HTC Evo Shift 4G Now Available at Sprint for $150 with Contract

Got keypad? Sprint customers now have a choice of the HTC Evo Shift 4G, with its slide-out QWERTY keypad and Android 2.2, or the original HTC Evo 4G.

The HTC Evo Shift 4G is now officially available on the Sprint network.

Like its keyboard-less sibling, the Evo 4G-which, with the Samsung Epic 4G, has helped Sprint to post some of its best quarters, of late-the Evo Shift 4G runs Google's Android 2.2 operating system and is capable of cruising on Sprint's 4G WiMax network.

In addition to that slide-out four-row keypad, the Evo Shift 4G features a 3.6-inch touch-screen, HTC's Sense user interface, an 800MHz Qualcomm processor (the higher-priced Evo 4G runs a 1GHz SnapDragon), is WiFi-enabled and can act as a 3G/4G mobile hotspot for connecting up to eight devices.

The camera, which can record HD video at 720p, is 5 megapixels, and there's GPS navigation, Stereo Bluetooth connectivity, an MP3 player, and the ability to download, view, edit and share HD-quality content. Additional entertainment features include an Amazon Kindle reader, the ability to watch movies, plus Sprint applications for Sprint TV, and, on the social-networking front, Friend Stream, which integrates Facebook, Twitter and other sites for faster catching up.

Google mobile services-such as Google Talk and Gmail-are on board, and so is support for corporate and personal e-mail, various types of messaging and visual voicemail. In all its glory-that is, with the keypad slid out-the Evo Shift 4G measures 4.6 by 0.6 by 3.6 inches. With a new two-year contract, and after $100 mail-in rebate, it's priced at $150. (The Evo 4G, under the same conditions, is $200.)

Sprint officially announced that the Evo Shift 4G was headed its way Jan. 4, along with the introduction of the MiFi 3G/4G Mobile Hotspot, bringing the carrier's 4G-enabled device tally to 17.

"Our proven leadership as a 4G pioneer has allowed our customers to enjoy 4G from Sprint first, and these new products exemplify Sprint's commitment to put industry-leading performance and capabilities in the hands of our customers," Sprint CEO Dan Hesse said in a statement at the time.

While Sprint was the first U.S. carrier to offer 4G-a lead it wasn't able to fully take advantage of, in part due to shortages of Evo 4G handsets-it now has plenty of company. Or rather, competition.

T-Mobile kicked off its 4G network-based on HSPA+ (Evolved High-Speed Packet Access) technology-in November, with the launch of an ad campaign that also introduced the 4G-running myTouch 4G smartphone.

More worrisome to Sprint, however, may be Verizon Wireless, which flipped the switch on its long-time-coming 4G LTE (Long-Term Evolution) network Dec. 5, covering 38 cities and 60 airports-or reportedly one-third of all Americans. Over the next three years, it plans to extend the service to its entire 3G footprint.

AT&T, meanwhile, is bringing up the rear, planning to complete its rollout of HSPA+ technology, before launching a planned LTE network in 2011.

However, data suggests there may be no hurry. The Nielsen company, in a January survey, found that one in five wireless consumers are not aware of 4G, and of the four who are in-the-know, only two said they understood what it is-a reality that, according to Nielsen, suggests the carriers have "a ways to go" in making their advertising campaigns not just cool but educational.

In a list of predictions for 2011, Yankee Group similarly wrote that 4G, while available, would be a "drop in the ocean" this year, as most Americans still won't be clued in.

"Until customers fully appreciate the link between a new wireless-network technology and the superior user experience it delivers," stated the Yankee report, "their interest in upgrading will naturally be muted."