More and Less than the iPhone: 4G Evo

Sprint-HTC-EVO-4G[1]Recently, I found myself nearing the end of my contract with AT&T and my 3G iPhone. I loved my iPhone, but I wanted to try something new. I anticipated not being impressed with the new iPhone, but I was willing to wait and see until AT&T changed their policies. Without getting into the merits and flaws of AT&T’s decision, the upshot is that I decided I wanted to go with another company, which meant going with another phone. Which, since I couldn’t get an iPhone, realistically meant an Android phone.

After careful consideration,1 I started playing with my new Evo phone on Monday. A few people were very interested in my thoughts, so I played with it for a few days, trying to get a sense of how this new phone will fit into my life. Like my Alienware review, I won’t go into detail. Instead, I’ll just list what I love about the Evo, and what I miss about the iPhone.

What I Love

GPS and Google Navigator. Wednesday night I went with some people from work to a restaurant I had never been to before. Using Maps in the iPhone to get driving directions wasn’t new to me, but I always had to hold it in my hands while driving to read it, which was awkward, as well as moving the directions forward at each stage. With the GPS and Google Navigator, I get turn-by-turn directions, and they’re spoken out loud, so I could set it on the dash as I drove. Very nice.

4G Speed. Granted, I haven’t had much chance to test this out, but what I’ve been able to test has been really fast. Web pages just pop up, and things download quickly.

Tactile Feedback. Whenever I hit a key, the phone vibrates very slightly. It’s not quite like hitting a proper key, but it certainly let’s me know when I’ve clicked something. There were plenty of times on the iPhone when I would be repeatedly pressing the screen because I didn’t know if the phone was locked up or if it wasn’t registering my finger press.

Widgets. Instead of a neat grid of application shortcuts, you have the chance to add widgets right on the phone’s screen. These are a lot like Google gadgets or Windows widgets, but it means I don’t have to open a new app for things like checking the weather or opening my calendar (two things I did a lot on my iPhone). Also, I was able to add other features like the various radio switches for Bluetooth, 4G, Wi-Fi, etc. right on the desktop, instead of digging around in the features.

Massive Integration. It’s a bit “duh,” but my Google Voice account never quite worked right with the iPhone. With this, it all just works perfectly. Gmail looks and behaves a lot more like its supposed to, without having to use the web interface. When I opened my contacts, it not only got everything from Google Mail and my work’s Exchange server, but also from Facebook, Twitter, and a few other areas. I didn’t have to tell it to – it just did. And when I open a contact, it intelligently finds connections between contacts and asks if I want to link them. A push of a button, and five different contacts for the same person now all point to the same place.

Notifications. There’s a bar at the top that gives you little icons for your notifications. Drag it down, and you can see all of your notifications – new mail, new appointments, Twitter mentions, Facebook updates, software installations… whatever. Instead of closing endless popups, it’s all elegantly and easily found.

Finer Control. Many times, I would have my phone ring me fifteen minutes before a meeting, so I could turn off the ringer. Once in a while I would forget to turn it back on. Now I can program my phone to do things at certain times – go to vibrate during work hours, turn everything on when I’m at home, shut off notification sounds when I go to sleep (but leave my ringer on so I don’t miss calls). I can do the same with syncing times and the like. At first I thought it was a gimmick, but over the past couple of days I like the fact that I can just leave my phone to adapt to my needs based on time and location.

What I Miss

Battery Life. Unlike many people, I didn’t freak out when I was totally out of power by 5pm on the first day. I lost a lot of power the first several times I used my iPhone, and it took some time to juggle settings and balance what I wanted until I could get my iPhone to last a whole day. However, with the Evo doing so much, it all takes power, so I find myself juggling things a lot more. My mail doesn’t come in instantly anymore (but, on the other hand, I don’t have to go looking for Twitter and Facebook comments). I can’t leave Wi-Fi on all the time, nor 4G. 

A Hard Ringer Switch. Sure, I can program it to turn the ringer on and off at certain times, but there are times when I just want to turn it on or off easily, instead of unlocking my phone and digging up the right setting.

iPod. I’m not much of a music listener, but I did have some podcasts and audiobooks on my phone. Once in a while I’d toss some music on there. It was all very easy with iTunes and the iPod software. The Evo doesn’t do this very well at all. I had to buy two separate applications to handle podcasts and audiobooks, and it’s still not as comfortable as iPod.

Foldering Email. For some bizarre reason, the mail app in Android 2.1 doesn’t allow you to move an email you’re reading in Exchange into a folder. At all. You can delete, mark as read, forward, etc., but you can’t actually move it from your inbox into another folder. To me, this is the same as the iPhone’s lack of cut and paste for so long – a feature that just seems very odd to have missing.

Verdict

Overall, I’m pretty happy with the Evo. It’s a really powerful phone, and I think it’ll add a lot to my life. I hope I can sort out the power problem over time, but I’ve already read a number of tips on that front, and as I spend less time playing with it and more time letting it sit until I need it, it’ll hopefully settle into a better rhythm. I’ve already seen some improvements (yesterday I got it to around 9pm before it died), and it appears my nook power cord is the same size as the Evo cord, so I can stash one in my bag and one at my bedstand to cover me most times.

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Pugmire

  1. Granted, I wasn’t the one doing the considering. David did. He told me he got two phones as part of a deal, and asked me if I wanted one.