Sprint unveils its first 4G phone

To no one’s surprise, Sprint kicked off CTIA 2010 here by announcing its first 4G phone.

The HTC Evo 4G is not only the carrier’s first WiMax cell phone–previously the carrier only has offered 4G laptop cards and the Samsung Mondi — but also the first commercially available 4G handset with a major U.S. carrier.

The Evo runs Google Android OS 2.1; finally, a new Android phone meets the world with the latest Android OS available.

From the outset, the Evo is an attractive touch-screen device that closely resembles the HTC HD2. We got a taste of the Evo’s candy bar design when photos of the HTC Supersonic leaked in late January. And in the end, the final product doesn’t stray far from those initial impressions.

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The massive 4.3-inch display is quite a looker. Its rich resolution and color support make for a pleasant browsing experience.

The touch screen also appeared to be accurate and responsive in our brief hands-on. Below the display are four touch controls for the home screen, main menu, search, and backing out of a page. There’s physical navigation control, but that’s fine since we rely on the touch screen for most navigation anyway.

Other physical controls include a 3.5mm headset hack, a micro-USB port (yay for both), a power control, and a volume rocker.

The protruding camera lens for the 8.3-megapixel shooter sits in the rear face next to the flash and a VGA lens sits above the display for video calls. We also love the included kickstand.

Other features include Bluetooth, Wi-Fi, 1GB of internal memory, Assisted-GPS with Sprint Navigation, seven home screens, a personal organizer, a microSD card slot that accommodates cards up to 32GB, a 1GHz Snapdragon processor, an HDMI out port, the usual access to Google apps, Sprint TV, messaging, and Outlook Exchange support for contacts and e-mail.

Outlook calendar syncing is not a feature yet, but the usual Gmail syncing is onboard. The Evo also can function as a hot spot for up to eight devices.

Sprint is the only carrier to choose WiMax as its 4G technology, but at least for now it’s far ahead of its rivals in 4G availability.

Its network is live in 27 cities, but it will expand the service with partner Clearwire to Miami, St. Louis, Cincinnati, Cleveland, Pittsburgh, Salt Lake City, New York City, Houston, Boston, Washington, D.C., Kansas City, Denver, Minneapolis, and the San Francisco Bay Area by the end of this year.

At that point Sprint says its 4G network will cover 120 million people.

The Evo 4G will be available this summer, but Sprint did not announce pricing details for the handset or its WiMax plans.

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