What I want from the Evo 4G

The HTC Evo 4G holds a lot of promises for Sprint users, but the carrier needs to remember a few things before the phone goes on sale.

Kent German Former senior managing editor / features
Kent was a senior managing editor at CNET News. A veteran of CNET since 2003, he reviewed the first iPhone and worked in both the London and San Francisco offices. When not working, he's planning his next vacation, walking his dog or watching planes land at the airport (yes, really).
Kent German
4 min read
Watch this: HTC Evo 4G (Sprint)

Excuse me for being a little anxious, but I can't wait for the HTC Evo 4G to go on sale. I got to handle Sprint's first WiMax cell phone at CTIA last month and liked what I saw immediately. Sure, you can argue that its hardware isn't so different from the HTC HD2, but that doesn't take away from the Evo 4G's stunning display, sleek design, and high-end features. And more than just being Sprint's first 4G phone, it's also the first 4G phone from any big U.S carrier.

So yes, I'm excited, but I also believe in having realistic expectations. Though the Evo 4G stands to be a very good phone, I'll be disappointed if I assume that it will be the greatest phone ever. I also know that a lot can happen between the time a phone is announced and when it's introduced, which is why I offer Sprint some advice. I know, "Sprint, don't screw it up," (my last tip), isn't very helpful, so I'll be more specific this time.

Sprint's first task is to explain 4G and WiMax to its users, which is harder then it sounds. Though "faster data" accurately describes 4G, consumers also need to know the specific benefits that a speedier network will bring (admittedly, the carrier has made a start). Just how will performance improve? What can the Evo 4G do that 3G handsets can't do now? Sprint has to answer these questions and give performance promises context. Telling me I'm going to get data speeds of 6Mpbs on a 4G phone isn't enough; I need to know why that's a good thing.

I lead with marketing because I don't think that Sprint, or any carrier for that matter, really did a good job explaining 3G at first. We heard a lot about the glory of streaming video and music downloads, but 3G really gained meaning and momentum when people started browsing the Web on their mobile devices. Then we understood that 3G brought us a better Internet experience and offered us more than a choppy CNN clip from Sprint TV. Sprint needs to do the same for 4G and not just depend on formulaic slogans like "The now network."

HTC Evo 4G (photos)

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Network speed and coverage
On a related note, I urge Sprint to be honest about the capabilities of its network. If the carrier promises certain speeds, it must do its best to deliver them. We'll give Sprint some latitude if the Evo 4G doesn't get top performance 100 percent of the time, but the WiMax network needs to be reliable on a daily basis. Fortunately, we've liked what we've seen so far.

Just as important, Sprint needs to activate 4G service in more cities as soon as it can. WiMax is live in a respectable 27 places now, but that's not nearly enough to entice a mass of users to adopt the Evo 4G. Also, though the list current list includes big cities like Chicago, Houston, Atlanta and Philadelphia, Sprint has to make good on its plans to add such notable populations enters as New York, Denver, Los Angeles, and San Francisco. I know I'm being a little selfish about San Francisco, but how else can I test the Evo 4G properly? Sprint needs to switch on those markets quickly or risk losing a lot of early adopters who want the first 4G phone.

Data plan
Sprint hasn't yet announced details for its WiMax data plans, which isn't surprising considering pricing can make or break the Evo 4G. The carrier's new $69-per-month "Any mobile, anytime" plan is quite a bargain for unlimited calling and data, so I'm hoping for something in that ballpark. Though I understand if Sprint has to go a bit higher for unlimited 4G data, it can't go too much higher or customers will balk. Yes, building out a network does cost money, but customers may not see it that way.

Availability date
Sprint also hasn't confirmed the rumored June 13 launch date for the Evo 4G. Though my biggest concern is that we don't wait too long for the handset--gadget-lovers can have a short attention span--Sprint needs to remember that Apple is likely to release its newest iPhone model around the same time. I'm skeptical that we'll get an iPhone that supports 4G networks, but Apple could very well bring the device to another carrier. And if that happens, the already frantic iPhone hysteria will go into overdrive. Sprint, choose your release date carefully so you aren't overshadowed.

Along with the usual Android refinements the Evo 4G will have Wi-Fi, 1GB of internal memory, Assisted-GPS, a microSD card slot, a 1GHz Snapdragon processor, an HDMI out port, and (my favorite) the ability to function as a hot spot for up to eight devices. That's an impressive list, so I beg Sprint not to scale back on these promises in any way. What's more, don't saddle us with any annoying limitations on how we use the features.

Android updates
The Evo 4G is set to get Android 2.1 from the start. That's great, but I hope that Sprint is aggressive with future Android updates. In other words, keep them coming as soon as they're available. The HTC Hero and Samsung Moment have been out for months, but owners are still waiting for an update to 2.1. Such intermittent OS upgrades remain the biggest downsides for Android for now; the Evo 4G is the perfect opportunity to make a change.

What do you want from the Evo 4G? Tell me below.