HTC Evo 4G LTE: To buy or not to buy?

By JR Raphael (@jr_raphael)

I wanted to love the Evo 4G LTE. I really did.


At first glance, HTC's new Evo seems to have everything going for it: The phone blends the basic hardware of the One X with design elements of the original Evo. Those are two powerful parents to combine.

Given that heritage, I had high hopes for the Evo 4G LTE -- and after a short time with the device, I was optimistic. Unfortunately, after using the phone for several days, my impressions have changed.

Don't get me wrong: The Evo 4G LTE has a lot of good qualities. It's almost a great phone. But it has some serious drawbacks that make it difficult for me to recommend.

I go into full detail about my experiences with the device in my in-depth review, but the long and short of it is that despite all the phone's positives, the Evo is currently stuck using an absurdly slow 3G network -- almost 20 times slower than LTE, in my comparisons -- and for most folks, there's no guarantee when that'll change. To be honest, I find it a bit troubling that Sprint is so prominently branding and promoting the new Evo as a "4G LTE" device; with the carrier's LTE network still under construction and no specific timeline as to when it'll light up for most of the country, that strikes me as a rather disingenuous thing to do.

Remember: Smartphones are data-centric devices, and you're paying a hefty premium for the right to all those bytes. No matter how much you like a phone's hardware, if surfing the Web and transferring data is painfully slow, you aren't going to have a very good experience. And with most people buying into two-year commitments with new phones these days, accepting the fact that half or more of your device's lifespan may be limited to subpar service doesn't seem like a good move -- especially when you consider that 4G is increasingly becoming the standard for high-end Android phones (a noteworthy change from two years ago, when the first Evo was released).

As you'll see in the review, I had a few other qualms with the new Evo, both hardware- and software-related. When you look at the high-end Android phone market as a whole, it all adds up to land the Evo significantly behind other comparable devices in terms of overall user experience. Unless you're just dead-set on getting a new Sprint Android phone right now, I'd suggest either holding off a bit or looking at other options.

• If you want a pure Android 4.0 experience -- Android the way that Google envisioned it -- the Galaxy Nexus is the way to go. Vanilla Ice Cream Sandwich achieves a sleek simplicity that's lost in many manufacturer modifications of the software. 

The Galaxy Nexus is available on Sprint, but buying it there puts you in the same 3G-restricted boat described above. As such, I'd recommend looking at either Verizon's LTE model or Google's unlocked edition, which lets you use the device on any HSPA+ network (e.g. T-Mobile, AT&T, or even an inexpensive prepaid setup), no contract required.

• If you like HTC's approach to Android, I'd suggest looking at the HTC One X. It shares a lot of the Evo's positive qualities, and it offers true and immediate 4G connectivity (LTE or HSPA+). I also found that the One X feels better in the hand than the Evo, thanks to its less sharply angled design, and looks a bit nicer, too, due to its uniformly constructed casing.

• The One S is another standout alternative from the same HTC family, though it has a less eye-catching display and is smaller in size (which could be a plus or a minus for you, depending on your tastes). The One S has a striking aluminum unibody shell that gives it the most premium look and feel of the HTC devices; that material also delivers the extra benefit of making the One S less susceptible to visible fingerprint smudges.

Those are just a few targeted recommendations; there are obviously plenty of other compelling options on the market and on the horizon (including the upcoming Samsung Galaxy S III -- though at this point, it's anyone's guess as to when exactly it'll arrive on various U.S. carriers and what each carrier will do with the phone's design).

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As I've said countless times before, it all comes down to what you want in a phone. There is no universal "right" answer, but there are certain shortcomings in devices that we can't ignore.

For the full scoop on the HTC Evo 4G LTE -- the good and the bad -- click over to my in-depth review:

HTC Evo 4G LTE review: Almost great

JR Raphael writes about smartphones and other tasty technology. You can find him on Google+, Twitter, or Facebook.

Article copyright 2012 JR Raphael. All rights reserved.

Copyright © 2012 IDG Communications, Inc.

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