Monday, June 07, 2010
It's 11 a.m. as I write this on Monday, June 7, we're about two hours away from a very important keynote from Apple's Steve Jobs, where he's expected to unveil a new iPhone that's thinner, faster and better in every way.
Last year's upgrade from iPhone 3G to 3GS brought users more speed and functionality, but in the past 12 months, smartphones using the Android operating system have slowly eaten away at Apple's advantages.
While the iPhone is still the easiest to use and most efficient smart phone out there, Sprint's new HTC Evo 4G trumps it, badly, in features. That's why this new iPhone really needs to do some amazing stuff. With Android phones at all the major cellular providers and iPhone stuck at AT&T -- which some users are becoming particularly frustrated with -- Apple needs to try to change the game.
Sprint smartly launched the 4G Evo touchscreen phone Friday, three days ahead of Jobs' announcement, and got tons of new customers to sign up as well as current ones to reup with two-year subscriptions. There are still rumors floating around that Jobs may move iPhone to more networks (which is badly needed) but well before Jobs takes the stage in San Francisco, Sprint is already celebrating a huge victory.
In a press release Monday, the company said Friday sales of the Evo 4G were the best ever Sprint has ever had for a single phone. In one day, the Evo 4G did triple the business that the Samsung Instinct and the heavily hyped Palm Pre did in three days. Combined.
So many people packed 22,000 Sprint stores and retail partners across the country Friday that the company's computer systems locked up and customers had enormous wait times to get their phones activated.
I got a demo of the phone from Sprint Saturday and have been using it heavily for the past two days. At 4.3 inches, the phone is huge. It's wider and taller than iPhone and much easier to read. Dell's upcoming Streak Tablet is 5 inches, for example. But even though it's big, the slender Evo 4G slips easily in your pocket.
The crystal clear screen is beautiful and the phone is blazing fast. If you've used the iPad, this phone is similarly responsive. When you launch something, it loads quickly. Typing is easy. The keys are larger than on iPhone, for example, and you get a little vibration each time you touch a key. Users with larger hands will appreciate the extra room, and I liked the little shortcut ".com" key that typed in the tail end of website addresses for you.
This is the first phone to use 4G and Charlotte is one of the first cities to get Sprint's faster network. It's not strong everywhere I've been in the city, but when you get it, it's faster than any mobile cellular network I've tried. Make that a lot faster.
Pages load fast and the Evo's pretty color screen displays them beautifully.
And there's much more.
Pinch to zoom control, popular on iPhone, works instantly. An 8 megapixel camera on the back delivers incredibly detailed photos and you can also shoot video, with up to 720p high-definition resolution. A simple cable can connect your phone to your TV for HD playback.
You can also use the phone as a WiFi hotspot, providing that 4G speed for up to eight devices. Sprint will charge $30 a month for it, however.
The Android Marketplace isn't as seamless as the Apple App store, but it's got tons of products to shop through, and you can download music through Amazon.
And one of my favorite features of the phone is a little kickstand on the back that allows it to sit upright without being held. This is good for 4G videoconferencing with other Evos -- oh did I tell you there's a front facing camera, too? -- or watching videos on a plane or bus or train.
My only gripe is battery life. Use 4G and it drains faster than a Ford Expedition runs through gas. But even without 4G running or a lot of applications and the phone in screen saver mode, it still drains way too fast. I find I have to plug in two or three times daily during my tests. A firmware upgrade or a better battery (this one is removable) may solve that.
Sprint has an advantage on AT&T and Verizon in price. Unlimited users on those networks pay about between $115 and $130 per month. At Sprint, you pay $99. The company is charging $10 for 4G access, so even adding that, you could still save some coin.
Sprint's entry level price for the phone is $69.99 per month, which includes unlimited data, unlimited text and 450 anytime minutes. Users also get unlimited calling to any mobile phone at anytime. To add 4G service would raise the cost to $79.99
With Sprint's aggressive monthly service plans, and an already solid 3G network, at least locally, this Evo 4G is going to be a serious competitor to lure customers away from other providers. For me, it was the best non iPhone smart phone I've ever used, and depending on what Steve Jobs announces in a few hours, it might be the best smartphone on the planet period.
Posted by Langston Wertz Jr. at 10:28 AM