The HTC Evo 4G LTE (from Sprint) and HTC One X (from AT&T), each $200 with two-year contracts, have all the key ingredients of today's marquis smart phones: 4.7-inch, high-definition (720p) displays; high-speed, dual-core processors; and the ability to run on their carriers' 4G LTE networks. And both are currently our highest-rated phones for their respective carriers, though our image engineers weren't impressed with some aspects of the cameras' performance.
Their 8-megapixel cameras set them apart from many of their top-shelf contemporaries. The phones can shoot a series of photos in rapid-fire succession while in camera mode, as well as snap a still picture at any moment while shooting a video. And you can switch rapidly from one function to the other. These features come in handy for capturing the action at impromptu events.
Both phones support Near Field Communication (NFC), a short-range wireless communication technology that works with e-wallet payment apps and allows the phone to read "smart" tags or other items that that have NFC capability in them (though the technology is not yet widely deployed for mobile phone users).
The Evo 4G LTE has one other feature not yet available on any other phone: a technology called HD Voice, which Sprint says will produce "fuller, more natural-sounding and less fatiguing voice quality" and a reduction in "troublesome background noises," especially outdoors.
But HD Voice works only when both phones on the call have this feature and are within Sprint's HD Voice network, which hasn't yet deployed. Neither has Sprint's 4G LTE network, which the carrier promised would be rolled out by now to Baltimore, Kansas City Atlanta, Dallas, Houston, and San Antonio.
At the lower end of the Sprint lineup is the LG Optimus Elite, which is light on frills (a low-resolution, smallish 3.5-inch touch-screen display, no 4G data, and a standard-definition camcorder), but does have NFC technology. And it doesn't weigh much (just 4.3 ounces), it's built with recycled plastics, and costs only $30 with a two-year contract.
To check out our newest batch of Ratings for these and other smart phones, go to ConsumerReports.org.