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Sprint’s HTC EVO 4G Becomes First WiMax Phone in the U.S.

After leaks last week pointed to Sprint outing the first 4G phone at the opening of CTIA in Las Vegas, Sprint made good on its promise by formally announcing America’s first 4G phone on Tuesday. While we’re still disappointed that Sprint decided not to roll with the frighteningly fast codename “Supersonic” as originally rumored, the Android-powered HTC EVO will boast 4G WiMax along with a slew of other high-end features.

Sprint claims the EVO’s 4G WiMax modem will offer speeds up to three times as fast as 3G. Our own dabbling with Clear’s WiMax network here in Portland suggests that’s slightly optimistic, but two or three times better speed looks realistic, and the claimed 10x factor could be possible with hardware and network upgrades. For times the EVO falls outside the 27 4G markets Sprint currently blankets, the EVO also has an independent 3G modem to fall back on.

Like the Windows-Mobile-powered HD2, the HTC EVO will use a massive 4.3-inch screen, but run Google Android 2.1 instead. Besides being the first 4G phone in the United States, the EVO will also boast a number of features that set it apart from the current crop of Android devices.

For instance, it will use two cameras for videoconferencing: one user-facing 1.3-megapixel shooter and another facing outward with a whopping 8 megapixels and autofocus, which will shoot HD video like the latest mini camcorders. It will also work as a mobile hotspot, converting a 4G signal into Wi-Fi for up to eight other devices, and includes an HDMI port for outputting video, pictures and slide in 720p high-def. Qualcomm’s beastly 1GHz Snapdragon chip will power the entire show.

HTC has customized Android with its Sense user interface, and it will also take a crack at Motorola’s Motoblur app with Friend Stream, which will aggregate updates from Facebook, Twitter and more into one fluid feed.

Sprint plans to make the EVO 4G available this summer for a price yet to be announced. Its product page offers early adopters a chance to register for updates and get the first word when further details arise.