First up, I didn’t do it because of the iPhone 4. Doubt me if you will (and I know you will), but it’s true.
I also didn’t return it because of the screen. Sure it might not have the highest resolution available, but it’s still pretty darn impressive. In fact, the screen size was the one thing I might’ve kept the phone for, despite my other gripes.
I didn’t do it because of Android. Well, not explicitly because of Android. I don’t mind Android. I love the widgets, I love the way I could customize the home screen. I really liked many of things Andoid does that aren’t even options on the iPhone. I even liked HTC’s custom “Sense” interface.
I didn’t do it because of the battery. Sure, the battery life of the brand new Evo was only marginally better than my two year old iPhone 3G, but it was a lifespan I could deal with, and if it got worse, buying a new battery would be easy and painless.
And I didn’t do it because of the lack of 4G. Guess what? Despite the fact that Los Angeles isn’t yet an officially supported 4G city, I found plenty of places around town with 4G service, including my own neighborhood. That was actually one of the biggest, more pleasant surprises about the phone.
No, I did it because of one word: Podcasts.
Yes, you read that right. Podcasts.
Android has plenty of ways to get podcasts onto the phone. But most of them involve directly downloading or streaming the podcasts through the phone itself. If you’re in an area with no data signal when you decide you want to listen to a podcast, you better hope you already downloaded one you didn’t hear yet. You also better hope you have the battery power to finish the download.
The desktop syncing solution, via a program called DoubleTwist, wasn’t much better. In fact, because podcast syncing isn’t even a feature yet on the Mac version of the software, it was just a disappointing tease of potential.
I listen to a lot of podcasts, and I’m used to a system (with my iPhone and iTunes) where new podcasts are automatically downloaded onto my computer every morning before I wake up. And as soon as I plug my cell phone into my computer to charge it, those podcasts automatically get copied over without me having to do anything. Had DoubleTwist been able to do that, or had there been an Android App that allowed me schedule automated downloads a la iTunes, I probably would’ve kept the phone. Silly, right? Such a small thing for most people, but because podcasts are a big deal to me, it was actually a pretty big thing.
The other thing that Android-DoubleTwist couldn’t replicate: Most of the podcasts I listen to are over an hour long, so I rarely get through them in one sitting. iTunes offers a no hassle way of not just syncing podcasts I subscribe to between my iPhone and my Mac, but also remembering where I am in them when I switch devices. I can start a podcast on my phone at a coffee shop and pick up right where I left off when I get home and want to use my computer’s speakers. Or I can continue listening to it on my iPad if I want, without any issues. The only requirement is physically plugging my iDevices into my computer, but since that’s also how I charge them, that’s not a big deal.
Other smaller frustrations I had with the Sprint/HTC Evo 4G:
- It had expandable memory, which is great, but I couldn’t control when things got saved to the SD card and when things got stored internally. Example of how that was annoying: My photo organizing program couldn’t see photos stored on the Evo’s internal memory.
- Speaking of photos, 8 megapixels might be among the best size-wise for smartphones, but quality-wise it was nothing to brag about. What’s the point of having all those pixels if the image quality is so subpar you wouldn’t want to print them up in the first place?
- The screen size was great, but it was obvious no Android programs had been designed to fully take advantage of the extra real estate. Buttons, text entry fields, and icons all wound up feeling a little bigger and boxier than they needed to be, creating what I call the “Fisher Price” effect. (you know, because Fisher Price toys usually have large plastic buttons that are easy for toddlers for press)
- Overall OS/App polish. A lot of programs didn’t feel incredibly responsive. The Gallery app for example felt sluggish when swiping through photos. I don’t mind third party apps not fully taking advantage of the killer processor, but I expect core apps that come with the phone to all be optimized, to show off the phone at it’s best.
I’ll let others gripe about the hit-or-miss video calling, the music player, and the movie capture abilities. I didn’t buy it for those purposes, so they didn’t affect my decision to return or keep it.
Some more things I really, really liked, so you don’t think I’m just a sour puss:
- Sprint TV — Something I never knew I’d want until I got it.
- Mobile hotspotting — even with the $30 monthly fee for it, it’s a cool service and worked well, especially in 4G areas.
- Did I mention how much I loved the screen?
- The kickstand. Surprisingly useful.
- The App store. Apple might have more apps, but there’s nothing gimpy about Androids. That’s pretty much a non-issue for me. Chances are, whatever platform you choose, you’ll find an app to do what you want (if it exists at all).
- Video Skyping through Fring. Most of my friends/family use AIM, not Skype, but it’s still a nice option to have. (Since my initial review, Skype has disabled this feature in Fring)
- Google Navigation. If I didn’t have a nav system in my car, this is another feature that could’ve been the deciding factor alone as to whether I kept it. The big screen plus the great nav software is a great combo.
I guess when it comes down to it, the Evo, like all Android phones, is great for living in the cloud. Which I don’t do just yet. If you’ve still got a computer that’s the hub of your life, that’s where the iPhone still has an edge.
So for the time being, when a friend asks me for advice on what to get, that’s the main criteria I’ll give them. And coming from a long-time iPhone user, that’s actually a big concession… There are a lot of people living in the cloud these days and the Evo might just be the perfect phone for them. Just not me.
ps – okay, I know what you’re thinking — “Buchman, you mentioned a Mac desktop, an iPad, and an iPhone — why would you even consider the Evo in the first place?” Well, aside from it being a sexy phone with some killer specs, I really want to be multi-platform if I can. That’s why I like to have a laptop that can run Windows. Plus, I really was hoping that once I got the iPad, I wouldn’t feel the need to get another iPhone. I figured one iDevice would be enough. And you know what? If the Android had handled media that came from my computer a bit better, that’s what would’ve happened.
pps – what are the podcasts I listen to, you ask? Here’s an abbreviated list of what’s currently on my iPhone: The Nerdist, This American Life, Wait Wait Don’t Tell Me, RadioLab, Adam Carolla, TedTalks, Onion News Network, and Comedy Death Ray. And I’m frequently trying new ones to get into my rotation…
ppps – if anyone out there knows of any Android solutions to my podcast needs, do share. I do intend to return to the platform at some point.