First Impressions of the EVO Shift 4G

Twenty Four Hours

The friendly salesman at the Sprint store told me he also has the EVO Shift 4G. That’s an improvement over the last time I bought a recently launched device, when they had to dig it out of the storeroom in back. Is this really the best device for me? Not sure yet.

HTC Sense

Many years ago, when Windows Mobile 6 was a leading phone OS, HTC differentiated its devices with a touch friendly user interface named TouchFLO. Many iterations later, and now called Sense, HTC has one of the smoothest, most mature, and widely used skins for the Android OS. Out of the box, the phone displays the “Sprint Scene,” seven home screens featuring some Sprint applications in addition to the standard HTC widgets and shortcuts:

Home Screen - Sprint Scene

But while it is very cool to have fog slide across your home screen when it is foggy outside — don’t worry, it clears in a few moments — one does have to do some work to customize the selection of shortcuts and widgets to really get down to business.

Keyboards galore

For my purposes, the main distinguishing feature of the EVO Shift 4G is its physical (slide-out) keyboard. However, the phone also includes includes a virtual (on-screen) keyboard. A beta version of Swype is available with free registration on the Swype web site.

Virtual keyboards

In landscape mode, you can tap the on-screen keys with your thumbs, but in portrait mode, the tip of the index finger is a better tool. Due to the narrower width of the keyboard on the Shift’s screen (about 1.85 inches compared with about 2.2 inches on the Droid X), it is more difficult to hit the keys accurately in that mode. Fortunately, the software helps you when you miss a key or two.

Spelling suggestions

Meanwhile, the physical keyboard is about the opposite of the ones I have used for years. The Treos (prior to the Treo Pro), featured tiny, hard, closely spaced keys that allowed for efficient thumb typing (with deliberate effort). The EVO Shift’s keyboard has relatively wide, rubbery, low profile keys that requires moving one’s thumbs further to the left and right. The keys have a satisfying click, and despite some major differences in the layout, it shouldn’t take long to be just as fast on this keyboard as on the Treo — with one major exception: the keyboard needs to be opened.

In the past, I’ve avoided side-sliding keyboards. To respond to an email or text, you have to take a moment to decide whether to open the keyboard or use a virtual keyboard (and in that case, in portrait or landscape mode). If you choose the sliding keyboard, you need to rotate the phone and wait for the software to rotate the display. This slows things down, but perhaps it is best to be less impulsive in dashing off messages… I have 30 days to decide.

4-way Navigation Control

The EVO Shift 4G keyboard features a shiny square just below the enter key that rocks up, down, left and right to move the cursor. Unlike the 5-way control on the Treo, there is no center button to “tap” the selected button or link. (This is a problem in the browser, because the enter key also does not tap a selected link.) I don’t know whether there is any advantage to having the 4-way control rather than the arrow keys that might appear on a larger keyboard (such as the one on the Samsung Epic 4G).

There does appear to be a glitch in using the 4-way controller in Quickoffice, a program included with Android 2.2 for reading and editing Microsoft Word and Excel documents. Pressing left immediately after doing some typing will erase that typing to the beginning of the line (or the beginning of the typing if it began in mid-line). This “undo” function is completely illogical for a navigation controller, so presumably it’s a bug.

The Volume Rocker

When holding the phone in landscape mode, or when closing the keyboard, it is very easy to press on the volume rocker and set the volume to maximum or off. For a company known for placing kickstands on its phones, the design of these buttons is oddly inconvenient. Yet another adjustment that hopefully will become second nature.

Up Next

Time to further explore the email and calendar functions.

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