Many of the phones and features once reserved for nationwide major carriers have begun to trickle down to prepaid cellular providers. A case in point is the HTC Evo Design 4G for Boost Mobile. This pricey $299.99 smartphone appears to be a modern handset at first glance, running Android 4.0 Ice Cream Sandwich and offering 4G data. A closer look reveals the device's flaws living below the surface. A slow single-core processor, short battery life, and fuzzy call quality make it a tough sell even considering that its high price doesn't include an onerous service contract.
With its deep black-on-black paint job and metal unibody construction, the HTC Evo Design 4G is darkly delicious and has a luxurious feel. That's quite a feat considering this phone isn't exactly new, first coming to Sprint last fall. The back and edges of the handset are coated in a smooth, soft-touch surface that wicks away moisture, repels fingerprints, and gives fingertips good grip.
Measuring 4.8 inches tall by 2.4 inches wide by 0.47 inch thick and tipping the scales at a hefty 5.2 ounces, the Evo Design 4G is compact but on the chunky side. That's especially true compared with many ultrasvelte numbers like the current king of the Evo line, the HTC Evo 4G LTE (0.35 inch thick, 4.72 ounces). Even the LG Marquee, the Evo Design 4G's closest competitor on Boost Mobile, is smaller, thinner, and lighter (0.36 inch thick, 3.95 ounces).
Front and center is the Evo Design 4G's 4-inch dHD resolution (960x540 pixels) LCD screen. While it's not as big or sharp as screens on HTC's other high-end models, I enjoyed wide viewing angles watching movie trailers and viewing photos. That said, when examined side by side with the HTC Evo 4G LTE, the Design's colors were too pronounced for my tastes. Reds were especially pumped up, giving unnaturally rosy flesh tones, bordering on orange.
Above the screen is a 1.3-megapixel camera you can use to engage in video chat and Google hangouts and snap vanity shots of yourself. Below are four capacitive buttons with four symbols representing traditional Android functions for home, menu, back, and search.
The phone's top edge holds a standard 3.5mm headphone jack and power button while its left side houses a long, thin volume rocker plus Micro-USB port. On back sits the 5-megapixel main camera with LED flash. A wide and attractive brushed-metal band runs along the middle of the Evo Design 4G's back plate. Below that is a hidden compartment containing slots for microSD card, SIM card, and removable battery, all of which can be removed individually without interfering with each other.
Originally the Sprint version of the HTC Evo Design 4G shipped with Android 2.3 Gingerbread but backed up by HTC's latest mobile interface, Sense 3.0. Now HTC and Boost Mobile have tried to breathe new life into the phone by updating its core software to Android 4.0 Ice Cream Sandwich.
I certainly appreciate the extra effort, and as a result, the Evo Design 4G feels and acts like a modern smartphone. My test unit came with HTC Sense 3.6 grafted on top of ICS. Those familiar with Sense will recognize the lock screen, which displays time and date up top and four quick-launch icons down below.
Dragging a virtual ring from the foot to the middle of the screen unlocks the phone. Pulling any of the icons into the ring's center fires up the phone function linked to it. By default, icons for Phone, Mail, Camera, Messages, and Camera are listed but you can swap them out for other shortcuts if you'd like. Once it's unlocked, you'll be greeted by seven home screens that you can customize with application shortcuts and widgets. In typical HTC fashion, the company's trademark weather clock widget enjoys a prime spot on the main home screen.
Sense also provides a strong link to social-networking sites, one of my favorite features of the UI. Natively supported are Facebook, Twitter, and Linked In accounts, which the phone will automatically cross-check against your phone book and suggest contacts to match up across services.
As an Android smartphone, the Evo Design 4G comes with the standard allotment of Google apps and services, including Gmail, Maps, Navigation, Places, YouTube, and Google+. HTC has thrown in its own apps too, such as Friend Stream, Peep, and Footprints, all designed to make social-networking easier. Also onboard is HTC Watch, the company's video download store, HTC Hub for curated apps, Connected Media to access music and other network files, and a transfer app for contacts.