Sprint's EVO 4G in 4G Country (Washington State): Not So Fast

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Downtown Snohomish, Washington.
After driving through the countryside north of Seattle for about 40 miles, I arrived in the quiet little burg of Snohomish on the bank of the Snohomish River. After sitting down at a restaurant on First Street (the main drag), I was disappointed to find that I couldn’t establish a 4G connection on the EVO phone. After trying a few times while standing out in the middle of First Street, I managed to get 4G for just long enough to test some apps, but the connection seemed extremely tenuous.

Even when the EVO connected to 4G, the performance of the apps made it seem as though I were connected to a 3G signal--and not a very good one. Watching the YouTube HQ video out in the street, I saw a lot of pixelation and jitter, especially in moments of high motion in the video. The Layar app was able to detect some of the eateries around, but it took some time to display their locations overlaid on the EVO camera’s view.

I had to take the phone back into the restaurant to try out the Qik live video streaming service, so that I could monitor the stream on my laptop. The phone immediately switched back to 3G mode, but my laptop maintained a steady 4G connection via the Sprint Overdrive mobile hotspot. The “live” video stream I shot with the EVO phone showed up (after a few fits and starts) on my laptop about 15 seconds after it was captured. Can you imagine trying to videoconference with someone who sees your mouth move 15 seconds after you've said something?


Another 60 miles farther north in Bellingham, Washington, I drove straight to the Bellingham Public Market in the city center to have a latte and to look for 4G. As in Snohomish an hour before, I found that keeping a solid connection to the 4G network was a bit of a challenge. Inside the market, the phone was stuck in 3G mode and couldn't make a 4G connection automatically or after I tried to connect manually in the phone’s wireless network settings.

Public Market, Bellingham, Washington.
After taking a seat by the window at the front of the market, however, I was able to connect to 4G. Still, the YouTube HQ video contained some large square-shaped artifacting and appeared a little jittery. Using Qik, the live video stream I shot from the phone again took about 15 seconds to display at the Website on my 4G-connected laptop, so the stream could hardly be called “live.”

On the other hand, the Layar application worked well in Bellingham. The app detected and overlaid the locations of both restaurants and a few tweets in the area, after searching for just a few seconds.

Day-One Conclusions

My general impression of 4G service, in the state of Washington at least, is that the service will make the apps you already use run marginally better and faster, but it won’t make possible a whole new class of high-bandwidth mobile apps. Not yet, anyway.

Stay tuned for the rest of my EVO 4G impressions tomorrow.

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