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printed August 28, 2014
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Review: HTC EVO Shift 4G

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The EVO Shift 4G is an interesting device. At first glance, it reminds me strongly of HTC's circa 2007 Windows Mobile smartphone designs. The dark blue, soft-touch paint job especially resembles HTC's older devices -- this isn't necessarily bad, it just is. However, the overall form factor of the EVO Shift 4G is sure to please some users. It has a reasonably small footprint when held in the hand. It's a thick phone, but HTC angled the sides steeply (think trapezoid) so that the Shift 4G sits deep in your palm. It's easy to get your hand around the entire device. I had no trouble placing it into or retrieving it from my jeans' front pocket, but at 6 ounces, (just barely heavier than the EVO 4G,) you won't forget it's there. The construction feels mostly solid. The top and bottom halves of the Shift 4G fit snugly together to form clean, even seams.

One of the EVO 4G's stand-out features was its massive 4.3-inch display. For the EVO Shift 4G, HTC dialed the down diameter to 3.6 inches. That's a drastic reduction in screen real estate, but I don't think I want to imagine how ginormous the slider smartphone would have been if it also had a 4.3-inch display. The EVO Shift 4G has four capacitive buttons below the display for the standard Android controls. They work fine, but physical buttons would be easier to use without looking.

Rounding out the controls, the volume toggle is on the left side of the phone. It is large, easy to find, and has good travel and feedback. One thing I noticed, because of where it is placed, I often pressed the volume toggle accidentally while sliding the Shift 4G closed. This was annoying because it almost always raised or lowered the ringer volume. A microUSB port is tucked below it for charging and data transfer. The power/lock button and 3.5mm headset jack are on the top. They were easy enough to get at.

With respect to the slider, I wasn't too impressed. It is not spring assisted, so you have to shove it all the way up. It doesn't glide up nicely. Instead, it's actual work to open the EVO Shift 4G up as well as to close it. As with the exterior design, the physical QWERTY keyboard also takes me back to HTC's 2007-era designs. It packs it four, offset rows, but the keys are flat and unsatisfying to use. I was glad to see a dedicated "@" key, and the selection of emoticons is extensive if you don't mind hitting the function key first. Speaking of which, the keyboard does carry forward two of my favorite HTC characteristics: there are two lights that illuminate to let you know when you've activated the Shift and Function keys. At times, this is invaluable. The EVO Shift 4G also gets good marks for including dedicated question mark and comma keys. However, if the only reason you're interested in the EVO Shift 4G is for the keyboard, you may be disappointed with what you find.

Unfortunately, you have to peel off the battery cover and remove the battery to access the microSD card. C'mon, HTC, you know that's a no-no.

 

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