This weekend, after eight years with T-Mobile, I cancelled my account and am now officially a customer of Sprint . I’ve really enjoyed my G1 over the last couple of years but struggles with poor network coverage, high and inflexible plan prices, and some poor incidents with customer service have led me to re-evaluate my options.
What prompted the move?
The switch began as a discussion of how best to replace my dying iPod. I’ve had my 4th generation 20GB iPod now for six years and despite my efforts it was time for to replace it. Meaghan and I evaluated the newest models and found that the Nano was too small at 8GB and too pricey at $150, while the 160GB iPod classic is big enough but even more pricey at $250. I start to consider another problem also; that of the number of devices I carry on a daily basis. In the ideal world I would have five major electronics devices with me everywhere I go:
Enter the Sprint EVO 4G
As we researched the music players I began thinking about whether the latest smart phones might meet some of those needs and give me back some valuable pocket space. I’ve generally found the “all in one” devices to be capable of everything but good at nothing. I picked up the EVO 4G expecting to quickly rule it out as a “jack of no trades”. It took only a couple of minutes for me to discover just how far technology has come in the last two years. This htc handset is very well done indeed. Equipped with three ports: HDMI, USB, and a 3.5mm headphone jack, the EVO is properly equipped to be a media hub. Plugging in a standard pair of headphones or connecting a standard 3.5mm cable (for direct aux-in while driving) allows me to use the phone exactly as I would my iPod. The 8 megapixel camera is sharp enough for daily use1 and has a response time of around a second. With both a front and rear-mounted camera it is easy to take photos either with or without yourself in the picture. The HD video camera is also high quality and comes with enough configuration options to suit a variety of situations from video conferencing to shooting home movies.
With music, movies, and photos solved I checked out the new voice recorder. Using Evernote I can now position the mic almost 3 feet away from my mouth and still get sufficient quality to be understood and transcribed upon review. Fantastic! I’m able to replace all five devices with a single device that performs an equal or better job than each of them did individually. That wasn’t all! When we visited the Sprint store to discuss plans and options it turns out I can get a better plan with unlimited2 3G/4G data and messaging for $60 less than I’m paying T-Mobile. Pure win!
For better coverage and a more comprehensive plan I’m now paying $60 less per month with Sprint and have access to much better phone. I evaluated Verizon for the Droid X, but remembering the battles with their customer service over even minor issues still puts me off. I also tried out the G2 to see if T-Mobile could keep my business. Overall, it’s not a bad phone but it just didn’t blow me away like the EVO did. There are still a few features missing. Swype is now in a closed beta so the on-screen keyboard is slowing me down a bit. There isn’t really and great stories around video conferencing that don’t require your buddies to also have an EVO or similar phone. I wish that Google Talk or Skype would provide an open Android client but for now I’ll settle with Qik and video sharing. My pockets are about 2 pounds lighter and my wallet $60 fuller. I’m happy.
Addendum: Why couldn’t the G1 have filled the needs of those devices?
A few people might be wondering why the G1 couldn’t have done all the stuff I mentioned above. Believe me, I’d have loved it if it could. Here’s why I’ve still been carrying a pocketful of devices over the last two years.
The video camera on the G1 is just not good. The microphone is one of the weakest points and gives horrible sound quality. The videos produced by the phone were too low resolution and very grainy. About the same quality as a mid-range webcam. Ultimately it was easier to just use the camera built into a cheap point and shoot.
The still-image camera is OK, but there is a 3-4 second delay between depressing the ‘take picture now’ button and the actual shot being recorded. During that time any movement in the image shows up as motion blur. Most point and shoot opportunities are fast moving and short lived and I always end up missing them.
The phone comes with a built-in digital voice recorder and there is always the option of using Evernote. However, I found that if the mic is more than a few inches away from me then the sound quality is too low to be of use. The microphone hardware just wasn’t up to scratch.
The G1 has no headphone jack. You can get USB->3.5mm converters but then you can’t charge the phone while listening to music either at work or on the road. The battery drains fairly quickly while playing music too, and the shared USB port means you have to alternate between listening and charging. Not so great. The phone would run pretty hot after an hour or so of music too. It just didn’t seem to be designed to be used as a full time portable music player.
1 This was the first picture I took with my HTC EVO 4G
2 Unlimited actually means “within the limits Sprint anticipate for normal use, around 500GB per month.”