Almost: The Truth about the EVO

I've now owned and used the EVO extensively for a month. I'm making it my primary personal phone. This is probably the best Android handset on the market right now and it has sold very well. In a world where the iPhone didn't exist this phone would be fantastic -- although this phone couldn't exist without the iPhone, which has largely "inspired" most of the Android handsets on the market today. 

However given the iPhone, the EVO is still second best. Compared to the crispness and precision of the iPhone keyboard I'm frustrated by the awkwardness of Android's version. I haven't used Swipe so I don't know how much that improves things for Android.

I had an HTC Incredible loaner for several weeks and appreciate that the larger EVO offers a wider keyboard in portrait mode. That makes typing easier and somewhat more accurate. But in general Android's keyboard, usability and accuracy remain a weakness in comparison to the iPhone. 

The tethering and Sprint Hotspot are great and one of the phone's real virtues. This actually saved me at home when my lousy AT&T DSL service went down a number of times in one week. I could continue working largely uninterrupted and could run several machines off it simultaneously. 

Sprint's "4G" service (in Seattle where I used it) is unremarkable and not all that faster in my experience than 3G. 

I love and use Google Navigation on Android, which still isn't on the iPhone I assume for competitive reasons. By contrast the Sprint Navigation is weak and awkward to use. 

The large screen on the EVO makes looking at websites and reading much easier than on any other Android device or smartphone. (I haven't seen the iPhone 4's controversial and much-hyped "retina" display in action so I can't compare.) Strangely, however, the EVO's display is also somewhat dull in terms of color and resolution and not as crisp as the Incredible, also from HTC. 

I like many of the personalization features on the EVO/Android but the HTC "Sense" interface is "net net" a weakness. Several features are nice; however overall it tends to get in the way more than add value in my opinion. Sense pushes the Google quick search box aside and off the homescreen, making it slightly more difficult to get to -- three swipes to get there. For that reason I've installed a Vlingo voice search app on my homescreen. (In my side by side use of the two, however, Google voice search appears to be somewhat more accurate, though Vlingo can do more things on the device.)

HTC is committed to Sense (and its successors) because it needs to add a proprietary layer on top of Android as part of its consumer differentiation strategy (especially vs. Motorola, which is doing something similar). HTC will continue to seek to improve Sense for that reason. Future versions are likely to be better than what exists today.

When I lauch a new browser window, annoyingly, Sprint tries to force me into its online portal (Sprint Powerdeck). This and many of the Sense screens and features actually represent barriers to tasks I want to accomplish. 

Overall, while packed with features, Android is still rough around the edges and not as easy to use as the iPhone. However, because I refuse to switch to AT&T, I don't have one. So for the time being at least I'll be generally satisified with the best Android phone on the market -- the EVO. I'm fairly happy with the device, especially as compared with my previous personal phone the Palm Pre, which I grew to despise over time. 

The larger point this underscores for me is that in the US, as in Europe, people should be able to buy the handset they want on the carrier they want. Curse you Apple and AT&T.