After all the hype about the various Pad devices announced or on the market I would today like to comment my first experiences with the HTC EVO 4G, which was promoted at Google I/O. This device is only capable to support CDMA based networks, so SPRINT's one month promotion of free data and voice usage were unfortunately of limited value to European visitors of the event.
A full interactive demo video is available at engadget's website showing the real interaction with this new device. It is of specific interest, as it is a nice combination of screen size (4,3 inch capacitive touch screen), processing power (1 GHz snapdragon processor) and some advanced Andoid phone features. A full size review can be found at the same site here.
So lets go step by step:
As always: Size really matters. UI navigation, usage quality of the soft keyboard and sliding thru long lists is so much better, than ever seen. Even compared to the Nexus One the touch experience is significantly better. It seems to be only a matter of sqare millimeters available for the touch area. Compared to the iPad, which offers an even larger space to interact, the best size / interactivity / portability compromise for me seems to lie between 4 and 5 inch. Unfortunately I had no hand on experience with a capacitive touch 5 inch device like Dell's streak so far. But I declare exactly the EVO's size to be the minimum size of a real companion device for todays gadget nerds. We should no longer accept smaller displays. The benefits are so dominant that the somewhat bigger size can easily be accepted. Even this size fits into "normal" palm sizes and do not create any major handling issues. Because of the larger interaction space all gestures are well recognized and you really don't miss any trackball or similar support keys.
The 4 touch keys at the bottom work much better than expected, and work as good as normal buttons on other smartphones. The soft keyboard offers a specific HTC optimized layout and we will see, how it will change with Froyo, the 2.2 Android version keyboard, which offers some significant impovements in the keyboard UI. All in all I was really impressed how much better this devices "feels" in your hand and how precise touch interaction can work.
The big advantage comes with a real downside of the EVO 4G. Battery lifetime is quite limited. The 1500 mAH may not last over the whole day. But even at the distribution start of the device first batteries with 25 % extended capacities are available. And since I had issues with other smartphones, I am carrying a 4.400mAH external power battery with me anyhow. This cable connected enhanced power supply will for sure allow for a full interactive day without interruption.
But lets come back to the other specs: The 8 M pixel sensor does not deliver, what the resolution should offer. With its very bad low light performance the tiny lens cannot really deliver what you would expect based on the EVO 4G data sheet. And it cannot stand any comparison with all the available HD camcorders nor the HD supporting digital cameras. Good image qualitiy needs some more glass in front of the sensor and a bigger sensor dimension. During normal light conditions the images are somewhat sharper than those of existing 3 M pixel cams taken with other smartphones. So lets say some improvements for good lightning conditions but not the "three times better" experience one would expect.
Browsing speed is really good, even if the larger display makes you much more "throughput hungry". HTC has embedded a preversion of a flash player, which allows video playout on some, but not all websites I visited. It give a first flavor of the coming integrated flash versions and I think this will be a real improvement towards a nearly full internet experience, which is not offered so far by mobile browser engines. There still are restrictions in the scripting features offered, as no interactive writing / blogging in WYSIWYG mode is supported. So no Google doc or any blogging website editing is available. But the dynamic reformatting of the Android browser is creating good and sharp visuals of most of the websites and makes the internet much more fun, than before. With this screen size you easily read even longer text passages without getting distracted and with much less scrolling over the pages.
Multimedia on the EVO 4G is fun. With the easy access as external drive the built in 8 G SD card can be filled with lots of content and updating works with any tool you like. I did not full check out the formats supported by the video player, but the hardware impressively supports 720 P formats and hazzle free playout to the local screen. I still could not get an adapter to connect the HDMI interface but would expect no problems with the ususal H.264 720p video formats. And also consider picture playout to large screens. This must be a great experience! So take your content to any TV device is much nearer, than with any other mobile device so far. Never had a portable DMA with me before. Not to forget the freely available Twonky Server for Android, which allows the phone to become a full wireless DLNA media server in your network including music, photo and video playout to any compatible device. Played with it and liked it a lot! Not to forget the other free server apps that enable simple wireless drag and drop interaction with the device to manage your content.
Nice detail is the embedded stand, which makes a lot of sense if you want to watch some videos or slideshows directly on the device.
And last but not least: Telephony is great with the EVO 4G. Had some longer calls in the US and the voice quality was excellent and the handling easy and reliable. Even did not feel "too big" when using as a mobile phone without a headset.
So I am now waiting for a comparable device to come serving the European hemisphere. With full 3G HSDPA support and 2.2 Android support. Will let you all know, when I get such a device into my hands!