We're not quite sure what to make of the Motorola Evoke QA4. Though it offers a touch screen, a full HTML browser, and an appealing slider design, it hardly qualifies as either a smartphone or a multimedia powerhouse like the Samsung Eternity. Also, while we appreciate its decent call quality and nifty integration with applications like YouTube and Google QuickSearch, we remain unimpressed with its sluggish performance, midrange feature set, and clumsy touch screen. The Evoke is available from both Alltel and Cricket Wireless. We tested the Cricket version, though the features will be largely the same on both models. Cricket sells it for $279 without a contract.
Though it's hardly groundbreaking, the Evoke's design has its good points. We like its oval shape, silver and black color scheme, and soft-touch material that covers its back side. At 4.25 inches by 1.99 inches by 0.68 inch and 4.25 ounces, the Evoke is much smaller than most touch-screen phones, and it's easily portable and it has a sturdy feel in the hand. What's more, we welcome the proximity sensor and accelerometer, even if the latter feature only works in a few applications.
On the downside, the 2.8-inch display is too small for a touch screen and its low resolution (65,000 colors, 400x240 pixels) doesn't impress. Graphics and photos aren't exceptionally sharp, colors are muted, and the whole effect is rather dim. We also found the customization options lacking; you can change just the wallpaper of the home screen, the backlighting timeout, and the intensity of the vibrating feedback.
At the bottom of the screen are icons for the contacts menu, the messaging app, and the calls list. In a clever move, these icons actually form the top row of the main menu, which you can access by pressing the Evoke's sole physical control below the display. The interface differs from the standard Moto menu design, but it's intuitive and well-organized. The only caveat is that there's no dedicated Back button; instead you must use either an onscreen arrow or the Evoke's sole physical control below the display (see below).
One of the Evoke's better features is its integrated support for services like Google QuickSearch, AccuView weather, MSNBC, YouTube, and MySpace. Each has an onscreen "widget" that gives you direct access to that application. It's a nice touch, since it saves you having to dig through multiple menu levels. The widgets are arranged in a convenient side-by-side format similar to the menu pages on the iPhone--just swipe your finger across the display to cycle through them.
But on that note, the touch screen performs rather erratically. It took a firm touch to move between widget pages and scroll through long lists--when we tried swiping lightly nothing would happen. Conversely, we could select items with only a light touch. Compared with other touch-screen phones, we needed some time to grow accustomed to using the Evoke, and we were disappointed not to find an option for changing the display's sensitivity.
The aforementioned physical control below the display is flush, but its large size makes it easy to use. Besides opening and closing the menus, the control also works as a Back key in some menus. The numeric keypad is also flush, but both the backlit keys and the numbers on the keys are quite large. The keypad is brightly backlit for dialing in situations where the light is dim.
The remaining exterior features are a mixed bag. A tactile volume rocker sits on the left spine and a camera shutter and a handset0locking switch rest conveniently on the right spine. The camera lens is on the phone's back side out of the way of your fingers, but vanity shots will be difficult without a self-portrait mirror. We also weren't crazy about the single microUSB chargerheadset port on the phone's bottom end. Though we thank Moto for adopting a standard charger connection, we'd prefer a dedicated 3.5 millimeter headset jack. Finally, we wish that the microSD slot wasn't hidden behind the battery cover.
To type messages, you can use one of the three methods: the physical alphanumeric keypad, a virtual alphanumeric keypad, or a virtual QWERTY keyboard. Obviously, we preferred the virtual keyboard since it saves you from tapping keys multiple times. It's relatively easy to use, and we like the predictive text, but the display's small size means that the keys are crowded and that few shortcut controls are available. Also, you must click through to a second keyboard for numeric keys and two additional keyboards for symbols. To move between the different keyboards you just need to rotate the phone and the accelerometer will do the rest.