What was the exciting new collaboration that HTC and Sprint's bigwigs just couldn't wait to tell us about? Anyone who's been following the smartphone scene at all as of late surely won't be surprised to find out that the one-time Nextel bedfellow is getting a member of the One family to call its own. It's just the precise name of the device that wasn't too predictable.
When the handset goes on sale sometime in Q2 for $199 it'll be saddled with the decidedly unwieldy moniker HTC EVO 4G LTE -- a rather clunky title for such a svelte device. What the name does offer, however, is a direct connection to the original EVO 4G. That phone, which arrived in consumer hands way back in June 2010, was branded as Sprint's first "4G" handset, courtesy of the carrier's WiMAX network. It's understandable, then, that its spiritual successor would carry that redundant 4G LTE moniker. The companies also clearly wanted to retain some of those happy memories, while setting the phone apart from those other One handsets on the market. How'd they do such a thing? Meet us after the break where we lay it all out.
So, how does the EVO 4G LTE differ from the One X? As HTC tells it, the company was focused on three major factors: design, camera and sound. The first is really what distinguishes it, and much to HTC's credit, the EVO does its best to stand apart from the tightly packed crowd of large-screened slabs. The vast majority of the front is monopolized by that big, bright 4.7-inch 720p HD display, flanked by three touch buttons on the bottom and a thin speaker grill (not machine-drilled as seen on the One X and S, unfortunately), along with a 1.3MP front-facing camera on the top. Flip it over, though, and you'll see some fairly interesting design choices on the rear.
The bottom two-thirds of the back is fashioned out of black aluminum. The top portion, which includes the rear 8-megapixel camera, is protected by a removable polycarbonate plastic back. Slip that off and you can have a look at a number of antennae, including NFC (compatible with the pre-loaded Google Wallet, among others). There, you'll also find the microSD slot, which lets you expand the phone's built-in 16GB of storage to 32GB -- a welcome feature for the multimedia fanatics who will likely be drawn to the phone but were concerned about the lack of external storage on the One X or S. According to HTC, the dual-material rear was put in place to make it easier for users to position their hands while taking photos -- in other words, you can feel the difference on the back without looking. Fair enough, though we wish striking aesthetics mattered just a bit here too.
The materials are split by a long, thin, spring-loaded kickstand, whose red metallic color hearkens back to the original EVO 4G. HTC corrected a pretty glaring design flaw this time out, allowing users to use the kickstand with the phone positioned on either side, so you can actually charge the thing while you're consuming all your media hands-free. Speaking of correcting glaring flaws, the company assured us that, unlike past models (ahem, Thunderbolt), this guy should have ample runtime, courtesy of a 2,000mAh battery -- a sizable improvement over the One X's 1,800mAh juicepack. No word on how much usage time that translates to with LTE enabled, but for now we're cautiously optimistic.
Of course, you can't discuss bold design decisions without mentioning the aluminum band circling the perimeter of the device, not unlike the metal ringing the iPhone 4. An HTC rep repeatedly used the word "oozing" to describe this particular flourish. In spite of that odd phrasing, it doesn't look bad, per se, but it certainly contributes to the cluttered, somewhat schizophrenic design, and it also lends the handset a slightly jagged feel in-hand. Up top, you'll find a door for the micro-USB slot, mic and headphone jack, so you can take that proprietary Beats Audio for a spin. Unlike the Rezound, though, the phone doesn't ship with Beats earbuds -- an sacrifice to the cost-cutting gods. On the right side is the volume rocker and dedicated camera button. Lastly, the phone comes in at 0.35 inches (8.9mm) thick, just like the global One X, and weighs in a mere tenth of an ounce heavier at 4.7 ounces (133 grams).
A lot of thought clearly went into the device's picture-taking capabilities, thanks in part to the ImageSense functionality that comes part and parcel with HTC's Sense 4 skin for Ice Cream Sandwich skin. To recap, it brings the experience in line with what you'll get on the One X and S. For starters, that dedicated button lets you access the camera functionality with the phone switched off. You can snap four shots a second with blast image capture, with the phone emitting a machine gun-like shutter sound effect (this can be turned down for all of those animated GIFs you want to capture in your local libary). Also nice is the ability to capture still images while shooting video. According to HTC, the phone's f/2.0 lens lets in "up to 44 percent more light than other leading smartphones," making it a solid choice for low-light shooting. Additionally, the flash on the rear automatically adjusts based on distance and light level, so you don't go blowing out shots.
As we noted in our review, Sense 4 feels quite light on top of Ice Cream Sandwich. So far as we could tell in our brief hands-on period, the handset is quick and responsive, thanks in part to the 1.5GHz dual-core Snapdragon S4 chipset (Update: Sprint has confirmed that it uses MSM8960, the same chip inside the AT&T One X). HTC also promises that sound quality has been improved -- in fact, the EVO 4G LTE is set to become Sprint's first HD Voice-capable phone (update: our impressions are here!), boasting hardware improvements on the handset itself, which should help reduce background noise and forthcoming boosts to the network, which are set to begin rolling out later this year. Apparently people still use these things to make phone calls. Who knew?
All in all, the EVO 4G LTE is a promising team-up from HTC and Sprint. We prefer the simplistic look and feel of the One X, though the companies get some points for at least trying something different -- even if the cluttered design does feel a bit like a "too many chefs" situation. We also appreciate the focus on actual usable features, as opposed to, say, the gimmickry of the EVO 3D. Again, the EVO 4G LTE will be available for $199 at an unspecified time in Q2. If you need something to mark in your calendar, however, the May 7th pre-sale date seems a pretty good place to start.
Zach Honig contributed to this report.
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HTC EVO 4G LTE, Exclusively from Sprint, First HD Voice-capable Smartphone Available in the U.S.; Offers Best-in-Class Features, including Beats Audio, Amazing Camera and HD Display
Next-generation EVO offers the ability to enjoy industry-leading features without fear of overage charges or throttling with unlimited data plans for new and existing Sprint customers
Available in Q2 for $199.99; Register for updates at www.sprint.com/evo4glte
NEW YORK – April 4, 2012 – Sprint (NYSE: S), the only national wireless carrier offering truly unlimited data for all phones while on the Sprint network1, and HTC, a global designer of smartphones, announce the next evolution of the award-winning HTC EVO™ family: HTC EVO™ 4G LTE. HTC EVO 4G LTE focuses on exceptional improvements in camera technology, audio and voice quality on both the network and device.
HTC EVO 4G LTE will be available in the second quarter for $199.99 (excludes taxes and surcharges). The availability date will be announced later. Customers can sign up for updates today at www.sprint.com/evo4glte, and pre-order will begin Monday, May 7, at www.sprint.com.
HTC EVO 4G LTE is built on Android™ 4.0, Ice Cream Sandwich, integrated with HTC Sense™ 4. HTC EVO 4G LTE boasts brilliant features, including a vibrant 4.7-inch HD display, HD voice capabilities, 1.5GHz dual-core processor, large 2000mAh embedded battery and dual-cameras (8-megapixel rear-facing and 1.3-megapixel front-facing) with instant capture capability. HTC EVO 4G LTE brings back the fan-favorite kickstand built into the smartphone's refined, slim design.
With the launch of HTC EVO 4G LTE, Sprint becomes the first U.S. carrier to announce plans for a nationwide HD Voice network beginning in late 2012 as part of Sprint's Network Vision program.
HD Voice is the next-generation evolution of voice quality and the future of voice communications for mobile phones. The service will provide fuller, more natural-sounding and less fatiguing voice quality and should reduce troublesome background noises often found in a cafe or on the street.2 Users should expect to identify voices and hear every word better than ever. Sprint's commitment to HD Voice starts with HTC EVO 4G LTE, Sprint's first HD Voice capable device.
"Sprint has a long history of leading the wireless industry in innovation, and the debut of HTC EVO 4G LTE marks another chapter in that innovation story," said Sprint CEO Dan Hesse. "Once again, we are partnering with HTC to deliver the benchmark Android device for the year with the next generation of our award-winning EVO brand. We know our customers will appreciate the focus on audio and voice quality with EVO 4G LTE, including the addition of Beats Audio and HD Voice capability."
HTC EVO 4G LTE is Sprint's first device with HTC's Authentic Sound experience integrating Beats Audio™. The technology enables customers to hear music the way the artist intended with unique audio tuning that delivers thundering bass, soaring midrange and crisp highs.
HTC EVO 4G LTE incorporates Beats Audio across the entire phone experience, including playing music stored on the device, streaming from a favorite service, watching a movie or YouTube™ video, or playing the latest hot game. HTC Sync Manager software also lets users easily get their music on the device from their PC, and it works with current programs, including iTunes®.
"The partnership between HTC and Sprint has resulted in one of the most popular and successful smartphone brands of all time with over 7 million EVO devices sold to date," said Jason Mackenzie, president, HTC Corporation. "With HTC EVO 4G LTE, we've created a desirable successor that is sure to excite the millions of current EVO customers and beyond with HTC's distinct design, amazing camera and authentic sound."
ADVANCING SMARTPHONE PHOTOGRAPHY HTC EVO 4G LTE makes mobile photography and video easy and intuitive. - The on-screen photo and video buttons are right next to each other so users don't have to switch modes. This allows the user to take video and still photos concurrently. - It makes the whole idea of "video mode" or "photo mode" irrelevant. While shooting a video, the user can just tap the shutter button and it captures a still image of that exact moment. Still images can also be captured during video playback. - HTC EVO 4G LTE's camera has a super-fast start-up and auto-focus time. With the fast auto-focus, users can easily stay with a moving object or person, taking numerous pictures just by holding the shutter button.
In addition, HTC ImageSense™ technology combines hardware and software advancements to the camera lens, sensor and software, including integration of a new custom HTC ImageChip, to take great photos even in adverse conditions. The best-in-class f/2.0 camera lens lets in 44 percent more light than the lenses used on most camera phones. The Smart Flash also adjusts the flash strength based on how far away the object is, so users won't get photos where everything looks washed out.
REFINED STYLE AND DESIGN Crafted from aluminum spaceframe in an anodized black finish, HTC EVO 4G LTE delivers cutting-edge function and style in a thin and distinctive design. The smartphone's 4.7-inch display and 80-degree viewing angle makes it easier to share pictures and video with others. The multiposition kickstand allows users to watch videos hands-free.
HTC EVO 4G LTE customers can enjoy an unlimited data experience with Sprint Everything Data plans. Sprint's Everything Data plan with Any Mobile, AnytimeSM includes unlimited Web, texting and calling to and from any mobile in America while on the Sprint Network, starting at just $79.99 per month for smartphones3 – a savings of $40 per month vs. Verizon's comparable plan with unlimited talk, text and 2GB Web, or $10 per month savings vs. Verizon's 450-minute plan with unlimited text and 2GB Web.
Sprint recently announced Atlanta, Baltimore, Dallas, Houston, Kansas City and San Antonio are expected to have 4G LTE and enhanced 3G service in mid-year 2012. Sprint 4G LTE will enable faster speeds for data applications, and the enhanced 3G service promises better signal strength, faster data speeds, expanded coverage and better in-building performance. The launch of these large metropolitan areas demonstrates the continued commitment by Sprint to invest in its network through Network Vision. Sprint customers in these areas will soon enjoy ultra-fast data speeds and improved 3G voice quality. Whether a Sprint customer is using a smartphone to share a video, checking the Web via a mobile hotspot, Sprint 4G LTE will make it easier. And, when someone makes an important voice call, they can expect to find a clearer connection and a stronger signal in more areas. For the most up-to-date details on Sprint's 4G LTE rollout, please visit www.sprint.com/4GLTE.