Sprint Evo Takes on iPhone, BlackBerry

Sprint's new Evo is packed with features, making it a serious rival to the iPhone and BlackBerry.
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NEW YORK (TheStreet) -- There's a new small-business mobile beast loose in the land: the Sprint (S) - Get Report Evo.

Finally after, I kid you not, almost a year of speculation, pre-announcements, announcements and other marketing drivel, Sprint's premier 4G superphone, the

HTC

Evo, is on sale. And while far from perfect -- much more on clunk factor, grim battery life and cost -- the

Google

(GOOG) - Get Report

Android-powered Evo offers a legitimate, small-business option between the

Apple

(AAPL) - Get Report

iPhone and the full line of

Research in Motion's

(RIMM)

BlackBerry devices.

Without question, the bright screen, blazing multi-tasking performance and support for critical business tools compete at the highest levels in the mobile-business-device market. And if you're lucky enough to have access to Sprint's 4G data service, or in line to get that product soon, the Evo is a must-consider.

I have been demoing this unit on and off for the past several months, gotten a taste of 4G access in Las Vegas and Baltimore, and spoken with Sprint executives including personal demos by company CEO Dan Hesse about the device and 4G networks.

So here is all I know about the small-business applications for the Evo.

What you get:

an absolute brute of a mobile workhorse.

It's this simple: The Evo has serious on-the-go work muscle. Multi-tasking apps like email, documents, texting and managing social tools, which crippled previous Android devices like the

Verizon

(VZ) - Get Report

Droid, the HTC Hero and the

T-Mobile

myTouch, fly on this unit.

And Google and Sprint have done a nice job addressing Android's shortcomings. There's a nifty typing and data entry training app that speeds picking up Android's bizarre touch keyboard. And HTC has done a heck of job giving this unit a rugged, rubberized business look and feel. The Wi-Fi hotspot worked essentially flawlessly. There is even an HDMI output that lets you feed a PowerPoint presentation into a projector.

And that's just the start. This unit is jammed with great work features.

What you don't get:

The Evo is huge, expensive, and battery life is way limited.

Now for the bad news: All the great interactivity and ease of use require an enormous screen for a mobile phone. My test unit is nearly 5 3/8-inch diagonal, which makes the monstrous iPhone 3G S look like a pack of Orbit gum.

Battery life is a disappointment in early testing. Four hours was about average, which means you're essentially charging twice a day, particularly in the car.

And the unit's $200 price tag is only the beginning of the sticker shock. Even moderate users have little choice but to get Sprint's $70 Simply Everything plan, since it's the best deal in small-business connectivity. But Sprint bangs you for $30 extra month for the hotspot feature and another $10 for data access. That's a cool $100 per user. Sprint's argument is that the Evo can replace landed Internet access for 4G users, which is technically true. But let's face it, that's a major step for a small business: The fact is, $1,200 a year per worker for mobile phone -- that's

real

money.

Bottom line:

Leading-edge business geeks have little choice but to get square with the Evo -- and pronto. I cannot overstate the importance of 4G networks to the business life. Faster

is

better. And the Evo rocks. But the more average techno-phobe firm should probably wait a few months. The high price, limited battery life and clunk factor put the Evo out of reach for the business masses for now.

When the Evo hits $100, and battery life creeps to six hours, then take the plunge.

For now, wait.

Jonathan Blum is an independent technology writer and analyst living in Westchester, N.Y. He has written for The Associated Press and Popular Science and appeared on FoxNews and The WB.