Nov 21 AT 9:00 AM Nick Gray 21 Comments

The HTC EVO Design 4G has been on the market since October 23, bringing a solid Android experience to Sprint customers at a fairly affordable price. The handset doesn’t feature a dual-core processor, an extra-large display, an 8 megapixel camera or some of the bells and whistles found on phones like the Motorola DROID RAZR or the HTC Sensation, but I have a feeling that most people won’t even notice.

1. Build Quality

Though the Design 4G bears the EVO name, the handset doesn’t really feel like an EVO. But that’s a good thing. The EVO 4G, EVO Shift 4G and EVO 3D were all enclosed in a plastic shell. The HTC EVO Design 4G is the first member of the EVO family to be upgraded to an HTC uni-body aluminum casing, giving the phone a solid feel — something that’s always been lacking with other EVO handsets.

The black aluminum encompasses the 4-inch qHD display on the front of the handset and the center of the back of the EVO Design, prominently featuring the HTC logo. The back of the handset is coated in soft-touch plastic which reduces fingerprints and provides a secure grip. The handset’s 5 megapixel camera and single LED flash (which protrude slightly) and the speaker are located towards the top on the back of the phone, while the volume rocker and microUSB port are located along the left edge. The power button and 3.5mm headphone jack have been placed on the top edge of the phone.

Prying off the lower back panel of the phone (which is a bit harder than it should be) gives users access to the 1520 mAh battery and the phone’s SIM card. The battery is held in place by the same hinge mechanism which HTC introduced in the HTC Legend — the first aluminum uni-body handset from HTC.

2. Hardware Performance

Unlike some of the newer flagship phones from HTC on AT&T, T-Mobile and Verizon, the HTC EVO Design 4G comes equipped with a traditional single-core 1.2 GHz Qualcomm MSM8655 chip paired with 768MB of RAM. In this day and age, a single-core processor may sound outdated, but the performance achieved by the Design 4G is simply remarkable. Benchmark scores came in a little lower than what I expected (Quadrant: 1700’s, AnTuTu: 3100’s), but the phone was able to breeze through every single 3D game I threw at it and the browser fairs fairly well, even when playing Flash videos from sites like CNN or ESPN.

The Design 4G is able to keep up with most apps, but I did find that HTC Sense 3.0 was a bit too heavy of a skin for this type of device. The majority of the time, the phone handles Sense with ease, but there are glitches now and then which cause some frustration when all you’re trying to do is swipe between home screens to get an update from one of your widgets.

3. Call Quality

Smartphones can do some amazing things these days, but we often forget that they are phones and should be used to make calls. If you happen to be one of those people who actually spends time on the phone talking to people, I’m happy to report that the HTC EVO Design 4G performs admirably. Audio during calls is loud and clear, but can become muffled quite easily if you don’t align the phone’s speaker just right with your ear. The speaker on the back side produces decent audio as well during calls, but I suggest you only use it when the person you’re talking to is in a quiet environment.

4. Display

While the HTC Amaze 4G, EVO 3D and HTC Rezound all have 4.3-inch displays, HTC has equipped the EVO Design 4G with a slightly smaller 4-inch display. While this sounds like a bit of a disappointment, I have to confess that I’m fairly impressed with the EVO Design 4G’s qHD (960 x 540) Super LCD display. The display’s 275 PPI is much lower than the 342 PPI of the 720p display on the new HTC Rezound, but it’s still extremely hard to pick out individual pixels with the naked eye.

The Design 4G’s display may not be as bright or vivid as phones with Samsung’s Super AMOLED displays, but the color temperature, brightness and contrast levels are more true-to-life. Cranking the display’s brightness settings to max will give you a pretty good experience while using the phone outdoors, but I suggest you find a few trees for shade during the noon hour to avoid direct sunlight.

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The HTC EVO Design 4G comes pre-loaded with Android 2.3.4 and HTC Sense 3.0. The main advantage of having Android 2.3.4 over other phones with 2.3.3 or lower is that you can use video chat through gTalk. But if you’re really into video chatting with your friends, I’d recommend using Qik which has been upgraded to support 720p HD video chat with the front-facing camera.

Writing about HTC Sense is always a tricky subject. Many of you reading this have a very strong dislike for any custom skins. While there’s certainly a strong case for leaving Android as it is, HTC Sense 3.0 features some advanced features not found in Android 2.3.4. One of the most notable features in Sense is the new customizable unlock screen. Users can pick four of their favorite apps which can be launched directly from the lock screen. In addition, there are a handful of lockscreen backgrounds which can display information about the weather, Facebook or Twitter updates or a picture slideshow made up of the images you have taken with your phone.

As always, HTC Sense also comes with a huge selection of widgets (81 to be exact) which allow you to customize your seven phone screens exactly how you want. Users also have the ability to access HTC Hub which hosts more widgets, wallpapers, skins, scenes, ringtones and notification sounds.

For a veteran Android user, HTC Sense can feel bloated and unnecessary since many of the included features can be found in third-party applications from the Android Market. However, I’ve heard over and over again from new Android users and a handful of jealous iPhone owners that they truly enjoy HTC Sense, its widgets and the visual flair it brings to the Android platform. I’m personally a fan of HTC Sense along with all the extra features that it brings to Android, but the hardware on the Design 4G simply can’t keep up with the newer 3D interface to give users that smooth experience they deserve.


After using the HTC Amaze 4G and its backlit imaging sensor, it’s a bit hard to enjoy images taken with other Android phones. HTC has taken a bit of a step back with the HTC Design 4G, equipping it only with a 5 megapixel camera. This choice may seem a bit odd, but it was necessary in order to give the camera some of the same features — such as zero shutter lag — which are found on other HTC phones. This feature performs well on the dual-cores of the Sensation and the Amaze 4G, but HTC had to reduce the number of megapixels from 8 to 5 so that the single-core processor of the Design 4G would be able to handle it.

The camera interface is identical to what we saw on the HTC Sensation, providing quick access to the camera’s sharpness, contrast, exposure, white balance, resolution and flash settings. Users can also select between a variety of image effects which comes in handy when you want to have a little extra fun with your pictures. The images captured by the Design 4G’s 5 megapixel camera are decent, but they look washed out and blurry when compared to shots taken with the HTC Rezound, myTouch 4G Slide and the Amaze 4G. The shutter speed of the camera is able to keep up when you’re trying to capture that perfect shot, but I found that HTC’s software relies a bit too much on ISO (increasing the graininess of the image) in order to reduce motion blur.

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The front-facing 1.3 megapixel camera takes decent shots for not having an autofocus lens, but what makes it stand out is its ability to capture 720p HD video. Again, if you’re really into video chat, I recommend you download the latest version of Qik which now supports 720p video. Your friends will be able to tell if you took a shower or washed your face in the morning.

7. 4G

If you’re buying a smartphone these days, you’re probably looking to get a phone with an incredibly fast data connection. Fortunately for you, the HTC EVO Design 4G comes equipped with a 4G WiMax radio which allows you to speed along on Sprint’s 4G network. Many consumers (me included) still have their reservations about calling Sprint’s WiMax network a true 4G network since maximum data speeds are limited to 10 Mbps, but that’s a point of discussion for another article. The Design 4G does get incredible 4G reception (as long as you don’t live in my house) and manages to get download speeds between 5-7 Mbps if you’re within a Sprint 4G area.

8. GSM International Roaming

One of the major frustrations for Sprint customers has always been the inability to use their CDMA phones when they travel internationally. Yes, you can always pick up a cheap pre-paid handset if you plan on vacationing in Europe or South America for a few weeks, but it’s more of a hassle than you can imagine. The HTC EVO Design 4G is one of the few devices from Sprint which features CDMA and GSM network support. The phone comes with a pre-installed SIM card which will allow users to roam in any GSM 850/900/1800/1900 networks outside of Sprint’s network.

While the phone could technically work on AT&T’s 3G network, users will have to SIM unlock the device in order for the phone to successfully recognize the SIM card. It’s a shame that Sprint has locked down the phone’s SIM functionality and can make some extra profit off of you when you take your phone overseas, but it’s definitely nice to have a phone that will actually work in another country when you travel.

9. Battery Life

HTC has been pushing out some pretty amazing phones recently, but I’ve found that one thing that HTC continuously missed the mark on is battery performance. Fortunately, the 1520 mAh battery that comes with the HTC EVO Design 4G breaks HTC’s battery performance losing streak and delivers a performance worthy of praise. I’m sure that HTC and Sprint have gotten a lot better at optimizing battery performance for their 4G phones, but my suspicion is that the 1.2 GHz single-core processor and smaller 4-inch display are the main reasons why the Design 4G is able to last a few extra hours longer than HTC’s dual-core lineup.

With the HTC EVO Design 4G I was consistently able to make it through an entire work day without worrying about plugging the phone in at work or in my car during my commute — a feat that has proven nearly impossible with the HTC Rezound, Amaze 4G and the EVO 3D. On the weekends, I even managed to make it 50 hours before the Design’s battery finally gave in. Everyone’s battery mileage will vary, but most will find that the EVO Design 4G will last you through the work day.

10.Packaging and Accessories

When you buy a phone, you want a complete package. The HTC Rhyme comes with a nice little charm, tangle-free headphones, a charger and a very nice Bluetooth enabled music/charging dock — so you’d think this would give you an idea of what you’ll get with the HTC EVO Design 4G. However, you simply receive a microUSB cable with a detachable USB wall plug packed inside a cardboard box that’s doesn’t leave room for anything else. I understand that adding in accessories takes away from the razor thin profit margin they make on their phones, but it would be nice if they at least threw in a standard pair of headphones with an in-line mic so that customers would enjoy their music or make hands-free phone calls without having to buy an extra accessory.

HTC EVO Design 4G7 / 10

I don’t believe anyone is going to walk into their local Sprint store and confuse the HTC EVO Design 4G with high-end devices like the HTC EVO 3D or the Samsung Galaxy S II Epic 4G Touch (wow, that’s still a mouthful). What Sprint and HTC have done is create an upper-mid-range device that can hang with the big boys but that is priced at the $99 price point like most mid- to low-end devices. To make things even better, you can find the HTC EVO Design 4G for under $50 on Amazon Wireless. The HTC EVO Design 4G isn’t going to be the best phone you can buy from Sprint, but in my opinion it is the best Android phone you can currently buy for $100 .

Nick is a tech enthusiast who has a soft spot for HTC and its devices. Nick joined the Android and Me family in the summer of 2010.

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  • Julio Chavez

    I wonder why HTC doesn’t make all of their devices with a unibody frame?

  • Nick Gray

    Exactly! I think there are too many mid-range devices which lack the quality consumers really want to make them stick things out with Android the next time they buy a phone. Cheap devices play a very important role in getting new consumers to the platform, but they are also what drives people away after having a crappy phone for a year.


    The phone will just do specially to those tight on budget.

    • dude

      If someone is really on a tight budget, they not be stupid and buy a two-year contract phone and just get a prepaid $30 phone that only costs $10/m to keep activated.

      That sir, is budgeting.

      • Nick Gray

        No, that is being cheap. A tight budget could mean a lot of things. If I make 100K a year and budget out my spending to account for every single penny of my income, I’m technically on a tight budget. But I don’t I’d be cheap and opt for a $30 disposable phone if I was making $100k/yr.

  • E

    well why wasn’t this the original EVO 4G not that the OG one wasnt bad…(i still own one) but that body case and size would of made a bigger impact and with those 2010 specs might as well been this

  • Richard Yarrell

    Great review Nick, I am happy to see this device for customers on sprint. This is a nice member to the Evo family and the perfect price for someone new to android. We all have to get our start somewhere. I loved my Evo 4g and Evo 3d and now I love my Htc Rezound. It’s definitely an Htc kind of thing for me.

    • Mark

      Jesus Christ, could you have your head any further up HTC’s ass??

      • Dr.Carpy

        So what Richard is brand loyal. He , like many others tried an HTC device probably liked the Sense UI and got hooked. He clearly states it’s an HTC thing, so what’s the big deal? Try decaf, cause regular has got you on edge.

        Great review Nick, as always well executed. I agree that some “entry level” devices are starting to hurt Android. I’d rather see 6 quality products that enhance user experience, than an super-saturation of products that provide awful user experiences. Devices that die on the vine (Devices that were never supported). This where I can see Moto/Google making a huge difference. By their leadership with producing devices a certain standard, fit & finish, it could be the game changer needed.

        • Richard Yarrell

          Yes Mr. Dr. Carpy rather you see the reality of this manufacturer or not only can mean that your farsided. Htc has blessed android and place android on the map not only with the first android device the G1 but also did right by windows mobile also. That’s one thing motorola can’t say. Yeah big changes will be coming with htc sense when updates come along to all the current sense 3.0 and 3.5 devices ice cream sandwhich will be something special for htc and all there devices you can bank on that…

  • Nathan

    thanks for the review =)

  • Gus

    So I just got this phone about 2 months ago and wanted to know if i have to do anything other than switching the sim card when i go international, the lady i was speaking to in the sprint chat told me that it was all i had to do.

  • LB

    I switched to Evo 4G design after trying out Moto’s Droid Razr for two weeks, and t I’ll never look back. Speed wise, Evo 4G design feels just as fast, but the battery life for Evo 4G is AMAZING. If I turn off 4G, the battery lasts longer than my original Moto Droid – 17 hours easily on heavy surfing/texting/app downloading/calling, and it can easily last 2+ days if usage is light. Evo 4G design is also small so it fits great with small hands. Software wise, HTC’s bloatware is much more tolerable than Motorola’s. This is an odd situation where the extremely optimized old technology brings greater performance than new technology that’s fresh out of the oven. I’m sure in a year or two, 4G + dual core processing + batteries will bring even more amazing performances. However, I will enjoy the Evo Design in the mean time.

  • Patrick

    I just picked up a Design 4G Christmas Eve. I’m not a a “budget” consumer, but I was attracted to the Design 4G’s size and aesthetics. I’m not interested in owning a phone that is the size of a tablet and won’t fit comfortably in my pocket. It just happens to be a great phone, for the price.

    Lots of reviews lead you to believe the Design 4G isn’t very powerful with a single core processor. Well, 1.2 GHz isn’t exactly slow. That’s what they were using in computers just a few years ago. The phone is snappy, quick, and although I’m not big on running handfuls of apps, I haven’t experienced anything but smooth performance. Games and loading times are impressive.

    The camera. I really wanted a phone that took quality pictures, which is why I took a long look at the iPhone 4S. The Design 4G’s camera wasn’t as good as I was hoping, but it isn’t terrible either. Still pictures are on par with digital cameras from 4-5 years ago. Low light performance is only fair. The HD videos in 720p are crisp, but suffer from lag with anything faster than a slow pan. I’ve found my videos to be very shaky, which is usually accompanied with blurring. Hold the this phone still while you’re shooting video. The microphone captures good quality audio while filming.

    My list of complaints is small. I don’t like the power button on the top of the frame, it’s out of the way and doesn’t fall into hand very naturally. I’ve almost dropped the phone a few times sliding my hand up to reach it. The volume up/down button on the left side lays almost flat and is hard to depress due to the fact that you struggle to feel where it is. Speaking of almost dropping the phone, it’s very slippery, get a case. I promise you’ll drop it sooner rather than later.

    Over all, I’m quite pleased. It’s not a “high end” phone, but that doesn’t mean it’s cheap either. It’s responsive, sturdy, looks expensive, and feels expensive.

    • Alexandria

      Thank you for your review! I just bought the htc evo design 4g yesterday! This is my first smart phone! i have one question: DOes your phone get extremely hot out of nowhere? This morning my phone was just in my pocket and when I pulled it out, it was really really hot! SHould I be worried?

  • Patrick

    I have not had any excessive heat issues with my phone, but I have seen it mentioned before. Someone else may chime in, but I wouldn’t fret it unless the phone starts acting abnormal. Remember, the Design 4G comes with a one year warranty from HTC. If you’re still concerned, contact the vender you bought the phone from and get their professional opinion.

  • Tiffany

    I have had an Evo Design 4G since March and I haven’t had many problems with it. It takes good pictures and its fairly fast on the internet. The only bad things about this phone is that I’ve had to calibrate the screen a couples times a month because it doesn’t always pick up what it needs too. Also it has been getting SUPER hot lately, and just today I had problems opening up my text messages. Other than those down points the phone is very good.

    • Crwolv

      My wife has the same phone the design, she’s already gone through second battery the phone gets hot it’s only 1 course so it’s already out of date. To put it into perspective I have a full time it is over a year old running miui 4.04 ice cream sandwich rom . And I get better quadrant standard scores then any new phone on the market except for the htc 1 x. The phone would have been nice if it had been a dual core because the screen itself is beau because the screen itself is beautiful you can’t even see a pixel

      • Crwolv

        Not full time a PHOTON. Google voice lol

  • Crwolv

    I’m sorry I had to chime in about patrick the phone is not snappy in quick at all you obviously don’t know what a high end phone does. Barebones with no applications for go launcher or anything like that it’s okay try to run any apps worth a darn, it is a dog.

  • Miller

    I bought mine in Aug. 2012 and paid over $300 after taxes and I am having issues already. My voice sounds muffled and distant to others. I am very disappointed!