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Living With The Sprint HTC Evo

Posted by tomwiles at 7:46 PM on July 3, 2010

I’ve been living with my HTC Evo now for a few weeks, long enough where I can make a few informed observations about the device.

The Evo’s 4.3 inch multi-touch screen is superb. I’ve been surprised by the brightness and readability of the Evo’s screen even in a vehicle or outdoors in sunlight. The screen is big enough to be useful, yet the device still fits into a regular shirt pocket.

The Evo is fast and responsive. It seems that no matter what programs are open, the Evo remains just as responsive — there’s no wait for programs or configuration screens to pop open. The other smart phones I’ve owned in the past are dog-slow and sluggish by comparison.

The HTC’s “Sense” user interface that sits on top of Android is a winner. Popular social networking sites are slickly integrated right into every aspect of the phone’s functionality, making it possible to share most everything you can think of with a couple of taps.

The WiFi hotspot feature is also a tremendous convenience. It does have its quirks though. I’ve found that if I have opened up a bunch of different applications in the course of using the phone, if I then open up the WiFi hotspot feature, something will go wrong after a few hours and turn off the battery’s charging circuit. Something I have installed and am running may be causing this to happen. If I reboot the phone and then run the WiFi hotspot feature, this problem doesn’t occur and the battery keeps charging when it’s plugged in to AC power.

The integrated GPS is able to quickly find a signal. There are two GPS navigation choices that are included – Google Navigation and Sprint Navigation. Both work exactly as expected. I find myself making the most use of Google Navigation and Google Maps. The ability to search for businesses in a local area based on the phone’s own GPS location is extremely useful and I typically find I use that feature several times a day.

4G is currently not a good reason to buy an Evo because 4G coverage is currently extremely limited. This situation is in the process of changing. In the meantime, I’m happy with Sprint’s 3G coverage. I knew about this 4G limitation going in to getting this phone, so it’s not a problem for me. In reality, it’s likely going to take two or three years before 4G is widely deployed. I’ve been a Sprint data customer for more than 5 years, so I’ve witnessed (and lived with) the process firsthand of them going from 1XRT service that was limited to the eastern half of the country to widely-deployed EVDO Rev “A” 3G service.

Android is light years better than Windows Mobile 5, 6 or 6.5. When Android needs to pull data from the Internet it quickly pulls it without fuss or muss. All the versions of Windows Mobile I’ve dealt with have a “Dial-up Networking” routine they have to go through just as if it was a desktop computer connecting via a modem, which is slow and sometimes prone to fail. Windows Mobile data connections must be manually closed when not in use or they can drain the battery. Android just does what you expect it to without jumping through a bunch of hoops.

The Evo’s main 8 megapixel camera is very good, and the interface allows instant uploading of photos to services such as Flickr and Facebook. The front-facing camera will work with a free program called “Fring” that will allow two-way video conferencing, but I’ve found Fring’s interface confused and somewhat unreliable.

Sprint appears to be blocking the uploading of videos recorded on the phone even through the phone’s integrated browser when signed in to YouTube. However, I was able to email a video as an attachment to my YouTube account.

The Evo’s “HD video” recording capability is not anywhere close to HD standards. Furthermore, the sound quality of recorded video and audio is quite poor. The Evo is not a replacement for a real video camera. It is only fair to note here that all iPhones, iPod Touches, and iPads have superior audio recording capabilities. Also the iPhone 4’s HD video recording capabilities are obviously quite superior to the Evo’s.

Overall, I’m very pleased with the HTC Evo. That being said, keep in mind that it requires expensive voice/data plans if you wish to take advantage of all its capabilities. Furthermore as a two and one half year plus Sprint customer I’m satisfied with the quality and speed of the Sprint network.

Better Apps and Better Data Needed

Posted by tomwiles at 7:20 PM on June 19, 2010

Better Apps and Better Data NeededWhen it comes to certain types of software or social networking sites, I have tended to hold back and let others to be the first to jump on the bandwagon. For example, Twitter was around a year or two before I decided to sign up and see what all the fuss was about. I did the same thing with Facebook. After all, it seems in the initial stages there are dozens and dozens of similar types of sites that are trying to compete for the big prize, and I refuse to sign up for any or all of them until it becomes clear that they are doing something to set themselves apart to garner real interest. In the past I’ve signed up for plenty of sites and it seems like I’m the only one present. The formula is easy – the more people that sign up and actually use a site, the more useful it becomes.

In the smart phone realm I’ve been hearing people talk a lot about Foursquare. I kept hearing it mentioned, but really had little clue what functionality it offered. I kept hearing about Starbucks discounts and Mayors in conjunction with Foursquare and wondered what on earth that was about and what that had to do with a smart phone app.

Since I’m the proud owner of the Sprint Evo 4G smart phone, I’ve been checking out all sorts of interesting Android apps. The Foursquare name kept periodically coming up, so I decided I would check it out.

Once I loaded Foursquare on my Evo and opened the app up for the first time I was presented with a Foursquare login screen and realized I had to go to their site in a browser to create an account, which I did. As part of the Foursquare account generation process, they present you with options of connecting your new account to Facebook and Twitter – very smart on their part, because it helps to connect with friends that are already Foursquare members.

After I logged in on my phone, it was cool to be able to see where those friends had been when they “checked in” from various restaurants and businesses around the country and the world. That’s cool. However, the “Location” tab makes the app EXTREMELY useful for me. I’m an over-the-road truck driver, constantly driving up and down freeways across the country. I happened to be at Gas City, Indiana when I installed Foursquare, so I was a bit surprised to see listed all the restaurants and convenience stores at the exit I was at along I-69, and the distance in meters they were away from where my truck was parked. It uses the phone’s built-in GPS chip so that it knows exactly where it’s at and what businesses are around – within “four square miles” perhaps?

All of these GPS-enabled smart phone apps are great, but they don’t solve all of my problems. I’m constantly looking for truck washes (refrigerated trailers constantly need washed out before reloading) as well as truck stops and truck parking. Even Google’s database has been gamed – try typing “truck stop” or “truck wash” along with the city name of your choice into Google and see if the search results aren’t misleading. “Truck wash” and a city name will often result in car wash business listings, useless for my purposes.

The bottom line is there’s still plenty of room for future smart phone app development. More specialized apps and better databases are two elements that can result in more useful apps.

Smart Phones Getting Smarter

Posted by tomwiles at 1:20 PM on June 18, 2010

Smart Phones Getting SmarterWith my recent purchase of the Sprint HTC Evo 4G, I’m on my third smart phone. It’s been quite an interesting ride.

The first one was an HTC PPC-6700, running Windows Mobile 5 with the original incarnation of Alltel EVDO, integrated WiFi, and a slide-out keyboard. The phone had terrible battery life, and the operating system was sluggish. I personally found the slide-out keyboard to be next to useless, and it’s presence made the phone too thick. On long phone calls or with intensive data usage, the phone could get hot enough to cause it to lock up or reboot without good ventilation. Nonetheless, I kept it for a couple of years, passing it on to one of my younger brothers when I was done with it.

Smart phone number two was a Sprint HTC Touch. It had the same sized screen, but was much thinner and sleeker. It had a bit better battery life than the 6700, but not by much, and no WiFi. The operating system was still a bit sluggish. Sprint and HTC upgraded it to Windows Mobile 6.1, and with the integrated GPS chip, it functioned with the included Sprint GPS Navigation software, which is actually quite good. For about a year and a half, I used this phone as my podcast aggregator (with a paid aggregator app) and playback device, which actually worked reasonably well. A $20 dollar keyboard app gave me an iPhone-style onscreen keyboard to replace the next-to-useless software keyboard included with Windows Mobile. I used this phone up until a few days ago, keeping it for about two and one half years.

Enter now the Evo 4G. I have to say this is probably one of the most impressive, satisfying gadgets I’ve ever owned, and that’s saying something. Compared to the HTC Touch, the Evo is about ¾ of an inch longer and ½ an inch wider and about the same thickness as the Touch. The Evo’s large touch screen is spectacular, and the Android operating system is extremely responsive and smooth regardless of how many apps I have running. The integrated WiFi hotspot is fantastic and works incredibly well, though it can cause the need to reboot the phone after downloading about 1.5 gigabytes of data. The Evo stays very cool while in use.

My conclusion? The best computer is the one that’s in your pocket.

Sprint EVDO Service to become non competitive!

Posted by geeknews at 11:19 PM on May 19, 2008

It appears some idiot over at Sprint is going to kill the one good thing they have going for the company. They are going to put in a 5gb transfer cap on their EVDO service. I live on my Sprint EVDO connection during the weekdays. I have no idea how much I am transferring but it has to be quite a bit.

The Sprint EVDO service has been terrific yet they are going to kill the service with these caps. No longer will we be able to do remote Ustream events and a host of other things that we could before.

After a report came out last week that AT&T EVDO is faster than Sprint I might as well bail from their service and go to a service that has a faster connection. I swear this is one more of multiple stupid moves that Sprint has made in recent weeks.

Hopefully Sprint will listen to business users like me. If they don’t then I am going to be shopping for a new company to do business with.

Sprint Novatel U720 Review

Posted by todd at 5:16 PM on December 14, 2006

U720Well my Sprint Novatel USB Ovation U720 arrived yesterday and after three tries with Sprint was able to get the ESN from my old card swapped to this new one. Overall the performance is great but I was surprised to see that the you have to use a Dual USB Port Dongle with the unit. Thus running the device on your laptop requires the utilisation of two USB ports.

The antenna access for the device is under the flip-up antenna and I am already concerned about the longevity of the card as looking down into the antenna port hole I do not see a lot of supporting material in and around the connection. Only time will tell if the external port will hold up or not.

This card is Rev A. capable but seeing Hawaii does not get Rev A. till the first of the year I will not be able to report on speeds. In download speed test the unit is comparable in transfer speeds of the PCMCIA version of this card.

I think the folks at Novatel would have been smart of they would have provided a power port for the USB card so as to allowed those that were using it in a permanent location to not have to use two USB ports to run the device.

I paid full retail for this card as I had existing service so I am hoping that in the long run this card works out ok. Meanwhile I have a Sprint PC-5740 card for sale if anyone wants to purchase it.

Update: The Novatel U720 does work with the Kyocera KR-1, I was concerned about this, but my testing here validates the KR1 works with the U720!

My EV-DO Amplifier Experience

Posted by todd at 1:45 AM on December 10, 2006

For about a year now I have had a Sprint EV-DO card that has worked well in all of the locations that I find myself in. But recently I changed offices which moved me from a outer wall in a building with few windows to inner office. I knew I was in trouble when the guys desk I was taking over for told me that if I wanted my cell to work I would have to place it about 20 feet from my desk on top of a cabinet.

Obviously when I plugged in my EV-DO card at my new desk the signal was non existent even though I had perfect reception at my old desk that was less than 30 feet away along with a couple of walls.

I started hunting online for an external Antenna and Amplifier solution. The more I looked the more I become concerned when I found many sites that sold Antennas and Amplifiers did not have a customer support line. With the price of most solutions just under $250.00 I wanted to talk to someone that had a clue.

I finally found one company that had a responsive customer, and a warm body I could call with any questions I may have. Ultimately I ordered a amplifier and antenna from Gordon over at Maximum Signal. Gordon was very helpful and the kit I purchased really did the trick and I have a usable EV-DO card again.

The amplifier – antenna combo raised my signal from like -110 to -85 db it’s not perfect but it’s better than not working at all.

Meanwhile I am hoping Sprint looks at the building and installs a commercial amplifier in it so that our cell phones will work. It really sucks in this day and age to be in a location where the thickness of the walls kill the mobile coverage.

If you need a solution that works I highly recommend using the folks at Maximum Signal!

I will have more to say though about a couple of popular EV-DO sites that I have some serious concerns about in their site information and sales transparency.

Sprint Launches EV-DO Revision A

Posted by todd at 12:37 AM on October 25, 2006

SprintI am pretty excited that Sprint is launching EV-DO Rev A. in San Diego but was disappointed to see that Honolulu did not make there 2006 market roll-outs. If you live in a big mainland city you will be getting Revision A very shortly.

I have noticed here in Hawaii over the past two weeks that connectivity has been terrible and I actually went on dial-up this afternoon because it was slow. I am not sure what the issue is but the connection speed has really slowed down.

I have been very tempted to try a new wireless carrier here in Hawaii as they are advertising some impressive speeds and with no Revision A rolling out here soon. I may have to look into it.

I know that some Sprint Reps read this Blog so I am wondering if they can let me know when Honolulu is scheduled for roll-out and can you tell someone to check the tower that is close to Kanehoe because my connection has been really bad. [Sprint]

Sprint and Motorola launch the Red MotoRazr Phone V3m

Posted by geeknews at 4:04 PM on October 13, 2006

This is part of the Project Red product roll outs today

“Project (RED) – an initiative began by Bono and Bobby Shriver to raise money and awareness for The Global Fund to fight AIDS and other diseases in Africa. Motorola and Sprint will both contribute directly to the fund for every phone purchased. Expected in early November, the Sprint RED MOTORAZR will be EV-DO-enabled and have access to content such as Sprint TV, NFL Mobile, Sprint Music Store, Sprint Movies and Power View. We can send images if you are interested. Customers are able to pre-register to be contacted about the device when available by visiting www.sprint.com/RED.

Apple had their own Red iPod roll out today as well as reported last night on the Podcast. See the full press briefing from Sprint and Motorola

Sprint gets beat up by Blogger!

Posted by geeknews at 3:50 AM on September 20, 2006

Ever since I got my Sprint EV-DO card back in January I have been a pretty happy camper. Then sometime after the first of the year Sprint sent me a cell phone to test as part of their Ambassador program it was their top of the line Samsung model with all of the bells and whistles. I loved some features of the phone. The one I liked the most was the camcorder, along with some of the media stuff. I started watching Fox News in the car while waiting for my wife to run errands time to time. But there were a few things I did not care about and blogged both pro and con here, and also sent in some pretty heavy feedback on the cost of some of the additional services.

My 16 year old daughter acquired the phone once for about a week. She loves it but she also liked the idea that she could check all those channels out for free. The price of some of the services did cause her concern as well.

This week Sprint sent out a new series of phones to some bloggers, and one of them just beat them up pretty bad. The experience I have had with my Samsung has been overall pretty good. But I am a media junky and find myself pulling it out in places that I would not have my laptop out just to get a news fix.

Overall though Sprint has won me back as a customer. My current plan with T-Mobile will expire at the end of the year and I will be moving all of my mobile services to Sprint. T-Mobile has some old data network that probably will never support high speed connectivity it’s to bad really as T-Mobile does have a great family plan. But hey I am a customer they will probably be glad to see leave as I burn all of my 2000 minutes a month now as it is. [JoelOnSoftware.com]

Using Sprint EVDO on the Fringe!

Posted by geeknews at 9:36 PM on September 5, 2006

My moms house is 13 miles from the closest town were most of the major cellular services work. My mom business uses Verizon Wireless phones which is the only service that works reliably here at the house. I have a T-Mobile and Sprint cell phone in my pocket and neither of them even register a single bar of signal level. In order to get my VoiceMail I have to dial in via a land line or go to the second floor of the house and hang out a window.

Yesterday on a whim I plugged in my Sprint EVDO card into my computer and tried connecting to the sprint wireless network, even though their was no signal on the card it connected. I about fell out of my chair. Well it turns out that if I sit at the kitchen table which is next to a window the PCMCIA card will connect to sprint. I am getting transfer speeds that are a little slower than dial up.

To give you a idea my moms home is on a dirt road and will likely never get broadband via cable I doubt ADSL service will ever be available as well. This has made me realize that someday when Sprint and Verizon get their act together and get 3G or next gen wireless broadband speeds deployed to rural areas via their cell towers people like my mom will be able to get connectivity.

I have always told my parents that I would love to live in this area, we have land to build on but with no broadband there is no way I could operate my business. There is a huge untapped market of people here that are stuck on dial up in a broadband world.

Honestly I am pretty shocked that my EVDO service with Sprint works at this point even though it is at dial up speeds. The Samsung Sprint cell phone I am reviewing has no signal at all. I suspect if I stood on the roof I might get a signal with the handset. It is obvious that the antenna on the PCMCIA card is better.

I should have brought my wireless router that I can plug my EVDO card into as I would have tied it down on top of my dads 3 story barn to get a better line of site connection. Hey Sprint I would be happy to give you some land to put a tower up here at my moms place if you will give her free 3G broadband access as long as you have a tower here. Until then I guess I will have to deal with less than dial up speeds.