This morning I dragged myself out of bed at 6:00 so I could make it down to my local Sprint store in time to catch the Evo madness. The first store I visited had a sizeable line out front; thirty or so people when the store opened. I visited two stores after that, both of which had 30-50 people in the store at any given time.
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I felt sorry for the Sprint retail employees. Every booth was packed at all times with customers setting up their new phones. The back area was set up as an Evo 'learning center' in order to help new smartphone customers figure out how to use their Evo.
This was no iPhone launch. No one camped outside for days on end and the mood inside the store was not exactly festive. I was surprised to see a plethora of non-techies waiting in line. Grandmothers, construction workers, teachers and even a Dallas cop-for at least half of the people I talked to, the Evo was their first smartphone.
I asked everyone I could why they chose to go with the Evo. The most common answer was, “Because it isn't an iPhone.” The giant 4.3” screen and Sprint's 4G network were a close second, followed by the Snapdragon processor. No one seemed overly impressed with the camera (although it seems very nice to me).
While we waited in line, I had ample time to test out Sprint's 4G network. Even overloaded with a store full of people, it was fast. I mean really, frighteningly fast. 4G cannot blanket this country fast enough. The difference between it and 3G are literally night and day. I've only had my Evo for an hour or so, but I wouldn't be surprised if it ends up as my primary non-work browsing device.
Two people I spoke to had actually cancelled their home Internet connection in preparation for the Evo. A 4G hotspot is all the Internet many people need.
It took around two hours of line-standing (at the third store I visited) to get my Evo. Set-up was another hour (ish) due to lag on the Sprint internal network. The wait times were handled well by Sprint employees, the line kept moving, and there was ample free food and drink.
Once I finished signing up for my new phone, I learned about Sprint's premier customer program. If you've been a customer for a very long time, or if you pay more than $60/mo for your plan, you automatically qualify. The program has a number of perks, but the most interesting one is the ability to buy a new subsidized phone every 12 months. Next Summer, I'll be able to get 2011's Evo-equivalent for $200.
Foot traffic was heavy at all the stores I visited. The manager I spoke to expected supplies to last until 3-4 PM at least. I wasn't able to get any hard numbers from him, but I got the feeling that all Sprint stores in my area (Dallas gets 4G) were loaded down with tons and tons of extra phones. That said, demand is pretty wild. Waiting a day or two could be a risky proposition. The HTC Evo 4G sells for $199.99 on Walmart.