If you had to pick one of the most influential smartphones of the past year or so, there's little doubt the HTC EVO 4G would be high up on the list, if not atop it. It was the first 4.3-inch smartphone. The first 4G smartphone. And it it brought with it that sense of style that is a trademark for HTC.

Donn Koh was a designer with San Francisco-based One & Co. from November 2008 to May 2010. This was the design firm that gained notoriety with the Windows Mobile HTC Diamond and was later purchased by the Taiwanese manufacturer. Koh was the lead designer on the EVO 4G and has done a beautiful job breaking down the design of the device, which he says took a good 12 months from start to finish.

Koh tells of the team working directly with HTC's engineers, and of the challenges faced in combining large components while keeping it relatively (and deceptively) thin. In particular, Koh said, the EVO 4G's 8MP camera component, and how its design was incorporated into future HTC phones. Writes Koh:

While it was a requirement to highlight this key feature, it shouldn’t feel unnaturally big or loud. To create this balance, I needed to find an aesthetic solution that would somewhat mask the component size, and one that would look honest and purposefully ‘camera-like.’

This led to a spherical design that partially protrudes the outer surface of the phone. It created an interesting and iconic character akin to an eyeball sitting in a socket. I liked that it had the notion of the phone as a housing for powerful, intelligent, internal components.

This is a must-read if you're at all curious about what goes into smartphone design, and it should make you appreciate that little wonder in your hand that much more.

Thanks, David!

Update: The blog post referenced here has been made private; image and links removed by request.


Reader comments

A beautiful breakdown of the HTC EVO 4G, as told by the designer


Well I think the Evo 4G is ugly. Its a half an inch thick which is a brick in cellphone standards. The camera protrudes through the back which means everytime you set the phone down it touches the lends. Idk why but I find the circles around the menu keys really ugly too.

Lol giving your opinion is trolling? Wow you HTC fanboys are the worse fanboys on the internet. If anything negative is said about the Evo ur instantly labled as a fanboy. News flash, the Evo wasn't the best phone when it came out.

I do agree with Apple fanboys being the worst, but to be fair, Android Central is thick with HTC/Sprint fanboys who instantly bash & vote down posts of anyone who says anything but glowing remarks about anything HTC/Sprint no matter how true it may be.

If you don't believe me, start paying attention to it in the comments from now on.

Idk the apple fanboys seem to be dieing down and the ps3 fanboys are starting to get worse. I hate apple and have a ps3 but I consider myself neutral. I tell it like I see it

Is have to disagree about Apple fanboys being the worst ... Nokia fanboys are the WORST

Trust me , I've to deal with them on daily basis

Phones that are too thin are not as comfortable to hold. I do not like to put cases and bumpers on my phones which makes them look ugly so it is nice to have something to hold onto comfortably.

As for the EVO, I believe the screen is too large, but whatever... The kickstand is cool and I wish it was standard on all smartphones.

I love my EVO... First phone that really WOWed me... especially coming from my HERO :-) . . . still going strong until ICECREAM SANDWICH

the man did a beautiful job on the EVO 4G. i'm kind of surprised to learn that HTC outsources the design. i would have thought they'd do it all in-house.

this article reminds me of these beautiful quotes -

"The most important thing is to set a higher target. But if the target is too high, it can make no sense. If it's not so high, it's easy to achieve. That means we need to set targets between these points."

"It's important to benchmark in your own mind, rather than seeking to emulate those of your rivals."

"Balance matters. Without it, you can't function when the pressure's on."

"The most important factors are mental. You can be defeated by pressure, but pressure is one kind of amusement for me - I like it. Physical condition is important. I jog three miles during my lunchtime, maybe two or three times a week. More often if I have time."

- Suguya Fukusato, Lexus Chief Engineer

Well opinions might vary but I believe this device is simply beautiful, coming from the Incredible which I loved this is definitely an improvement in terms of form factor and whatnot. That been said......the sad and only drawback is the software, how the hell HTC & Sprint decided to lock down an equipment that otherwise have so much potential, that same 'big brother' mentality which totally sucks is the one that made me got rid of my iPhone in the first place and as it seems if this thing doesn't become rootable anytime soon it will definitely have to go ! I guess is time to drop HTC altogether and find an equipment that I can modify to my taste, afterall it is not for 'FREE' !!! right ?

What the heck are you talking about? You know this article is about the EVO 4G, right? You think the EVO 4G isn't "rootable"?


Have any phones that have gotten Gingerbread OTA been rooted? Not to my knowledge. Point being: That's from Gingerbread as a whole & not HTC/Sprint's doing.

Besides, it is my belief that anyone who was rooted before an OTA update & didn't either leave themselves a path to go back if they don't like it, or wait to see how the OTA performs before jumping in deserves what they got.

Love the phone but one problem when I read this.... wasn't the hd2 the first 4.3 in phone.... that was an amazing phone with a crappy os... credit is due to the hd2 the evi was the same phone only with android and a 4g radio...

I believe you are correct sir. But they probably forgot that little fact because the HD2 didn't quite knock it out of the park like the EVO did.

I am on the EVO 3D and miss my old EVO. Had to buy a kickstand case to get that oh so cool kickstand back. Not the same. It is like looking at an ex and realizing that darn she still looks good!

Thank you for sharing this! I love the chance to get inside a designer's head and learn what they were thinking while creating a product.

Thanks Phil, a great read. One question though- you stated:

It was the first 4.3-inch smartphone.

Doesn't that honor belong to the HTC HD2?


i remember the day this phone was released & how new & refreshing it was to the android smartphone market. i'm glad everyone took notice & has contributed to the success it now has. i wish i knew before i bought my Hero that this beautiful phone was going to be released, but i'm now a proud owner of the Evo 3D so it's alright. this phone to me is so slick & smooth, also the overall feel when it's in your hands.
*Claps for HTC*

EVO is an awesome phone wish I could have it retrofitted with a dual core processor and louder speaker. EVO3D don't even compare. Oh well waiting for the Epic 4g touch and praying it has the dual core Exynos processor.

Yup yup. That's what I was gonna say. The HD2 was the first 4.3" display surely?
The EVO came out way after the HD2!

WAIT WAIT WAIT... Forget about how this phone was designed, this guy just let it slip a piece of information that has been kept confidential until now! The evo sold 5 million units in one year. Sprint has never announced how manu EVOs were sold!!!

REGARDLESS of any CLOWN on this site or any other for that matter that has not owned the EVO 4G or purchased any HTC PRODUCTS serious need to go buy a LIFE. The EVO 4G was the granddaddy of all android 4g the device that started today's 4G revolution and I was proud to have had one from June 4th 2010 to June 24th 2011. The EVO BRAND has blessed android and has made android more recognized and helped to place SPRINT on the map LIKE IT OR NOT. I now own the EVO 3D the mantle has been passed but i will always remain VERY FOND OF THE EVO 4G that will never change. Other people by phones on the other carriers on sprint we by BRANDS something that gets properly supported with updates and various carrier goodies and all that for AFFORDABLE PRICES. EVO will always lead the way now you can add tablets to the mix too. Straight UP PISS on who ever dislikes HTC or SPRINT straight like that....

Ladies & Gentlemen, I present exhibit #1 for the discussion above about blind HTC EVO/Sprint fanboys who troll Android Central.

Edit: MAYBE if I randomly CAPITALIZE words IN my OWN POSTS so it LOOKS like I am ALSO yelling, THEN I will also COME ACROSS like a GIANT a**hole & SOMEHOW think that MY OPINION actually MATTERS TO ANYONE.

Don't worry about responses my friend either you was an evo 4g owner or you wasn't if you wasn't keep it moving because this post is about people who are or use to be and I'm pretty sure you was neither. Don't worry about my response or anyother persons response.

Sorry but the droid branding on Verizon's network was what really pushed Android.I remember one time when someone came up to my friend with an Evo and asked, " Hey, is that a new Droid?". The Droid 1 is one of the most iconic, recognizable phones to come out with Android. You say "The EVO 4G was the granddaddy of all android 4g the device that started today's 4G revolution" like if it wasn't for the Evo no other phone would have 4G. Sorry but 4G just had to take time for other carriers cause they actually implemented a real 4G network. Not a high strength wifi. Hows ur service in a building?? ohh and your battery life?? Sprint just went through with it because they were a sinking ship and they still kinda are. Lol the Evo was the best phone for like a week until the Droid X and the Galaxy S came out, which absolutely destroyed it.

You should google "LTE advanced" and true definition of 4g. Then tell me which carrier is implementing it? Instead of calling your opinion a statement of facts, get the facts first then state your opinion. Lol, "sinking ship"........ smh

"Either you WAS an evo....." "pretty sure you WAS neither" all I have to say about that. does anyone even realize this isn't even a debate? Its just a piece on the designer of the phone....gotta love the internet... the home of people who think they are tough cuz they don't have to face anyone and bad grammer.

I love my EVO!!! I just wish it didn't have the crap ware that comes on it. I can't stand sports or Nascar, so why do I have to have these freaking apps????

I think sprint was paid to have those apps implemented, either that or the fact that over 3/4's of the US is some sort of sports fan.

Plain and simple evo's possibilities are unlimited where as iphones you find yourself limited. I have a phone that does what i want not a phone that limits me into its own restrictions. It's not the evo's fault, don't take out your carrier frustrations on it.
P.s Not even the iphone can knock the evo down. (Lol... It has a kickstand) They even thought about that!

I need help!!!Please, I tried rooting with revelutionary. Now I'm stuck in the loopboot, computer wont recagnise it? The boot screen hboot says wrong imimig,How can i input the right one.??? Please help, or possibly show me how to reprogram the system. how to mount works, and out the format the system. thank you any help would be appreciated.