Review: Sprint HTC EVO Shift 4G leaves a lot to be desired

Review: Sprint HTC EVO Shift 4G leaves a lot to be desired

Summary: Sprint and HTC decided to follow up the successful HTC EVO 4G with a smaller, cheaper model that sports a physical QWERTY keyboard. Unfortunately, the keyboard is not good enough to take on the Samsung Epic 4G on Sprint.

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Back in May of 2010 I stood in line and purchased a Sprint HTC EVO 4G and two times last year I awarded this smartphone my top pick. I have been spending several days with the new Sprint HTC EVO Shift 4G and have to say that the older HTC EVO 4G still gets my pick as the best current Android smartphone available.

There are plenty of smartphones coming later in 2011, some of which were announced at CES last week. The HTC EVO Shift 4G is a version of the EVO with a QWERTY keyboard and looks to compete directly with the Sprint Samsung Epic 4G and IMHO the Epic 4G is a better QWERTY keyboard device than the EVO Shift 4G. The EVO Shift 4G seems like a device that should have launch in October as a refresh of the EVO 4G with a QWERTY keyboard while giving buyers a chance to pick it up in time for the holidays. Now with dual-core processor smartphones coming out in the next few months, this is mid-level device that at least is priced to reflect that at the $149.99 two-year subsidized contract price. Check out some photos of the HTC EVO Shift 4G in my image gallery and forgive me if I no longer have my own EVO 4G to take comparison shots and I moved off of the Sprint network last month.


Image Gallery: Check out product images of the HTC EVO Shift 4G on Sprint. Image Gallery: EVO Shift 4G retail box Image Gallery: EVO Shift 4G in hand

In the box and first impressions

Unlike the funky frozen food container that the HTC EVO 4G came in last year, the HTC EVO Shift 4G ships in a standard rectangular yellow highlighted box. Inside you will find the EVO Shift 4G and 1500 mAh battery, A/C charger, 2GB microSD card preinstalled (another sign this is only a mid-level device), USB cable, and several guide books. There is no stereo headset included.

The HTC EVO Shift 4G is a rather thick device compared to the latest smartphones today, but it is narrower than the EVO 4G because it has a smaller display. It feels nice in your hand with a soft touch back and nice front and rear speaker borders. The slider has no assist mechanism and feels a bit old school to me and I found the directional pad in the lower right of the keyboard to be rather awful.

Specifications

Specifications for the Sprint HTC EVO Shift 4G include the following:

  • Android 2.2 with HTC Sense experience
  • 800 MHz Qualcomm MSM7630 Snapdragon processor
  • 5 megapixel camera with single LED flash
  • 3.6 inch WVGA (480x800) capacitive touch display
  • Dedicated, touch-sensitive Home, Menu, Back and Search areas
  • Proximity sensor, light sensor and digital compass
  • Integrated GPS
  • Wi-Fi (802.11 b/g)
  • Bluetooth 2.1
  • FM radio
  • 3.5 mm headset jack
  • 1500 mAh battery
  • microSD card slot with included 2GB card
  • Integrated WiMAX radio for 4G access and WiFi Hotspot capability
  • Loaded Sprint apps, including Sprint Navigation, Sprint TV, Sprint Football, and NASCAR Mobile
  • Dimensions: 4.62 x 2.37 x 0.62 inches and 5.9 ounces

Compared to the HTC EVO 4G, we see the Shift 4G getting much smaller display (3.6 inch vs. 4.3 inch), smaller megapixel camera and one less LED flash, loss of the front facing camera, loss of the HDMI port, and extremely small included microSD card (2GB compared to 8GB). While the processor speed looks to be lower on paper (800 MHz vs. 1 GHz), this is a 2nd generation Snapdragon model that actually looks to be a bit snappier.

Walk around the hardware

The 3.6 inch display takes up most of the front of the EVO Shift 4G with four touch sensitive keys/areas at the bottom for Home, Menu, Back, and Search. The handset speaker has a nice silver border and it looks classy. The rest of the front has a brushed black metal finish to complete the business look of the device.

There is nothing on the right or bottom of the device. On the left side you will find the volume button and a microUSB port. The top houses the power button and 3.5mm headset jack. The flash, camera, and mono speaker are found on the back up towards the top.

The display slides to the right (up when rotated into landscape orientation) to reveal the 4-row QWERTY keyboard. As I mentioned earlier, the slider mechanism has no spring assist or anything so you have to manually slide it all the way open and closed. The mechanism feels OK, but with slick designs like the T-Mobile G2 this one feels a couple years old to me.

The keys are covered in soft touch material and the layout is good with adequate spacing and tactile feedback. The bottom right directional pad is pretty awful though with feedback provided for a top, right, and left press and nearly nothing when you press to go down. It is not touch sensitive and really serves little purpose with a full touch screen display. If HTC wanted some directional control on the keyboard then simple arrows would have been more effective. Motorola learned this with the transition from the Droid to the Droid 2 and I have to admit I was pretty surprised since HTC has been known to make some fantastic QWERTY keyboards (HTC Touch Pro2 and G2 come to mind). When you are sacrificing so much compared to the EVO 4G to get a physical QWERTY keyboard it should be the best and it simply is not on this device.

Walk through the software

The Sprint HTC EVO Shift 4G runs the Google Android 2.2 operating system with HTC Sense built on top of it. Right out of the box, the user will have a great experience as you are walked through a setup wizard that helps you easily setup your device and understand how the keyboard works with preferred internet connection (network and/or WiFi) selector, Gmail, POP/IMP, or Exchange email account setup, and social network (Facebook, Flickr, and Twitter) setup. It is quick and easy to follow these and gets your device setup and ready to go.

After the setup wizard is done you will find yourself at the main page of the seven (7) available screens in one of the Scenes of HTC Sense. You can flip through the screens with your finger on the display. You can setup multiple Scenes with these seven different screens with widgets, program shortcuts, contact names, and much more. One of the coolest features in this new HTC Sense interface is the "Leap" view where you can view thumbnails of all seven home screen panels on one screen by pinching your finger closed on any panel or pressing the Home button twice.

All the typical HTC Android applications and utilities are present, including Navigation Panel (Footprints, Google Maps Navigation, Voice Search, View Map, Search, and Make a Call all in one quick interface), Amazon MP3 Store, FM Radio, Google Maps Navigation, Android Market, Music, Peep (HTC's Twitter app), PDF viewer, Quickoffice viewer, Teeter, Photo Gallery, YouTube, Weather, and more. Sprint added some applications onto the EVO Shift 4G too, including Sprint Football Live, Sprint Hotspot, Sprint Navigation, Sprint TV, Sprint Zone, NASCAR Sprint Cup Mobile, and Visual Voicemail.

With one Android 2.3 device available and others coming soon, we have to hope the HTC EVO Shift 4G is slated for the update as well since it is a new device.

Pricing and availability

The Sprint HTC EVO Shift 4G is available now for $149.99 after a $100 mail-in rebate and minimum voice and data plan with 2-year contract. The minimum individual price plan is $79.99 and this includes 450 anytime minutes, free unlimited calls to mobile phones, unlimited text and data, unlimited Sprint Navigation and some other services. There are subscription fees for some Sprint TV content and a huge $29.99 monthly fee to activate the WiFi Hotspot functionality. You will note there is a $10 premium price for data on the EVO Shift 4G and Sprint states this is due to the improved content and access and is not a direct cost for WiMAX.

Final thoughts on the HTC EVO Shift 4G

I was looking forward to trying out the HTC EVO Shift 4G given the track record HTC has for great QWERTY keyboards and thought it would be like an EVO 4G with a great keyboard. It turns out I was wrong and the keyboard actually turned me off so much that I am sending back the eval unit now rather than use it for the next couple of weeks that my loaner period runs for. I have also been spoiled with devices that have a physical camera capture button (HTC HD7 and Nokia N8) and this is becoming a feature I am now looking for on my smartphones.

I have also come to thoroughly enjoy using the Swype soft input keyboard on my Android and Nokia devices so find little need for a physical QWERTY keyboard. Unfortunately, the HTC EVO Shift 4G doesn't have the Swype keyboard like we see on the Samsung Android devices so you don't have that option either.

If you really want a physical QWERTY keyboard on an Android device with Sprint, then I recommend you take a look at the Samsung Epic 4G that has a rather lovely QWERTY keyboard and beautiful large display.

Topics: Hardware, HTC, Mobility, Telcos, Wi-Fi

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Talkback

18 comments
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  • RE: Review: Sprint HTC EVO Shift 4G leaves a lot to be desired

    Non-removable bloatware.
    Sense ui replacement.

    No thank you.
    dirigible
  • RE: Review: Sprint HTC EVO Shift 4G leaves a lot to be desired

    It sounds to me like Matthew got frustrated with the keyboard and just sent the phone back. I LOVE THIS PHONE! It is exactly what I was looking for. I have only two complaints about it. The camera is not so great (autofocus is not very responsive) and the volume rocker on the side of the phone is easy to inadvertantly hit. There needs to be some way of locking it.

    I need a physical QWERTY because I have sausage fingers and I think this phone is every bit if not better than the original EVO. I would recommend this phone for people that don't have to have an enormous phone.

    To recommend the Epic when Samsung has poor product support and the phone still runs Android 2.1 means that Matthew is obviously not someone I would take advice from. Just Sayin!!
    deviant26
    • RE: Review: Sprint HTC EVO Shift 4G leaves a lot to be desired

      @deviant26

      I totally agree, Mr Deviant! I thought Matthew was a little rough in his review.

      I love my HTC Evo Shift. I only wish the volume button was on the right side so I wouldn't keep accidentally turning it down, like you said. Also, I wish the charging port was on the bottom so I could use the phone while charging it without the wire being in my way.

      This is my 3rd Smartphone and I highly recommend it for the price.
      cathyll
  • RE: Review: Sprint HTC EVO Shift 4G leaves a lot to be desired

    At least HTC has the GPS working on their phones. Oh Slam, Samsung!!!
    fpineda101
  • Sprint the last place in Smartphones

    With all the new phones coming out this year...Sprint brings out a phone that should be discontinued already. Where is the state of the art phones from the first with 4G? All the new phones seem to go to AT&T and Verizon. Sprints phone plans are still the best deals around, but the phones not!
    rbinchgo
    • Sprint only has two enviable phones

      Verizon competes on network quality.

      AT&T competes on best phones.

      Sprint competes on price.

      T-Mobile competes on value.
      the.ksmm
      • RE: Sprint

        @the.ksmm <br><br>With Verizon, you pay twice the money for service. With AT&T, you get terrible customer service. (I don't know about T-Mobile, haven't used them before)<br><br>Sprint has great customer service, a good price for what you get, decent internet speed, and they have several great phones in my opinion.<br><br>That's my two cents worth.

        I really love my HTC Evo Shift. It's quite fast.
        cathyll
      • RE: Review: Sprint HTC EVO Shift 4G leaves a lot to be desired

        yea t-mobile value an the way the treat u some value they are drop calls saying they will fix the issue but never happends an verzion is a totaly a rip off an at&t never head anything bad about them an is one of the better ones out their
        dreamer420
    • RE: Review: Sprint HTC EVO Shift 4G leaves a lot to be desired

      @rbinchgo

      I would put this phone up against any other smartphone, including the iPhone. Even though that wouldn't necessarily be comparing "Apples to Apples". You can't really compare an android phone to an iPhone, but I can sure tell you it is faster.
      deviant26
    • RE: Review: Sprint HTC EVO Shift 4G leaves a lot to be desired

      man u are so wrong sprint was the frist to lunch a 3d enable phone before verizon tmobile an at&t ever did an it was by the htc company an i agree samhung phones do stink the dont work have the time an when they do u still cant used them i wont go with a samsung phone again
      dreamer420
  • Getting Swype is as easy as googling it.

    Actually you can get swype pretty easily. Just google Swype on EVO - same directions as its big brother.
    bnkr0
  • RE: Review: Sprint HTC EVO Shift 4G leaves a lot to be desired

    Apparently Matthew finds it convenient to carry around a phone the size of a small tablet in his pocket. I am one of the few people who value a smaller device. I have a laptop so I don't need to be inconvenienced by all of these new, large phones. I currently carry a palm pre and like the size but it has other issues. I need a new device so am considering the Evo shift. Hopefully more manufacturers will be putting out pocket size smart phone devices soon.
    wop333
  • RE: Review: Sprint HTC EVO Shift 4G leaves a lot to be desired

    Matthew seemed biased going into this review it's like he hated the phone before he ever touched it if this is the kind of reviews he does he shouldn't be a reviewer its like hating a four door car then reviewing one and complaining the whole time it has four doors
    Pariah_
  • RE: Review: Sprint HTC EVO Shift 4G leaves a lot to be desired

    TLDR version: It's not an EVO, so I don't like it. <br><br>Off the subject, but who was supposed to proofread this review before it was posted? It definitely could have used an editor's touch.
    pat70891
  • RE: Review: Sprint HTC EVO Shift 4G leaves a lot to be desired

    I think this author is full of crap. This is one of the best android phone out there. The battery life is not the best, but the processor is faster than the processor of the original evo. It takes a person with a normal amount of knowledge to be able to root this phone and install a custom rom, which will get rid of all the bloatware. It will also give you access to 4g hotspot using your data plan, so you dont have to pay 30 extra a month. HTC makes some of the most innovative phones in the market. And for those of you who think the original evo is better, you have a lot of research to do. You dont have to be a bright person to figure out the bigger the screen and the older the processor, the less performance it will have(in terms of battery life and speed). And for those who keep comparing android phones to iphone, you must really have a lack of knowledge because android, by far, is and will always be a better OS. Iphone is pure crap. Plus verizon and att are making a crap load of money from morons who keep purchasing the plans required for the iphone.
    josejose1212
  • Evo Shift's sensitivity

    It's a great phone but like other HCT phone the screen is fragile, I cracked mine like a month ago but I could find good quality replacement parts on durapowerglabal.com, they a ton of replacements for HTC phones.
    webear91
  • RE: Review: Sprint HTC EVO Shift 4G leaves a lot to be desired

    This phone was very good when i first got it . then it had glitches . now the touch screen wont respond . this phone has good & bad qualities , good- android, music, pictures . bad- battery doesnt last maybe a day,its slow, no "4g" . lame phone .
    taylorlovesyou
  • HTC makes the worst phones known to man

    I have bough three generations of HTC touchscreen phones. The first was with windows. It was absolutely idiotic. I gave up on it in less than two weeks. It went into a drawer. Very old phone now. It was donated as a new phone with all accessories. A second HTC touchscreen failed after four months. I sent it back under warranty. They gave me back a used identical phone. I was pissed off and asked for a new phone. I was denied. I placed my work's electro magnets on the replacement and did that four times until Sprint figured out I was doing something then called and offered a new phone... HTC EVO??? Shift 4G. I barely used this phone for personal use after a year. It has died completely. Tried other power cords without success. I've had nothing but issues with this phone from day one. The touchscreen and software is one of the worst you can use. My business phone is the iPhone 4s. I love that thing. I will never ever ever ever buy an HTC anything. Their phones and operating systems are complete horseshit.
    GovernmentWatch