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June 7, 2010

Android First Impressions

Filed under Gadgets, Reviews

I picked up an HTC EVO 4G on Friday.


One year ago I bought a Palm Pre. I *love* the Palm Pre. My biggest issue with the Pre is a lack of new products (still no follow-on announced) and the lost developer momentum.

Android, on the other hand, is doing very well in those departments.

What I like:

  • Voice search – just press and hold the search button on the bottom right, then say what you are looking for and the phone gives you the Google search results for what you just said. I’m shocked how accurate it is, especially considering there is no voice training involved. This is definitely easier/quicker than typing and it has already changed how I use a smart phone.
  • Similarly, the on screen keyboard has an option to let you speak instead of type. I’ve used it for a few text messages and find it useful. I’m curious if I’ll use this more than the actual keyboard for txt messages…if it saves me keystrokes, then I will.
  • Google Maps has Street View! Maps is a killer app for mobile phones…and having access to Street View makes it even more so. I really like how you can rotate your body in order to spin around in Street View.
  • Google Scoreboard app: This app tracks your favorite teams, and tells you what time they are playing (in *your* time zone), where they are on TV/radio, and can notify you with score updates at start/end of game, or after every quarter, or score. It works great, it is free, and it has no ads.
  • EVO uses the same Micro USB port that the Pre uses, so I don’t need new charging cables for home/work/car.
  • Facebook app…written by Facebook. Automatically populates your phone’s contact list with information (email, phone numbers, address, etc) and profile pics.
  • Twitter app…written by Twitter. Like the Facebook app, the Twitter app integrates with Android so that any contacts you have that don’t have pictures associated with them can get their profile pics from Twitter. App has fun cloud/bird animations that give it a unique look and feel.
  • Foursquare app…written by Foursquare. Unlike the Pre version, this actually works well.
  • Gmail. The Android version of Gmail is is more full featured than the Pre mail program (supports labels, collapsing conversations to a single message).
  • Animated wallpaper.
  • Shazam. Ever hear a song and wonder who sings it? Shazam can listen to just a few seconds of a song and tell you what it is. This *is* magical software.
  • Phone kickstand. You can see a metal bar on the back on the phone in the image above. That metal bar extends so you can place your phone in landscape mode on a table for easy viewing. Useful when you use your phone as an alarm clock, watching movies, or a mini computer. Just add a wireless keyboard and you have a *very* portable computer, except the screen may be too small for heavy usage. Which brings me to…
  • HDMI out. The phone can output to a TV via an HDMI cable (video/sound). If you want a much bigger display than the already ginormous 4.3 inch screen…just plug it into your TV!
  • Mobile hotspot. You can use the EVO as a Wi-Fi access point for up to 8 devices! Finally…I can connect my laptop to the internet via my phone. My Pre could not do that (but my old Windows Mobile 6 Palm Treo could).
  • Web browser. I found that more web pages load correctly on the EVO than they did on my Pre.
  • I haven’t really thought about the performance of this phone, mostly because I haven’t had to wait for anything. I guess that means 1 GHz Snapdragon processor is fast.
  • Android has a lot of momentum now, I only expect it to grow. It is nice to have a phone that developers are targeting instead of being an afterthought. There are a ton of apps to play with…much more than what is available for the Pre.
  • Big 4.3” screen makes everything better: more details visible on maps, on screen keyboard has large buttons even in portrait mode, video more enjoyable to watch.
  • HTC’s custom software is actually useful and not crap ware like I was expecting. I like the home screen big clock, weather, alarms, timer, and stopwatch. You can turn on a low light clock that stays on at all times if you want to use your phone as an alarm clock. The pinch to zoom for access to the 7 home screens is very fast/useful.
  • Front facing camera for video chats. Not sure when I’ll use this, but it is nice to know I can.
  • HD video recording at 720p.
  • 8MP camera with 2 LED flashes.
  • Supports 32 GB microSD card.
  • Adobe Flash! It isn’t here on this Android release (2.1), but it should be when 2.2 come out…which won’t be long.

What I don’t like/miss:

  • Keyboard. I still prefer the confidence of typing with actual keys.
  • Notifications. They are handled *perfectly* on the Pre. Android needs some work. Android email notification only says you have a new message. Pre tells you who sent it and the message subject. Notifications on the Pre could be selectively deleted. So far, I’ve only been able to delete all notifications at once with Android.
  • Task management. Pre has this done right, too. On the Pre, you press the “home” button and you instantly see small “cards” representing all the running applications. You swipe an app up to send it off the screen and kill it. You can rearrange the order of running apps. You can use the swipe left/right gesture to quickly move between running apps without going to a home screen/task switcher dialog (like pressing/releasing Alt-tab). With Android, I don’t see a way to kill an app (Android is supposed to manage this for you). Android appears to only support switching between 6 apps via a dialog that comes up when you press and hold the “home” button. It’s not terrible…but not as slick as the Pre.
  • The Pre uses a universal swipe to the left or right to delete an item (like a mail message or a notification). Once you learn this, you expect you can do it anywhere…which is true on the Pre. Android doesn’t support the swipe to delete gesture…but I wish it did.
  • The Pre has the touchstone charger that lets you charge your phone by simply laying it on a “puck”…wireless charging. If you get a call, you lift the phone off the puck and the call is automatically answered, just like the way a traditional phone works. Also if you start a speaker phone conversation while on the the puck, lifting the phone off the puck will switch speaker phone off. EVO just plugs into a micro USB cable. :(
  • The battery life is about the same as what I was getting with the Pre…I have to charge a minimum of once a day, or more if I really use the phone. I keep it plugged in overnight and have a charger at work as well. It’s not a step back from the Pre, but I’d like to get back to the days when a cell phone only needed charging once a week.
  • On the Pre, you can slide your launch icons where ever you want. If an icon is already in the location, it will slide out of the way to a new location allowing for easy insertions. Android, on the other hand, won’t let you do this. You must first make an empty space before you can drag an icon to a location. Not a big deal…but not as slick as the Pre.

After using the EVO for a weekend and getting used to Android…I’m hooked. The EVO isn’t perfect and I do miss some of some of Pre’s niceties. Overall, the good almost makes you forget the bad.

I would recommend the EVO and Android to anyone.

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Comments (3)


Did your new phone come with a bunch of "crapware"?


Mostly I agree with you. I also still prefer the confidence of typing with actual keys, because I always press the wrong keys.

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