HTC Evo 4G: Some Notes on a JuggernautS

Ginormous. That's the EVO 4G in a word. The 4.3-inch screen. The 8-megapixel-photo, 720p-video-recording camera. It's the first ever phone with superfast WiMax wireless. It has a kickstand. Like I said, huge.

And size, it matters. It's actually staggering how different the experience is of using a phone that has over 4 inches of display, diagonally, versus more conventional screens, which run closer to 3.5 inches. Even when you're using the same OS at the same resolution—in this case, Android 2.1 with HTC's Sense UI at 800x480, seen on their last few Android phones.

It's kind of like when the jeans you've been wearing forever start to fit a little too snugly because you've been eating a little too well, and you finally cave and buy a bigger pair of jeans, there's a mindblowing moment when you close the button for the first time of how much freedom you suddenly have to breathe. So you kind of hyperventilate.

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But it feels a little weird too, a little alien. The jeans themselves aren't strange, you're just used to something tighter. The Evo delivers that sensation, too. Like popping open the app list, populated with oversized icons and stretchier fonts—something feels almost off, like it wasn't quite intended for a screen this size. The keyboard, HTC's-much-easier-to-type-on replacement of the stock Android keyboard is almost comically gigantic (but oh, is it nice to type on).

HTC's Sense user interface—the same Android 2.1 edition that's on the Incredible and other HTC phones—liberally slathered with glossy gradients, seems to feel busier the more I use it, and the bigger screen exaggerates this, to an extent.

It reminds me of the Big O, a mecha from a really amazing anime series a few years back: broad, heavy, red and black, contoured by purely functional lines. It's the epitome of what one means when you say a phone feels "sturdy." It makes other phones, like the aforementioned Incredible—effectively its little brother—feel tiny and fragile, even though it feels absolutely at home in even a skinny(ish) jeans pocket.

Bigger isn't better everywhere, however. The cameras—the front and the back—are disappointing based on the initial stuff I've shot, quite frankly. The 720p video is solid proof resolution isn't everything. The bitrate is around 5 megabits per second, so there's not a lot of data in that video. (By comparison, the 720p video pumped out by the T2i is around 45 Mbps.) And the front-facing camera? Taken from the Qik app, ick (Update it's slightly better coming from the regular camcorder app at 640x480 resolution, below):

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The eight-megapixel photos, fine in decent light. Not so great in even mediocre lighting. I was hoping for a little better. (See them full size here.)

This isn't a review, so much as impressions, since we weren't able to test the phone's killer feature—its mobile hotspot powers, turning 3G or WiMax into Wi-Fi for up to 8 other devices—due to some technical issues (not with the phone hardware, to be clear). But we'll doing some tests of that shortly. Still, it's safe to say this thing is the Escalade of smartphones: Big, brash, occasionally clumsy, but there's nothing like being able to stretch your legs out and fit a couple of hookers in the back.