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Hands on: HTC Evo 3D

This morning HTC announced its latest product – a high-spec smartphone with added 3D. David Phelan has quality time with the HTC Evo 3D.

The hottest smartphones at the moment are pouring out of the headquarters of one Taiwanese company: HTC. There was the uber-styled Incredible S and the hugely popular Desire series. Now there’s the BlackBerry-bothering (and pleasantly named) Cha Cha with Qwerty keyboard and dedicated Facebook button. Latest in the shops is the gorgeous Sensation. And next, in July, the chic and powerful Evo 3D.

You’ll have guessed from the name that this phone is capable of displaying 3D. Like the Nintendo 3DS games handheld and the upcoming LG Optimus 3D, you don’t need to wear glasses to see the effect. You do have to hold it just right, or the image wobbles, but this is less challenging here than on the 3DS where you tend to jiggle the machine as you play a game.

Here, the purpose of 3D is to add an extra dimension to photographs you take, or video you shoot. These look good, thanks to the stereoscopic 5-megapixel camera lenses on the back, instantly noticeable as they’re neatly picked out with a bronze accent. And not only can you play back your own HD movies in 2D or 3D, the HTC Watch movie purchase and rental portal is on this phone, too. This means that you can watch 3D blockbusters on the phone. These look staggeringly good – the high-resolution display is pin-sharp, vivid and immersive. Though I’m not sure I could watch a whole movie this way, great though it is. It’s still only a 4.3in screen.

Still, the joy of shooting your own 3D videos and snapping 3D stills is inviting and fun. Playing back these movies – or the ones you’ve downloaded via HTC Watch – on a full-size 3D TV adds an extra level of novelty.

The Evo 3D has a powerful dual-core 1.2GHz processor at its heart, so even 3D movies play with buttery smoothness – there’s no jerky video here. The processor also means the phone is fast and responsive in everything it does. In my tests, every activity was promptly and seamlessly delivered, with no waiting around.

The 3D only works in landscape format, so for much of the time you’re using the handset you have to manage with plain old 2D.

The experience of using Android phones varies hugely thanks to Google’s operating system which, because it’s open, means individual companies make of it what they will. Nobody, thuogh, comes close to making Android as innovative or good-looking as HTC. The HTC overlay, called HTC Sense, is so comprehensive and appealing it stands out from the crowd. The home screens look and respond better than on other Android phones. There’s even a faux 3D look to the carousel of menus as you scroll between home pages. It looks tremendous and has lots of extras that competitors don’t, like a free maps service which has enough mapping downloaded to the handset in advance to make sure you’re never kept waiting for the screen to refresh. Even better, you can switch off data traffic while abroad to reduce roaming costs and still have an uninterrupted satnav effect.

Then there’s the customisable lock screen. When your phone is locked, waking it on most smartphones simply takes you to the home screen. Here, you can choose to unlock the phone so it takes you straight to the camera, your social network feeds and more. Like much of what HTC offers, it’s blindingly obvious when you see it in action, but few rivals have thought of it.

Although I got to try the Evo 3D in depth, questions still remain about battery life – traditionally every smartphone’s Achilles’ heel. I didn’t use it long enough to know how good this will be, though HTC’s phones have delivered steadily improved performance as its phone range has progressed.

So, do you really need 3D? Of course not. It’s a gimmick, but it’s a pretty darned cool one.