HTC Evo Shift 4G Review - Less Is Sometimes More

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The EVO Shift 4G is clearly based on its namesake, the EVO 4G. At first glance, it looks like the EVO, only smaller. Its 3.6-inch capacitive multi-touch screen runs the length of the device and is plenty big enough (and vivid enough) for viewing media and interacting with apps, especially when the screen doesn't also have to host a keyboard. It supplies the same four permanent function keys along the front bottom of the device: Home, Menu, Back and Search. The keys summon different application functions depending on the application that is running. It has the same overall boxy look, too.

Click to enlarge.

But the Shift differs from the original EVO in several obvious ways, too, some good, some not so good. On the plus side, its slimmer 2.32-inch width means that it more comfortably fits in the hand, even a small hand, in our opinion. That makes one-handed functions easier, when the thumb needs to wrap around to use the onscreen keyboard. And for those with smaller fists, its slimmer size makes it a pleasure to use it as an actual phone, whereas the EVO 4G borders on painful to hold for a meaty 30-minute conversation. Yet the Shift is not much lighter than the hefty EVO, weighing a mere fraction of an ounce less. This also makes it one of the heavier phones available today.

 

Samsung Captivate
4.5 ounces
HTC Droid Incredible
4.6 ounces
Apple iPhone 4
4.8 ounces
Motorola Droid X
5.47 ounces
Samsung Epic 4G
5.47 ounces
HTC EVO Shift 4G
5.85 ounces
HTC EVO Shift 4G
6 ounces

 

Thanks to the slide-out keyboard, the EVO Shift is a tad thicker than the EVO, too, at .59-inches compared to the EVO's .5-inch profile.


Click to enlarge.

The Shift's stand-out feature, its slide-out keyboard, comes complete with cursor, search button, and a menu-shortcut key. There's been some complaints by other testers over the kinetic feel of the keyboard. The keys are thinner and therefore don't have much travel, and they don't offer a satisfying "click" either. But they are adequately spaced from each other (especially compared to a BlackBerry Curve), and we were adapted to the more subtle feedback in no time. You can beef up the typing experience by adding a key sound -- like vibrate -- if you so choose, too. But be warned, such an addition will use more battery life.

On the downside, there's no getting around the fact that the phone has no font-facing camera. While it can run Skype for phone calls or instant messaging, if face-to-face video chatting is important to you, the EVO Shift 4G simply isn't for you. Likewise, it doesn't include an HDMI output. So if you want your smartphone to output HD video or a high-def slideshow presentation, the Shift may not do for you.


Click to enlarge.

That said, the 5 MP rear camera also shoots 720p HD video. It is self focusing, adjusts for glare and takes respectable point-and-click shots, even when zoomed in to the maximum level.

 
Point-and-click shots taken facing into the sun and fully zoomed.

While this camera isn't as powerful as the EVO's 8 MP camera, it does include plenty of fancy knobs, bells and whistles. It can shoot a photo with a special-effect filter on, such as greyscale, sepia, negative, solarize and posterize, and the camera function can crop and otherwise edit the shot on the spot, too.

 
An indoor shot of Kodiak the "Huskita" and one snapped with the fancy posterize filter.

The EVO Shift does offer most of today's other must-have features including Bluetooth, Wi-Fi, GPS, an accelerometer and FM radio. It offers a decent amount of onboard memory at 2GB of ROM, coupled with 512MB of RAM. On the other hand, it comes standard with a somewhat miserly 2G microSD card, upgradeable to 32G via the microSD slot located under the battery cover.

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No hdmi, no front facing camera... i think thats fair. Because lets face it, are these functions used regularly? sure once in while its nice to plug in the phone to the tv, but its still very niche.

The keyboard looks great though! the keys looked nice and spaced out as well.

What i'm a little surprised about is the fact that HTC is releasing this phone now... they should have taken it out at least 6-7 months ago.... why?? because tegra and dual-core mobile chipsets are just a few months away... why would i shell out $200 when in a few months, i can get another much more powerful device.

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Coolice, it is $150, not $200 for this phone.  As for the keyboard, when has HTC messed up with a keyboard layout?

I wonder why you guys are knocking the $80 (before taxes and fees) per month price when this is still the cheapest of the big four while offering unlimited everything but cell-to-landline calling.

Also, the additional $30 a month is not required for teathering with the phone, only for wifi hotspot.

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after taxes ~200 (as a package, taxes, case), Sorry, i'm not affiliated with american tax laws, but in the great white north.... 150$ means almost $180... which ~$200.

And i complemented the keyboard haha. I owned a HTC Dream once.... still one of the best keyboards i've used till date.

As for the service, i cant say anything...i'm not in the states.

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That is my GF's biggest complaint about her new Droid phone....The Keyboard? She cant stand the on-screen keyboard. So this might actually fit a niche market.

Personally I like the EVO with the front cam, HDMI and all.

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Oh yea, something that the review didn't add.  This phone has an SVDO radio rather than an EVDO one.  It is backward compatible, but adds a few new tricks once SVDO capabilities are turned on.

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