With the Android 4.0-enabled HTC EVO 4G LTE, Sprint plans to give smartphone users the best multimedia experience yet, officials said at this week's product press launch. While conditions at the New York City venue weren't the same as those you'd encounter in real life, a bit of hands-on experimentation with the latest EVO indicated that Sprint isn't just whistling in the dark.
The upcoming device -- pegged as one of the first to run on Sprint's 4G LTE network -- will be "faster, cleaner and more intuitive" than six generations of earlier EVOs, said HTC President Jason Mackenzie, in a formal presentation.
Although it shares most of the same underlying specs as the HTC One X, a model once considered by Sprint but now headed to AT&T, the EVO 4G LTE will be a "true successor" as the next step in the EVO's multimedia heritage, contended HTC product manager, Jay Harmon.
Farer Adib, Sprint's product chief, maintained that the phone's ImageSense camera system will make it possible for customers to use a smartphone camera instead of a separate camera.
"Cameras in phones have gotten better," Adib conceded. "[But] there's a REAL camera in here."
Adib also touted the phone's support for Sprint's forthcoming HD Voice, describing the voice technology as using "dual mics, decoders and encoders" to screen out ambient noise and produce a "less muffled" sound in voice calls.
These multimedia capabilities will be supported by Global Beats Audio, as well as by a 2000mAH battery -- the largest to show up in an EVO yet -- and a separate ImageSense DSP chip, for offloading photo and video processing from the phone's 1.5GHz dual-core Snapdragon chipset.
Curiously, the Sprint and HTC execs seemed to pay relatively scant attention to the EVO's 4.7-inch 720p LCD 2 screen, even though the display could turn out to be a strong selling point for the phone.
Although the next EVO's specs are virtually the same as those for the previously announced One X, consumers are likely to get their first (and maybe their only) taste of HTC's new hardware design in the EVO LTE 4G, a phone open to pre-order on May 7 at pricing of $199 with a two-year Sprint contract.
As differentiators from HTC's basic reference design, the new EVO sports a bright red kickstand in back, plus a dedicated camera on-off switch on the right panel.
Comfortable Overall Look and Feel
It wasn't possible to experiment all that freely with the EVO, since prototypes of the new phone were clamped down to the demo stations. Still, I did get to play around some.
At 166 grams, the Evo 4g LTE is heavier than Sprint's 134-gram rendition of the Samsung Galaxy S II, probably in part because the EVO uses a larger 4.7-inch display.
Still, the EVO felt plenty lightweight and comfortable enough in my hands, with its measurements of 5.31 x 2.71 x 0.35-inches. I found the screen -- more on that below -- to be quite responsive to the touch.
When I pushed the camera button on the right-hand side, the camera turned on immediately, something that would be quite useful during times when all you want to use your phone for is to snap photos or take a video. It might help out with battery life, too.
Bright LCD 2 Display
"This is our first HDTV touchscreen," Harmon told me. With its LCD 2 screen technology, he said, HTC is intentionally taking a different tack from Samsung's Super AMOLED. By paying close attention to the "higher ranges," LCD 2 does a better job of displaying pastels and other light colors, he said.
The LCD 2 screen did look very bright and appealing in the darkened conditions of the demo room. However, I can't vouch for how well the colors would display in broad daylight.
Global Beats Audio
The Beats audio system in EVO phones is designed to optimize sound for various Beats earphones. "If you're using a big headset, you get audio for a big headset, but if you're using earbuds, you get audio for earbuds," Harmon noted.
The recently introduced "Global Beats" extends Beats technology to audio embedded into films and movies.
Earbuds were nowhere in sight in the demo room. I tried out a big headset with a video from YouTube, and the audio seemed very robust and full-bodied. I had no immediate point of comparison, however.
The new EVO will also come with HTC Sync Manager software, for synching up music from your PC to your phone. Sync Manager works with a variety of other programs, even Apple's iTunes, Mackenzie said.
ImageSense High-End Camera
The ImageSense camera system aboard the new EVO includes an 8 megapixel (mp) rear-facing and 1.3 mp front-facing camera.
The main camera uses an f/2.0 lens. This lets in about 40 percent more light than most smartphone cameras allow, said Tracey Feldkamp, another HTC product manager, during another demo. The flash on the EVO is designed to adjust its flash strength based on distance away from objects being photographed.
Other features include dual lenses for simultaneous video recording and still photogaphy, 28 millimeter wide angle shots, and the ability -- also present in DSLR cameras -- to shoot a rapid succession of continuous still shots without lifting your finger from the shutter.
Thanks to the dual lenses, you can capture a still shot while you're filming a video, for instance.
In trying out the "continuous shoot" feature, I found that it took something like a second or two for thumbnails of the still shots to appear at the bottom of the screen. Then, they all showed up at once.
Another tool is meant to let you create group composite pictures using the best possible shots of individual members of a group.
The kickstand on the EVO 4G LTE is designed mainly for display of photos and videos. It harkens back to the original EVO, Harmon said.
The new kickstand, though, looks sort of like a shiny red ribbon, and it stands out markedly from the phone's black finish. The kickstand lies snugly against the back of the phone, until you operate a mechanism below it to make it fold out as a stand. You can choose between two horizontal positions for the stand.
Although it might sound like overkill, Harmon suggested that having a choice of positions lets you decide which ports and controls will be available for use. In one of the two positions, for example, you can plug in a charger for the phone's battery on top.
Presumably, by switching to the other orientation, you might use the kickstand as a tripod for the camera, since the dedicated camera button would then be on top.
The new EVO will also come with 16GB of on-board memory. A micro-SD slot inside will accommodate up to an additional 32GB of storage.
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