Sometimes you choose a phone rather than a carrier — you want the best possible phone for your needs, and are willing to sign a contract with whichever one has the perfect device for you. That’s why we’re comparing 4G phones offered by two different carriers.
In one corner we have the HTC EVO 4G from Sprint, which was the first 4G phone to be available to the general public. In the other corner, we have the HTC ThunderBolt, the first 4G phone available from Verizon. At first glance these devices are almost identical, so the key is to focus on the small details that can end up making a big difference.
BUILD & DESIGN
On the design front, the Evo 4g and the ThunderBolt are very similar, with only minor cosmetic differences. Both devices are mainly black, with the entire design dominated by the large Touchscreen display. They are almost identical in size and shape. The EVO measures 4.8-inches tall and 2.6-inches wide, which is very slightly taller and thicker than the ThunderBolt’s 4.75-inches tall and 2.44-inch width.
Both have a built-in kickstand, which is great for hands-off viewing, However it only works in landscape on the Sprint EVO 4G, The ThunderBolt’s kickstand is new and improved, and works well in both portrait and landscape mode.
Display and Keyboard
Both devices have a 4.3-inch display running at 480 x 800 resolution, so in this area it’s virtually a dead heat. The only advantage goes to the Sprint EVO 4G, which has an HDMI video-out port that can be used to show videos on a compatible TV.
The same is true of the keyboard, since neither phone has a physical QWERTY keyboard. No matter which one you choose, you’ll be using the on-screen virtual keyboard for all of your data entry needs.
Performance is another close call, with the EVO 4G and the ThunderBolt each featuring a 1GHz processor. Both phones are quick and responsive, without a great deal of waiting time when launching apps or switching between them.
Both run Android OS 2.2 and an upgrade to OS 2.3 for each of these smartphones is expected in the coming weeks, so this is another tie.
The ThunderBolt is the clear winner here, with crystal clear voice quality. When I tested this model, some of my callers couldn’t even tell I was on a mobile phone, which was unfortunately not the result I got while using the Sprint EVO 4G. Voice quality ratings were decidedly mixed, and I didn’t experience any major problems but my callers had a hard time hearing me, because of interference from background noise.
Productivity and Entertainment
This is another dead heat, since the EVO 4G and the Thunderbolt are essentially the same device when it comes to apps and basic capabilities. Each one includes Quickoffice for working with Microsoft Office files, plus Google Maps for navigation.
The other included apps are basically determined by the carrier, so the EVO 4G has Sprint Navigation while the Thunderbolt has VZW Navigator, for example. The ThunderBolt has a lot more pre-loaded apps than the EVO 4G, but that’s not necessarily a good thing. Some of those apps, like the demo for Let’s Golf 2, cannot be removed without actually rooting the device and doing some pretty advanced customization. If you’re looking for slick and streamlined in the app department, the EVO 4G is the clear winner in this category.
Battery and Camera
Battery life on both devices is a concern, because the price you pay for that blazing fast 4G speed is a power-hungry phone. Both the EVO 4G and the ThunderBolt really eat the battery away quickly, though the EVO 4G gets the slight edge in this category.
The EVO 4G was able to last through a day of use without dying by mid-afternoon, while the ThunderBolt died a couple of times before I got home from work. The EVO 4G also makes it a little easier to turn off the 4G wireless during those times that battery conservation is more important than fast web browsing.
Both devices have similar cameras — 8 megapixels on the rear and 1.3 megapixels on the front for video calling. They both take very good photos, focusing quickly so that you won’t miss a shot. The ThunderBolt has a slight edge here because the camera controls are easier to manipulate, as compared to the EVO 4G. On the ThunderBolt you can quickly access special coloring effects, and the flash handles low light situations a bit better, with less grainy results.
Since the EVO 4G has been around for a little while, it is currently available for $200 with a new two-year contract as opposed to the ThunderBolt, which will set you back $250 with a contract. Whether or not the $50 savings is enough to consider the EVO 4G is a question that only you can answer, especially given the EVO’s shortcomings when it comes to voice quality.
Even though the competition was neck-and-neck in several of the categories, I have to give the nod to Verizon’s HTC ThunderBolt. That’s the device I’d pick if I were buying a new phone, because it’s hard to argue with the latest and greatest, and because the Verizon network does seem to be stronger in my area.
Having said that, the EVO 4G is a strong competitor and certainly should not be overlooked. It’s $50 less expensive, has a HDMI out, and isn’t as loaded with extra apps that I wouldn’t use. The camera quality is about the same, though voice quality isn’t quite as good. For the bargain conscious consumer, however, the Evo 4g is a worthy competitor.
The bottom line is that these phones are so close that it truly can go either way, so it’s best to evaluate what your top priorities are in a mobile device. Add in the carrier rate plans and coverage available in your area, and you’ll come out with a clear winner.