It’s been almost 5 weeks now. It’s been a good experience, even better than I anticipated. Having a real computer that fits in my pocket is what I wanted, and the Evo meets that desire well. My wife thinks I enjoy the Evo more than any acquisition in recent memory.
The most-publicized caution, battery life, has been a non-issue for me.
The most-publicized feature, 4G via WiMAX, has also been a non-issue, because the coverage isn’t quite what I hoped.
Other than that, my concerns and anticipations of problems had been needless, and the surprises have been good. I’ve come to think of the Evo as the best (for me) pocket computer I can imagine in today’s marketplace, and a good mobile phone, as well.
Let’s get the two most talked about items, battery life & 4G via WiMAX, out of the way first.
The first data on battery life I saw was positive (“We know what you’re thinking, though: what about battery life? Amazingly, …”) in the May 19 Engadget review. However, the same day, Walt Mossberg was reporting Sprint 4G Phone Hits New Speeds, but Battery Lags. That day, still a couple of weeks from my own hands on experience, I accepted those as different experiences due to different usage and expectations.
Nothing since has made me think much differently. I was concerned about battery life, so I ordered a cheap second battery. While waiting for the off-brand battery, I tried to see how long the battery would go with minimal usage, just my normal phone usage. I was able to get three days out of a single charge. That’s not much worse than I was used to with my pocket phone (LG Muziq), so I started thinking that I would be OK with battery life.
After the extra battery came, I fully charged the original battery, set it aside to be my spare, and have used the off-brand battery ever since. With my normal usage habits, including powering down the phone when I’m sleeping, I usally go two days between charges. Only once, after a long day of heavy phone usage, camera usage and my grand-daughter’s game playing, has the phone asked to be recharged, after 13 hours use that day.
The most comprehensive review I’ve seen are the 13 pages from AnandTech on June 28. The page discussing battery life leads off “There’s no other way to put it: the EVO 4G has terrible battery life.” The data there doesn’t contradict my experience. But that reviewer wants perfection — the last sentence says “While I’d be willing to carry something the size of the EVO, I’d need it to be perfect in order to make that tradeoff.” I’m not expecting perfection. With hardware in general, and certainly “phones” like these, one can always wait for something cheaper/faster/better. I don’t see anything currently available that would be better for me than the Evo. Droid X, though a littler newer, doesn’t seem any better. I ponder about the iPhone 4, but only ponder.
4G via WiMAX
Click on the top map above and you’ll see the coverage at my home, light green to indicate some WiMAX signal, but not the dark green to indicate strong signal, with big patches of white (no signal) nearby. The other map is a broader picture of our part of town, mostly dark green, but noticeable patches of white and light green.
Though I can use and appreciate the WiMAX in some places, it is mostly artificial, in that I mostly would either not use my pocket computer in those places, or would choose WiFi over WiMAX in the places where I would use the Evo. Most of the places where I’ve really wanted to use WiMAX, the signal just hasn’t been strong enough.
Sometimes it seems the Evo is trying to use WiMAX when it should accept that the WiMAX signal is too weak and revert to 3G. To avoid that apparent phenomenon, I usually leave the WiMAX turned off, turning it on every few days when it seems like it might really be useful. Then I wonder why Sprint is charging me the extra $10/month for 4G, but rather than protest I hope for the day when the coverage here is comprehensive.
All the “little” things
To me some of these are a much bigger deal than battery and WiMAX concerns. They make Evo a good pocket computer for me.
Both the size, 4.3″ diagonal and resolution, 217 pixels/inch, are a delight to me. I can’t imagine anything physically larger that would still be a pocket computer, until flexible displays become practical, if they do. I’m typing this report on a screen with 99 pixels/inch. Looking at photos and videos is so much more pleasant with the Evo’s higher resolution. The difference is dramatic enough to make me curious about the iPhone 4 “Retina” display, at 326 pixels/inch, but not curious enough to go looking for one.
I didn’t know what to think before I tried the on-screen keyboard. I didn’t think I’d miss having tiny physical keys and knew that a pocket computer couldn’t have big enough keyboard for touch typing. I’d gotten used to the on-screen keyboard of my i300 easily enough, without learning Graffiti, so I thought I’d be OK but clumsy without a stylus. Learning to use the keyboard, with just my fingers, has been faster than I expected, though I’ll usually rotate the Evo for landscape keyboard unless what I’m entering is very short.
Google integration, Android, HTC Sense
With Evo’s Android, I expect good fit with Google, and that has been true as far as I’ve explored. Besides search, I mostly use Google for Reader, and Reader works OK in mobile mode for skimming tens of headlines (actually groups of 15) at a time. I don’t use Gmail much, but will probably use Gmail a little more as time goes on and I become more dependent on the Evo. Having Google Maps in my pocket has been useful a few times. But I really haven’t explored Android or HTC Sense very much so far. That is an endorsement from my perspective — as an end user I haven’t had the need to explore the software much. Eventually I will, but because I want to, not because I need to.
“Faster/better/cheaper” applies to cameras, in particular, cameras built-in to computers and phones. The Evo’s built-in cameras suffice for almost all my purposes. The still photos are about as good as the pocket camera I bought last year, with lack of optical zoom being the main limitation. For video, the Evo is definitely preferable to my “marvelous toy” (AIPTEK MPVR+) of three years ago. Optical zoom and 1080p are the main reasons I think of separate cameras now.
Browsing Android phones at a Sprint store earlier this year, I was dismayed about the absence/clumsiness of YouTube support. So I was expecting to have to deal with that when I got my Evo. But YouTube HQ was already in place, and works just fine. Other Flash video doesn’t work, but I don’t have much need for other Flash video, and will probably just wait for the Evo to have Android 2.2 and Flash 10.1.
My daughter was dismayed that I’d had the Evo for more than 24 hours and still hadn’t downloaded any apps. I don’t think she was impressed that I responded by getting ConnectBot (SSH client) and AndroidVNC (a.k.a. Android VNC Viewer). I hadn’t tried SSH or VNC on a phone since the i300. They both seem to work just fine. I’ve even tried using vi after logging in to a Fedora machine with ConnectBot, knowing that the on-screen keyboard would make it very hard to use vi normally. That I was able to use vi at all seemed worth celebrating. ConnectBot is mostly for SSH tunneling, at least in my current thinking, and handles that well to the extent I’ve tried it with VNC, IMAP and SMTP.
I’m still behind the curve in downloading apps. Since I haven’t explored many of the factory installed apps, and what I’ve explored has met my needs, I’m not likely to be much of an app consumer. I did download “Barbie in a Mermaid tale” for our grand-daughter — she and our daughter like to play that.
Ever since I’ve been handling mail servers for myself and others, I’ve been a fan of IMAP for mail servers. I’ve been less of a fan of most mail clients’ handling of IMAP. The only two clients I’ve ever really liked with IMAP, particularly with regard to handling of folders, are Netscape Mail and the Outlook Express lineage of Microsoft options, including the current form, Windows Live Mail. I’m pleasantly surprised by the handling of IMAP folders by the Evo mail client.
Reading about the lack of multi-touch in Android had been one source of trepidation, unnecessary trepidation in my Evo experience. Multi-touch may not be present in all of the apps, or as fully featured as in other environments, but seems OK in the browser and the PDF viewer. AndroidVNC doesn’t seem to have adopted multi-touch yet, presumably because the APIs are relatively new to Android, but does have discrete zoom buttons.
More to come
Before I got the Evo, I thought I’d be impatiently waiting for HTC to update from Android 2.1 (Eclair) to 2.2 (Froyo), if for no other reason than to have Flash support. Since the Evo YouTube HQ support seems just fine, I’m simply curious about 2.2, not impatient. Now is probably a good time to start taking a closer look at how Android and HTC/Sprint software all fit together on the Evo.
I’ve not gone on any trips with Evo yet. I’m expecting that having a pocket computer will make me much less likely to bring out a laptop in airports, etc. On the other hand, the Evo’s (extra $30/month, so far not purchased by me) portable Hotspot capability may be attractive in terms of both convenience and avoiding airport and hotel WiFi charges.
I haven’t tried Qik video chat — I don’t know anyone to call with Qik! I’d really like to try Skype on Evo, but my impression is that Skype won’t be offering video calling on Android/Evo any time soom. I keep seeing intriquing reports about fring, and it appears that a production release of fring for Android is available, so I’ll have to give fring a try.
I’m assuming I’ll have to build an app of my own for Android/Evo, if for no other reason than to say “Hello World!”, but it will probably be a while before I do so.
But right now, I need to respond to all the text messages that are making my Evo beep at me…