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The HTC EVO Design 4G continues the popular EVO line for, but for a fraction of the cost of what you’d normally expect to pay for the high-end Android smartphone line. The EVO Design 4G is attractive and has that unmistakable HTC build quality, and it runs Android 2.3.4 and runs HTC’s Sense 3.0 UI, so the phone is fresh and mostly up to date. It also supports Sprint’s WiMax network, hence the “4G” in its moniker, so you can expect fast web browsing and speedy data-intensive apps.
While the HTC EVO Design 4G is priced nicely at just $99, it doesn’t feel too much like a budget handset. It certainly has a few drawbacks, and it’s a little on the thick side compared to most of today’s smartphones, but for the cost of the device on contract it’s really hard to complain. Read on to see our thoughts and additional details on the handset.
HTC is known for making some pretty great hardware when it comes to smartphones. Its use of metal and soft-touch coating make most of its handsets feel like premium or quality devices. The EVO Design 4G is no different, though it is a little heavy on the soft-touch side, especially when you consider the price of the device. At 5.22 ounces, it has just enough heft to give it that quality feel without being so cumbersome that it's uncomfortable in your pockets, and it certainly shouldn't add any weight to a bag or backpack.
The HTC EVO Design 4G has a 4-inch qHD display, so it's a little long and narrow because the qHD's 16:9 aspect ratio, but it's perfect for smaller hands when reaching across the screen with your thumbs. Inside there is a Qualcomm MSM8655 1.2 GHz processor and 769MB of RAM, which would theoretically allow the EVO Design 4G to power along smoothly. The device measures 4.80” x 2.40” x .5”, so it's a little chunky, but not so bad that it would affect your decision to buy it.
The EVO Design 4G is an attractive handset, with lots of black and gray, soft touch and brushed metal and smooth curves and lines. At the top of the facc, you'll find an elongated grill that houses the earpiece and a front-facing VGA camera. Beneath the 4-inch qHD display, you'll see your standard home, menu, back and search Android buttons. On the left side of the device are the volume rocker and micro-USB port, and on the right it's clean and blank. The 3.5mm headset jack and power/standby button are on the very top of the device.
The 5MP camera is at the rear along with an LED flash and a speaker for music and speakerphone calls. Otherwise, it's all soft-touch and brushed metal with the HTC logo back there.
Android 2.3.4 is what powers the HTC EVO Design 4G, and it's skinned with HTC's Sense 3.0 UI. For those of you unfamiliar with it, Sense 3.0 brings a few new tweaks such as a spinning carousel - which I find mostly annoying and not very useful - and a lock screen that allows you to jump straight into applications, like the camera, without having to go into your homescreen first.
The application screen is a little different with this version of HTC Sense, too. Instead of an infinite scroll, you scroll up and down by pages now. You also have the option to see your most frequently used apps, or downloaded apps via a toolbar at the bottom of the screen. I happen to prefer the infinite scroll, but if this phone will become your daily driver, it'll be easy to get used to rather quickly.
Unless you're completely against HTC Sense UI, the overall software on the Design 4G is pretty great. The only thing I couldn't get over was the fact that it was too easy to activate the carousel. When swiping to the left or right at the speed you'd normally use on most other Android phones, the carousel would start spinning and it'd be impossible to get to the screen you actually wanted. The Sense 3.0 UI is nice to look at, and there are plenty of decent animations, but it's stuff like this that make you question whether it's even necessary.
Aside from my few gripes with HTC Sense 3.0, the phone pretty much behaves as you'd expect from an Android 2.3.4 Gingerbread device. Oddly, however, I did find a noticeable amount of stutter and lag in opening some applications and in switching screens. And I say odd because this thing is powered by a 1.2GHz processor and has nearly 800MB RAM. It wasn't enough to cause any real issues, but it did test my patience on more than one occasion.
You'll find your basic Android browser here with some skinning from HTC. For the most part, browsing was just fine and pages loaded relatively quickly and smoothly. Navigation is easy and everything is pretty self-explanatory and intuitive for anyone with experience on a desktop or mobile browser. The IntoMobile mobile web page loaded in just four seconds over WiMax, and the desktop version took only 12 seconds to fully load. The New York Times loaded in eight seconds, and ESPN loaded in six seconds. All of these load times were over Sprint's WiMax network in New York City.
Multimedia is what you'd expect from Android with HTC's Sense UI skin. It's still a bit cluttered, but having had several HTC Android devices pass through my hands, I'm pretty much used to it by now. That may not be the case for you, however, but the music player and gallery are very easy to use. HTC typically does a fine job of making stock operating systems more user friendly, and such is the case with Android.
Video playback, whether it's a video shot with the phone or streamed via Wi-Fi or WiMax, was generally good. Things did get choppy on occasion, but perhaps the network was more to blame than the phone itself. If you're coming from an older EVO device, or any other Android handset with a larger screen, you'll notice a bit of a different with the EVO Design 4G's smaller 4-inch display, but watching videos was still a relatively pleasant experience.
The 5MP camera on the HTC EVO Design 4G is pretty good when compared to bigger 8MP cameras on pricier handsets. Colors are rendered pretty well, and its ability to capture detail in low light situations, or in situations where there is a high dynamic range of light, is really good. In one of the photo samples below, I took a photo of the hallway in my apartment building some time in the early afternoon with the camera's default color and metering settings. Most other cameras would black out the dark areas since so much bright, harsh light enters through the window. As you can see, the Design 4G did a great job of balancing the light all around and you can actually see the staircase. It's impressive.
There is a bit of noise and some artifacts in the dark areas, but that's to be expected. For a camera phone, it's pretty good. Also, the Design 4G does pretty admirably with close-up shots. Click on any of the images below for the full 5MP resolution sizes.
Call quality on the HTC EVO Design 4G was great over Sprint's network in New York City. Calls were loud, clear and performed equally well over the earpiece or on speaker phone. My friends said they could hear me just as fine, too, and that sometimes I sounded like I was calling from a landline. These calls were performed indoors in relatively quiet rooms, and I did not get to test it outdoors or in areas where there is considerable environmental noise.
Battery life was pretty good for an Android device that also happens to be a 4G smartphone. When the first EVO 4G came out, the primarily complaint was battery life. I was able to manage an entire day with the original EVO for the few months that I had it, but that took lots of tweaking of my settings. Under the default settings, changing only brightness where appropriate, I would get close to a day's use with the EVO Design 4G. If I were to unplug the phone from its power source at 8 a.m., I'd make it until about 5:30 before needing a charge. This included a small handful of phone calls, a lot of web browsing and use of Twitter, Facebook and Foursquare, and a YouTube video here and there. I sent and received an average of 10 text messages per day, which is very low even by my standards, so perhaps this might have affected battery life and your mileage may vary.
Should you buy an HTC EVO Design 4G for Sprint? That all depends on what you're looking for. If you want a decent Android smartphone and don't care for dual-core processing beasts, yes. Buy this. If you want an Android smartphone for just $100 on a two-year contract, definitely a buy. If you don't need 3D and still want to hang onto 4G/WiMax capabilities, and you prefer Sense UI over Motoblur (as found on the Photon), this is a buy. For the what you're getting for just $100 with a two-year contract, you really can't go wrong with the HTC EVO Design 4G. If Sprint is your carrier and you're in the market for a decent smartphone that isn't the iPhone, I'd have no problems recommending the Design 4G.