Android's default music app is a blah affair, but it gets the job done. HTC again steps in to jazz it up on the Design 4G, adding stylized buttons and a sound enhancer on top of the otherwise-adequate player. Songs sounded fine and volume was nice and loud through our midrange aftermarket earbuds.
The camera app on the Evo Design 4G also shows the HTC Sense flair on top of the typical software. You can pick from more than a dozen photo effects before you shoot, in addition to adjusting the usual camera settings for things like white balance. In addition, the Evo Design 4G camera software supports the wide-angle viewing mode (16:9), autofocus, face detection, and a grid.
Image quality was very good, all things considered. Colors tended to be rich and images were generally in focus. Even the front-facing camera did a decent job, without too much graininess. Although the Evo Design 4G's shooter wouldn't rank in our top five, it does land in the upper middle end of the spectrum. Shots looked their best, of course, when lit naturally.
The 720p HD video is a nice touch, and helps keep the phone competitive. Volume was pretty low, though, and the subjects of my videos were extremely hard to hear. Video played back smoothly, without any jerkiness, and the colors adjusted well. Shots were sharp and clear, even indoors. The Evo Design 4G has 768 MB RAM internal memory and holds up to 32GB external storage.
I tested the dual-band (CDMA 800/1900) HTC Evo Design 4G using Sprint's wireless network in San Francisco. I was unable to test the quad-band (GSM 850/900/1800/1900) world chip outside the U.S. Call quality was pretty good overall, but volume was a bit on the low side during my calls. It sounded fine in a quiet environment with the volume either all the way or almost all the way up, but in louder environments or with quieter talkers, it would have been nice to go higher.
Voice clarity was pretty good as well; voices didn't sound muffled, but they weren't exactly clear. At times, I heard the occasional hiccup in the conversation, but for the most part, callers could be understood. There wasn't any background noise.
On their end, my friends reported mixed results. In one call, voice quality was a little tinny, and parts of my words cut out occasionally, but not often. There was also a background hiss. Another test caller said there was no background noise, but there was a bit of distortion when my voice volume peaked. Other than that, it sounded as good as a landline phone, the caller said.
HTC Evo Design 4G call quality sample
Speakerphone was OK, but nothing special. It sounded tinny and echoey to my ears, but mostly loud. I was able to successfully use it to make a few calls and sit on hold while waiting to speak to an operator. In almost all cases, the phone was resting at about waist level. Callers also noted the tinny and echoey qualities, and added that there was some vocal distortion that made my voice sound a little unnatural and a bit hard to hear.
I was very satisfied with the 4G WiMax speeds. CNET's mobile site loaded in a speedy 11 seconds, and it took only about 15 seconds to load CNET's full desktop site. The New York Times mobile-optimized site loaded in just 7 seconds, and the full site loaded in just over 10 seconds. 4G held steady throughout most of my San Francisco wanderings. Using Ookla's Speedtest.net app in San Francisco, the Evo Design 4G ranged between 3Mbps and 5.8Mbps down and averaged 1.4Mbps up, peaking at 7.1Mbps down during our tests. You'll likely experience different speeds in other parts of the country.
Although it's not a dual-core phone (a concession to broker a lower price), the 1.2GHz single-core processor held its own on its Qualcomm MSM8655 chipset. The Evo Design 4G ships with a smaller battery than the dual-core, 4.3-inch screen Evo 3D; 1,520mAh to the Evo 3D's 1,730mAh lithium ion battery. The Evo Design 4G has a rated talk time of 6 hours. FCC radiation tests measured a digital SAR of 0.8 watt per kilogram.
As it's lacking superpremium specs like a dual-core processor, a qHD or HD display, and an 8-megapixel camera, you might be tempted to think of the HTC Evo Design 4G as an attempt to dumb down a proven phone to sell at a lower price point. Make no mistake: this is an excellent smartphone, especially for the price. The Evo Design 4G is generously endowed with a winning combination of speed, style, wicked-smart software, and a great camera that takes excellent shots. The fact that HTC can package all this software and hardware power in a stylish presentation and sell it for just about $100 makes it a fantastic value.
The timing is a tiny bit of a sticking point, with Android 4.0 Ice Cream Sandwich just around the corner. The good news is that HTC and Google are committed to bringing devices released within 18 months of a new Android OS up to speed, though it could take a little while and not every single feature (like NFC support) will be available on the device. Still, if you're a Sprint customer looking for a smartphone at a price that won't break the bank, the Evo Design 4G can do that and raise pangs of envy in the meantime.