Hands-on Impressions of the HTC EVO Shift 4G

I have been playing with the HTC EVO Shift 4G for a few days and offer first impression of the phone. The Shift is an Android phone by HTC that has a sliding QWERTY keyboard, for fans of those.

When introduced over six months ago the HTC EVO 4G caught the imagination of smartphone enthusiasts, myself included. The large 4.3-inch screen encased in a thin form that offered the best that Android could offer at the time, along with Sprint's new 4G (WiMAX) network was an instant hit. I am happy with my EVO 4G which is still one of the best smartphones on the market today. As popular as the EVO 4G has been for HTC and Sprint, it's no wonder they have introduced the EVO Shift 4G to capitalize on that success. Unfortunately, the name is the only thing the Shift shares with the original EVO, except 4G.

My colleague Matt Miller published a thorough review of the EVO Shift 4G, so if you're interested check out his review. I have been playing with the Shift for a few days and have my own impressions of the phone to share. The Shift is a smaller, thicker Android phone by HTC that adds a sliding QWERTY keyboard for fans of physical keyboards.

Check out the photo gallery comparing the HTC EVO Shift 4G with the original EVO.

Image Gallery: Compare the HTC EVO Shift 4G with original EVO 4G.
Image Gallery: EVO Shift 4G vs EVO 4G
Image Gallery: EVO Shift 4G Goofy D-pad

There is nothing really special about the Shift, which will confuse some attracted by the EVO brand. The 3.6-inch display is smaller than that of the original EVO, and the Shift is slightly thicker due to the inclusion of a keyboard which slides out of side of the phone. The only thing the Shift really shares with the EVO is the ability to use the Sprint 4G network.

I think it was a mistake to use the EVO branding for the Shift, which is essentially a budget Android smartphone. I've already seen it online as cheap as a hundred bucks, and only a short time after release. It is a solid entry-level smartphone, however, that will appeal to those who need a keyboard on the phone.

Speaking of the keyboard, it is well executed by HTC with a glaring exception -- the inclusion of a giant d-pad on the keyboard. This d-pad takes up quite a bit of space on the keyboard while adding very little value. Touchscreen phones don't need d-pads as it's easy enough to just tap the screen, rather than using a pad to move around. This d-pad reminds of that found on the original Motorola Droid phone, which was also horribly executed. Otherwise the keyboard is solid and easy to use.

While the EVO Shift 4G is mostly just another Android phone, it does surprise me in one area. The Shift has a 800 MHz Snapdragon processor which should be slower than the 1 GHz processor in the EVO, but surprisingly the Shift is faster than the EVO and most other Android phones I have tested. Froyo runs fluidly on the Shift and things happen instantly, without lag. My 17 year-old son was impressed with the speed of the Shift, so it's not just my own impression.

I believe the Shift would be a good phone for those new to smartphones, or those looking for the first time to see what all the Android buzz is about. It is well-made, and is a bargain Android phone that is full-featured.


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