Sprint Raises 4G Tally to 17 with Evo Shift 4G, MiFi 3G/4G Hotspot

Sprint introduced the Evo Shift 4G smartphone and Novatel Wireless MiFi 3G/4G Mobile Hotspot, bringing its total number of 4G devices to 17. Both will arrive in the first quarter.

The number of 4G-enabled devices on Sprint's 4G WiMAX network is now up to 17, with the Jan. 4 introduction of the HTC Evo Shift 4G smartphone and the MiFi 3G/4G Mobile Hotspot from Novatel Wireless.

Building on the success of the Evo 4G, Sprint's first 4G smartphone, the Evo Shift 4G features a slide-out QWERTY keypad, the Android 2.2 operating system and a 3.6-inch capacitive touch screen with pinch-to-zoom capabilities. WiFi and Stereo Bluetooth connectivity are included, and so is GPS navigation, visual voicemail, a 5-megapixel camera, 720p HD video recording and a microsSD slot for 32GB of additional memory.

Social networks such as Facebook, Twitter and Flickr are integrated, and so is access to Google's Android Market and Google mobile services, including Google Talk, Voice and Maps, Gmail and YouTube. There's also a full Internet browser, and support for e-mail, instant messaging and text messaging.

Another perk: The Evo Shift 4G is also capable of acting as a mobile hot spot for up to eight WiFi-enabled devices.

Following on the success of the company's popular 3G hot spot, the Novatel Wireless MiFi 3G/4G Hotspot offers one-touch connectivity for up to five devices, such as tablets, e-readers, laptops and gaming consoles. Roughly the size of a credit card, says Sprint, the Hotspot requires no software installation or cables, and has a battery capable of offering 4 hours of use and 60 hours of standby time.

"Sprint will continue to set the bar for feature-rich and customer-friendly 4G devices into 2011," Sprint CEO Dan Hesse said in a statement. "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 had the lead on 4G for well over a year, though component shortages prevented it from always taking full advantage of this. In late 2010, competitors T-Mobile and Verizon Wireless also broke into the 4G market--T-Mobile using HSPA+ technology (or Evolved High-Speed Packet Access), and Verizon with long-term evolution (LTE). T-Mobile launched the myTouch 4G smartphone to complement its network, and at the 2011 Consumer Electronics Show, which opens its doors Jan. 5, Verizon is expected to introduce six 4G smartphones for its 4G network, which currently covers 38 cities and 60 airports.

The HTC Evo Shift 4G will go on sale Jan. 9 for $150, after a $100 mail-in rebate and with activation of a new two-year service contract and data plan with required $10 Premium Data Add-On, per Sprint.

The MiFi 3G/RG Mobile Hotspot is priced at $50 after a $50 mail-in rebate and activation of a two-year service agreement, or eligible upgrade. Expect to see it at Sprint retail locations beginning Feb. 27.

Both are additionally risk-free, as Sprint is the industry's only carrier to offer a full money-back guarantee on service plans, within 30 days of purchase. That includes waiving the restocking fee.