capsule review

Motorola Evoke Q4A Cell Phone

At a Glance
  • Motorola Evoke Q4A

    PCWorld Rating

The Motorola Evoke Q4A ($280 with no contract; as of 7/28/09), from pay-as-you-go carrier Cricket, has a sleek slider design and a few smartphone-like features such as a full HTML browser and a widget-based user interface. Unfortunately, unlike a more advanced phone or a smartphone, the Q4A doesn't have a whole lot of room for customization, and its performance can be painfully slow.

While some Motorola handsets can look a bit chintzy, the Evoke is quite eye-catching and its build seems high quality. The Evoke's rounded corners and smooth, rubberized backing feel very nice in the hand. Dominating the front face is by a 2.8-inch display with 400-by-240-pixel resolution. That screen is pretty small, however, when stacked against other phone touchscreens we've seen. For example, in comparison with the 3.2-inch, AMOLED, 240-by-400-pixel display of the Samsung Impression, the Evoke's display looks weak: Side by side, the Impression's display has brighter colors, sharper details, and crisper animations.

The Evoke has a minimalist design. A single square button functions as an OK/back/app-launcher control. A lock/unlock toggle and a dedicated camera key sit on the right edge, while a volume rocker is on the left. A microUSB charger/headset port sits on the bottom (no 3.5mm headphone jack, unfortunately), and the microSD slot is hidden (annoyingly) under the removable battery. The slide-out numeric pad is sturdy and the flat keys are easy to press. The keys are large with raised numbers and bright backlighting.

In addition to the keypad, the Evoke has a touch software keyboard. It's a bit cramped in landscape mode, though--I hit the wrong letters on more than one occasion, and I had to type pretty slowly to keep the results accurate. Its predictive-text function works pretty well. The unit performed smoothly; I didn't have to press letters multiple times to make them show up. The keyboard also has haptic feedback, so when you press a key the unit gives a slight vibration.

The Evoke comes preloaded with seven widgets: Follow Me Weather, Google Quicksearch, Google Picasa, MySpace Mobile, RSS Reader, USA Today Mobile, and YouTube. Each widget has its own panel, and you can flip through the available widgets with a swipe of a finger. While instant access to apps is a nifty feature, you're restricted to those seven--and Motorola says that it doesn't have any current plans to add more.

Having such quick access to the apps is useful, though, especially since the full HTML browser doesn't compare to what you'd find on a more advanced handset. Due to the display's size, navigating around the interface is difficult. In my tests, scrolling took multiple flicks at times, and zooming into various areas of the page seemed jerky and inconsistent. Pages loaded fairly quickly over Cricket's 3G network, however.

The multimedia player is decent, but I can't see anyone using the Evoke as their main music player. You can browse your library by artist, album, or song, but not by genre. Playback modes are limited to shuffle, loop, and playlist. Sound quality was good, but you'll need an adapter if you want to use your own headphones, since the Evoke has a microUSB jack.

The camera, like other aspects of the phone, is slow when it launches, and after you take a picture. Image quality was better than I expected from a 2-megapixel camera with no flash: Snapshots taken both indoors and out had fairly accurate colors and only a small amount of graininess or noise. Unfortunately, the camera lacks image editing and other common advanced features. One useful feature allows you to upload your photos directly to Google Picasa from your photo gallery.

Service on the Cricket network varies, so be sure to check if your area is covered. I tested the Evoke in Fresno, California, and Portland, Oregon (areas in Cricket's network), as well as in the San Francisco Bay Area (where I could make roaming calls but not access the Web).

I found call quality very good overall. Voices on the other end of the line sounded clear with ample volume. Parties on the other end were also pleased with the quality, and reported no hissing or static in the background.

The Motorola Evoke, with a slick design and a nifty widget interface, is marred by its slow performance and inconsistent touchscreen. Additionally, some people might feel constrained by its bare-bones multimedia features and the inability to add more apps. If you're looking for a no-contract, pay-as-you-go phone with a little more bang for the buck, a better alternative would be the BlackBerry Curve 8330 from MetroPCS.

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At a Glance
  • PCWorld Rating

    While it has a slick design, the Motorola Evoke Q4A is hindered by slow performance and uninspiring multimedia features.

    Pros

    • Good-looking slider design
    • Solid call quality

    Cons

    • Slow performance
    • Average multimedia features
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