  11. PeteyNice, I’ve used GoogleVoice but never on Android. Is there a way to link my primary number without porting it?

    Martin, Re-read my intro. I haven’t made any battery life complaints – I merely bring it up as a consideration of mine, a factor in possibly making a purchase. Unfortunately, the reviews are somewhat conflicting and a few days of using the EVO as a secondary device is probably not conclusive either way. At the very least we know it has a bigger screen to power. The concerns may or may not be overblown, but Sprint suggesting reviewers turn 4G off to conserve battery reduces the benefit of having the fastest phone in the US.

  12. Wow! A phone that cannot make it through a full day without being charged? This sounds very familiar….it’s called the IPHONE.

    Of course Walt Mossberg is such an unadulterated Apple fanboy that he casts these very same iPhone traits as dealbreaking weaknesses with other phones. How convenient that he fails to mention that this battery is REMOVABLE, so EVO users can actually carry around a spare internal battery instead of carrying around a dorky, snap-on dongle like us iPhone users have to do.

  13. Dave, you can conditionally forward your phone. You should be able to set your phone to forward to your Google Voice number if you don’t answer, or if you reject the call. I do this with my Sprint cell phone. It basically disables my Sprint voicemail and I get to use the nice group feature of Google Voice.

  14. @Dave: Out of curiosity, what’s pushing you towards the Incredible? Form factor?

    @xdreamwalker: Is Sprint doing no-answer call forwarding for free now? I heard rumors they were going to do that. It used to be $0.20 a minute.

  15. Reggie, yah – it’s a tad bit narrower than the iPhone and is a good fit. The physical keyboard of the Droid isn’t great and probably isn’t necessary so I can pass on that. Also, it’s somewhat proven technology as the evolution of the N1 (but in a more plastic enclosure).

    BUT since the Incredible is sold out everywhere, I get to sit on the sidelines longer and see if Sprint’s got anything else up their sleeves and maybe even time enough to see what the new iPhone specs are. I’m also hoping to fondle the EVO in the next few days – maybe after playing with it, I’ll feel different.

  16. You guys need to tell me how your getting these great Verizon plans. I’m trying to choose between the Evo and the Incredible, but the bottom line is I get less minutes and less text messages on Verizon for about $28.50 more a month, that’s including the $10 surcharge on two phones. You guys mention plans and forget that Verizon adds $30 per line for data. I just can’t justify that price difference for slighly less service.

  17. Jack, for me on VZW it’s $40 for voice, $30 for data, $5 for texts, and maybe not that $3 for visual voicemail. I don’t make many calls or text much, which is why I can keep the rate down. My wife on the other hand pays AT&T like $120/mo to cover all her calls and texts – wish I could get her on Sprint. We’d never do a family plan since I hop around.

  18. @Reggie14 Sprint gives you free no-answer call forwarding to Google Voice at least; I’m not sure if it’s free for any destination number however.

    Presumably Sprint will have an upgrade to the HTC Hero sometime in the next few months, perhaps something in the N1 form factor that’s specced pretty close to the Incredible. I’m still sold on the Evo 4G even though I don’t spend that much time in 4G markets (heck, we just got EVDO last year, so I don’t think Sprint is any hurry to bring WiMax here).

  19. While choosing a lesser plan elsewhere, as opposed to the minumum required on Sprint with the EVO, might save one money that doesn’t mean it is cheaper when you actually compare apples to apples. The Sprint plan even with an uncapped 3G/4G data premium is still $10 dollars cheaper than the most comparable ATT and Verizon plan and includes a heck of a lot more.

    The phone being arguably the best smart phone to date and selling at the same price as many others on contract and cheaper off contract also screams value. The only legitimate concerns or reservations come from current or previous brand loyalty and pre-existing contracts and/or maybe it’s size, otherwise no contest.

  20. Going back to the battery issue, the Verizon Incredible comes stock with a 1300mAh battery while the Evo comes stock with a 1500mAh hour battery. The other issue to take into account is the Vz tends to nickel and dime your to death on every little phone option. VZ is also known to not allow developers to use important things like aGPS access on the phone. Sprint tends to be a lot more open to the developers.

    Android Central has a good comparison chart the Evo vs Incredible vs Nexus One

  21. I hate to sound like an EVO defender, but Sprint’s official line is that $10 surcharge is NOT for 4G, but to cover additional data usage (e.g. video calls and uncapped 3G). Still, I’m really surprised they elected to go that route and still charge for Wi-Fi hotspot while Verizon is giving hotspot for free on Pre Plus.

    The only way you can make Verizon plan cheaper than Sprint is, likely, by using employee discounts, but odds are that Sprint will give same/similar discount. I have 18% corporate (max is 27%, I think) plus 10% loyalty discount.

    Plus, Sprint is usually pretty flexible on offering offsetting credits, so I wonder if $10 can be waived/offset… Anyhow, I’ll wait for Apple conference and first EVO reports (to make sure no early-adopter QA problems), but EVO will probably find a home here unless Palm makes some shocking announcement (still think WebOS is the most elegant OS).

  22. Its hillarious how so many people compare verizon to sprint in price. Most of my friends are with verizon or att for the iphone and neither of those companies prices are within $30 of comparably optioned plans at sprint. I keep seeing peeps write about a $10 difference and that just isnt true. With the new ceo in place at sprint their only weakness (customer service) has been radically improved and their pricing just destroys the competitors. T-mobile is close in pricing but they are a absolute joke in coverage and internet capabilities.

  23. To the poster above you are so correct. I left Sprint for Tmobile when the Nexus One dropped and what a mistake. The damn signal jumped from 3G to edge to G ALL day. The net was terribly slow and the only time I was content was on my home wifi.
    Google nor Tmobile could help with the signal. I joined Sprint again 2 wks ago and haven’t looked back. I anticipate purchasing my EVO this week, anytime mobile and all the extra incentives included in the Everything Plan can’t be beat. I was paying 100 bucks for voice and subpar data on Tmo, 69 after tax w/ my corporate discount w/ Sprint for EVERYTHING, makes sense to me.

  24. The Mugen Power Batteries website just update the extended battery for HTC Evo,
    http://www.mugen-power-batteries.com/mugen-power-extended-battery-for-htc-evo-4g-1800mah.html
    have to get the 1800mAh for more battery life for my Evo, hope it can improve more time for me using it.
    the original battery life time terrible!

  25. love the phone but the battery is terrible!!!……….can’t go anywhere without your charger which is ridiculous……sprint needs to come out wit an extended battery ASAP!

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