Motorola Evokes Boredom, Indifference with First iPhone Contender

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Though most cell phone companies were quick to jump on the touch-screen bandwagon with unabashed iPhone imitators, Motorola has, for the most part, stuck to its tried-and-true physical keypad models in recent years. It seems to have finally caved this year, though with the introduction of the QA4 Evoke.

In true Motorola style, there’s plenty of polished chrome and curvy corners on this phone, but also an obviously Apple-like home button below the 2.8-inch WVGA screen that brings you back to a grid array of icons. In other words, this is Motorola’s first real shot at the iPhone.

While most new smartphones opt for a full QWERTY keyboard as an obvious one-up on Apple’s clumsy touch-screen version, Motorola has gone for the old-school numeric keypad instead, which slides out from below and gives this phone some considerable bulk (it measures 0.69 inches deep). We liked the satisfying haptic feedback it delivers when you press a button, but would definitely prefer a QWERTY pad for more utility.

The software seemed to be typical Motorola: bland and unimpressive. Though the demonstrating Motorola rep was quick to brag about how responsive the touch screen was (it’s capacitative, similar to the iPhone or Palm Pre), to us it didn’t seem to be particularly quick to pick up our input at all. In fact, it outright missed some of our swipes at the screen, an accidentally translated some scrolling motions into button presses. Likewise, none of the present software applications seemed to present anything new, or do it in a more attractive way. The default options give you pretty standard features like weather, news headlines, and MySpace access, but Motorola apparently has no plans to add more or open the phone up to developers. (We weren’t able to test some of the Web functions, including the browser, because the demo on hand had no connectivity.)

To Motorola’s credit, build quality on this model is top notch, especially the metal trim pieces, which lend it a sophisticated look, and on the sturdy slider. It’s certainly a phone you wouldn’t ashamed to be seen around town with. We only wish that the company could deliver software as impressive as its external designs.

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