HTC Evo Shift 4G Review - Less Is Sometimes More

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The HTC EVO Shift 4G runs Android 2.2, otherwise known as Froyo. The HTC EVO was the first to get 2.2 and the EVO Shift is the only other smartphone in Sprint's current lineup using it. (Samsung and Sprint issued a public statement earlier this month promising to upgrade Sprint's Galaxy S variant, the Epic 2.2, "soon.") Android 2.2 is significant as this version eliminates much of the sluggishness and glitchiness that was a common complaint of early Android devices. It reportedly runs up to five times faster than previous versions. Those improvements are noticeable with the EVO Shift 4G which responded quickly to our touch commands. Froyo also supports Adobe Flash.

With Froyo the HTC EVO Shift 4G has greatly improved support for corporate users accessing Exchange compared to devices running earlier versions of Android. Your company's Exchange system administrator can create security policies that the EVO Shift 4G must adopt if you want to use the device to access Exchange. This includes forcing the user to adopt a pin or password to unlock the device. Exchange administrators can also grant themselves the ability to perform a remote wipe, if the device is lost or stolen and the device is using Exchange ActiveSync.

That's nice for your company -- for you, Android 2.2 offers support for Exchange Calendars in the Calendar application. Previously, Exchange users had to sync their Outlook calendar to Google Calendar and use Google on the Android device. Exchange users can also access the server's Global Address Lists from e-mail, which gives users that familiar auto-complete function in the recipient name field taken from the directory.

We found setting up access to an Exchange server to be a painless process that took less than five minutes and worked well. And if access to other Microsoft Office applications is important to you, say to open an e-mail attachment, the phone includes the QuickOffice app, that lets you view/edit/create Microsoft Word and Excel documents (compatible with MS Office versions 97-2003).


QuickOffice

The HTC EVO Shift comes pre-loaded with several dozen applications and if a user ever decides to reset the device to its factory defaults, these applications will remain. You'll have to decide for yourself if you enjoy the apps or if it feels like bloatware to you. We've seen worse on other Android phones. Apps include Adobe PDF Reader, Facebook, Twitter and Friend Stream, the Kindle Reader, Maps, NASCAR, Sprint Football Live, Sprint TV, YouTube. 

   
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Each smartphone manufacturer includes its own synchronization and organization wares. This phone includes HTC Sync, a Windows application embedded on the phone's micoSD card. The user connects the device to a Windows PC (XP, Vista or W7) using the included cable to use the app. (Sorry, the memory card doesn't include Macintosh or Linux versions of the HTC Sync application, even though it's an Adobe Air app.)

The unit ships with HTC's cleverly designed travel power cord that also functions as the phone's USB connection cable. The wall charger is simply a pair of prongs with a USB port. The USB cord can be removed from it and plugged into a computer to charge the phone, mount it as a drive or tether the connection (provided you've paid Sprint the extra hotspot fee).


Users who do not sync wirelessly directly to the Exchange application via Froyo's support of it can sync to their PC's Outlook Calendar and Contacts via HTC Sync. The app also allows PC users to easily transfer or sync music, photos, videos, bookmarks and documents between PC to device or charge the device via the PC's USB port.

HTC also embeds another sync-like app into its Android phones, HTC Sense. Sense acts as a shell or conduit that lets users sync data within apps and your social networks. For example, you can use it sync your contacts (the "People" app) to their Facebook, LinkedIn or Twitter profiles. Or to browse your friends' photos on Facebook or Flickr via the phone's "Gallery" widget. HTC Sync will also import your social media contacts into your phone.

HTC Android devices offer plenty of ways to customize the look of your workspaces. The EVO Shift 4G includes seven customizable screens, including the home screen. These screens can host folders, shortcuts or widgets. In addition to the seven screens, the EVO Shift 4G, like the EVO 4G, offers "Scenes" which are sets of preset screens with various themes.

It includes a handful of factory-set Scenes including one called "Work" that puts a calendar widget, two timezone clocks and a link to the e-mail messages front and center on the home page. There's one called social that puts the social applications in easy reach and users can create their own custom scenes as well. 

        
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HTC's 'Leap' thumbnail view is especially helpful for navigating among the various home screens. Double click on the home button or pinch any screen and small icons of all screens will be presented on a single screen. By pressing and holding the Home button, you'll see a list of eight most recently used applications and you can use this to navigate between your favorite applications while they are running.

By sliding down the alert screen at the top of every screen, you'll see all alerts from all of your messaging applications including e-mails from all accounts you are tracking in the phone (we used three: Gmail, Exchange and our ISP's native Webmail account); text alerts, Facebook notifications, active applications like GPS navigation, voicemail alerts and so on.

As mentioned, because the EVO Shift 4G uses a slide-out keyboard, its 3.6 inch screen doesn't have to share space with a software keyboard. This gives it plenty of room to run graphics, a browser Window, a document, a scrolling screen and makes the Shift feel comparable to the bigger screened EVO despite its smaller size. It's multi-touch is extremely responsive. When coupled with Wi-Fi or 4G, we found Web browsing and streaming video a joy to use.

In the coming pages, we'll touch more on the speeds you can expect from the EVO 4G while browsing the web.


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