Saturday, 19 June 2010

The other day I decided I'd had enough pain in my relationship with AT&T and that I was going to make a move. I looked at my various options, and landed on Sprint and the EVO 4G Android-based smart phone. I've spent a few days with the new service and device, and I thought I would write up some early thoughts and opinions.

First of all, let's get this part out of the way: I already miss using the iPhone. Now, the Android phone is cool and there are a lot of good things to say about it. But the iPhone is what I'm used to, and from size to form to OS usability to - well - fit and finish, so to speak... The iPhone is great, and hard to leave.

Sprint's mobile service

As expected, Sprint's service is a little patchier in certain spots around the Portland area than AT&T, while in other areas Sprint provide substantially better coverage. Neither carrier truly blankets the entire area effectively. At my house, located in a fairly remote and rural area about an hour northwest of the city, service by both carriers is equally spotty.

But one thing about the Sprint service that stands out over AT&T's is the call delivery stability. Calls go through, the phone rings when someone is calling, and I have yet to experience a dropped call even once. Even in areas with one or two bars of signal strength showing on the phone I can reliably place and receive calls. Try that with an iPhone on AT&T (even in strong signal strength areas) and one is bound for overall abject failure disappointment.

The EVO 4G phone

The phone is pretty darned slick, and Android is a very cool operating system. It's a tough adjustment from the iPhone to this device in some ways. But overall, color me quite impressed. The display is nice, and even though it's a little larger than I might like it is good hardware with a quality fit and finish.

Battery life is somewhat frustrating, and Sprint even hands out a half sheet of paper when you buy the phone printed with recommendations on how to configure your phone to prevent battery drain. The usual suspects apply (turn off GPS and 4G when not in use, turn down screen brightness, etc.) but I think we all recognize that they wouldn't be handing out the sheet if battery consumption wasn't an issue for customers. That said, my experience so far is that battery life is fairly reasonable if you follow the recommendations. I just wish it wasn't necessary, and I'm hopeful someone builds something like a 3000 mAh battery that will fit in the same slot as the provided 1500 mAh battery. There's a little extra room inside that back compartment, so if it's practical to build a bigger battery to fit, hopefully someone will come through. I know I'd buy it.

There are some good apps out there, but not the same quality as I can find for the iPhone in the areas I care about the most. And I am having problems with some apps crashing and force-quitting that are more than just a little frustrating.

The ability to customize and run widgets, etc. on the phone's "desktop" screens is super cool, and the Google Voice app builds itself into the OS in such an elegant, Borg-like manner that it just makes sense for GV people. There are a couple glitches in the app, but hopefully those get improved upon over time.

In a nutshell...

I miss the iPhone a bit. The EVO is a great phone, don't get me wrong.

I don't miss AT&T at all, at least not yet. My calls on Sprint go through the first time and they don't drop. Data connectivity is reliable and performs well. I can't say that about AT&T.

Thinking out loud about the service issues on AT&T's network...

I'm no cell phone service expert. Far from it. But one thing I've wondered over the past few days is whether the issues on the AT&T network are solely carrier problems, or if some small part of the blame might be Apple's. Is it possible the methods of connecting to and communicating on the network being implemented by Apple aren't optimal? I wonder because for the past year I've carried my iPhone with me for personal use, while at the same time carrying a Blackberry - also on AT&T's network - for business purposes. Frequently the Blackberry performs better in any given location than the iPhone. But not always. There are times when both devices just fall off the back of the truck as far as network connectivity and reliability (for both voice and data) is concerned, Yet I can say based on that year's worth of experience that when I've needed to make a call and ensure the best chance of staying connected and not getting dropped, I've used the Blackberry with noticeably greater reliability.

The amateur radio geek in me in me can think of a few possible reasons for the difference between the performance differences between my iPhone and the Blackberry in the same locations at the same time:

  • They connect and communicate differently - Obviously the engineers at the different phone manufacturers don't get together in the same room and write radio code, so I suppose it's possible RIM's people are better at this than Apple's folks.
  • They're using different cell towers/radios/bands/frequencies - Since these are multi-band transceivers, one has to remember that they may not be operating on the exact same infrastructure equipment at any given point in time. In that case, performance would likely be different.
  • The Blackberry seems to hand-off to EDGE sooner than the iPhone, and it stays connected to the network at least a little more reliably.
At any rate, it's hard for me to know what I will think of the EVO and Sprint in another week. I have this 30-day period to decide if it's right for me, and if it doesn't work out I can decide to try something else, or even go back to AT&T if it turns out I was wrong in my decision. But that doesn't sound like something I want to do at this point.



Add/Read: Comments [3]
Android | Apple | Mobile | Tech
Saturday, 19 June 2010 18:26:25 (Pacific Standard Time, UTC-08:00)
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Sunday, 20 June 2010 12:36:02 (Pacific Standard Time, UTC-08:00)
Will be interested to hear your thoughts on the EVO in another couple months, after the iPhone becomes a more faint memory and you get used to the new phone.

My understanding of Sprint and their coverage is this: a few years ago the made the intentional decision to provide the best possible coverage in dense urban areas and not worry much about outlying areas. The idea being they couldn't be great at both (as we have seen with AT&T) so they made a claim on one. Not a bad move if you are #3 or #4 in the industry. Does Sprint have a personal hotspot device for home use like VZW and AT&T?

For apps, I suspect you will start seeing more and more great Android apps as developers wake up to the facts. There are more non-iPhone startphones out there and Android is (or will soon be) the dominate platform when it comes to the numbers. Personally I've struggled to understand why developers have focused almost 100% on the iPhone but now with the sales figures behind Android I think things will change.
Monday, 21 June 2010 09:04:12 (Pacific Standard Time, UTC-08:00)
Great summary - and pretty much matches my experience. In the Seattle are and San Juan County, I've found Sprint's coverage equal to or better than AT&T. Plus, the benefit of not having a single dropped call. I'm very pleased on the issue of network quality.

On iPhone - there's little I miss after a few weeks now other than small fit and finish thing - copy/paste works better, "flick" scroll is a bit nicer, etc.

I really like my new EVO. Probably my biggest disappointment is having to manage my phone like a little linux OS - why does "Sprint Navigation" or the MP3 store keep launching, so I have to kill it? Repetitive busy-work you have to do every day can really kill the love affair.

Have you tried wifi tethering? I used it again this weekend to get my non-3G ipad on the net. That is just a killer feature.
Peter H
Thursday, 28 April 2011 02:47:08 (Pacific Standard Time, UTC-08:00)
nice post... thank you for such a great info..
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