The power of HTC and 4G speed of Sprint,
with a killer keyboard thrown in for good measure

HTC EVO Shift 4G

We couldn't have asked for a better way to review Sprint's new EVO Shift 4G than by battle testing it at CES in Las Vegas. Four days of use among more than 100,000 nerds, in press conference after press conference, with smartphone news breaking every minute (or so it seemed).

The Shift, as it's lovingly referred to by Sprint, is Sprint's third 4G-enabled Android smartphone, and the second with a slide-out keyboard. It runs Android 2.2 Froyo but doesn't have all of the whiz-bang specs as some of the other phones we saw announced during CES. And as the second phone in the EVO line (see the original EVO 4G), it has a lot to live up to. So is it worthy of the EVO name? And did it survive the nerd crunch in Las Vegas? Find out, after the break.

The EVO Shift 4G hardware

Sprint's already done 4.3- and 4-inch phones with the original EVO 4G and the Samsung Epic 4G, respectively. So they scaled things back a bit, opting for a 3.6-inch LCD display with the usual 480x800 resolution. That makes the phone more manageable overall, as it's a tad on the thick and heavy side, thanks to the keyboard and 4G radio. It's not horribly heavy, but you'll notice at 5.9 ounces. That said, it fits quite nicely in your hand at 4.6 inches tall, 2.3 inches wide and 0.6 inches thick.

Think of it as small and muscular, not as a short fatty.

HTC EVO Shift 4GHTC EVO Shift 4G

HTC EVO Shift 4GHTC EVO Shift 4G

HTC EVO Shift 4GHTC EVO Shift 4G

HTC EVO Shift 4G

Power under the hood

And the Shift has quite a bit of muscle, with Qualcomm's single-core MSM7630 processor running at 800MHz. It's worth repeating at this point that you shouldn't read too much into the Shift's processor running at 800MHz instead of the 1GHz chip we see in other HTC phones, including the original EVO 4G. It's a different architecture. Think of water rushing through a pipe. The pipe's larger on the Shift, so you can push more water (data) without having to push it as fast. It's more efficient.

Add to that the 512MB of RAM and 2GB of ROM on which to store applications, and you won't be worried about whether you've got enough muscle to get the job done. In daily use, it's fast, fast, fast.


YouTube link for mobile viewing

Out of the box, it scores 1510 on Quadrant Pro, 33 or so on Linpack, and 55.7 on Neocore, with the graphics test looking as good as we've ever seen it.

The sliding keyboard

HTC EVO Shift 4G keyboard

Slide open the Shift (thus the name) and you're greeted with a four-row keyboard. The slider mechanism is stiff and sturdy. There's no side-to-side wiggle, and very little play when the keyboard is closed. It's almost Motorola Droid-like in stiffness.

The keys are backlit, with the letter in white and the secondary functions in yellow. They have great contrast against the deep blue (it almost looks black) background. The keys themselves are offset and just about perfectly spaced. They're flat, but have just enough click to them. We've said it before and we'll say it again -- HTC knows how to make physical keyboards, and it's reputation continues with the Shift.

You have the usual FN button, and dedicated buttons for menu, search, space bar, comma, period, delete, return and the @ symbol. There are little indicator lights in the top left of the keyboard showing when the caps lock or FN lock are on.

We'd been a little worried about the five-way D-pad that's tucked into the lower right corner; it just didn't look all that impressive in leaked pictures or even the official release pictures. But in actual use, it's just fine. And because of its square shape and recessed center, it's designed for your entire thumb to rest on it, and you can easily feel your way to up, down, left, right and enter. It's nicely done, actually.

HTC EVO Shift 4G

The front of the phone just looks classy. You have the aforementioned display, which has a very slight bezel done in chrome. Beneath it are your usual Android buttons. They're capacitive (meaning they sense the touch of your finger; nothing actually moves) and light up when you're using the phone. Just above the screen is the earpiece speaker (also ringed in chrome), which also hides the charging and notification lights. There's a pinhole spot to the left of the speaker that looks like it could be a front-facing camera. It's actually the ambient light sensor, which dims the screen as needed.

HTC EVO Shift 4G

The top of the Shift is home to the power button (which actually extends more to the rear of the phone) and 3.5mm headphone jack. There's a small opening for the microphone on the bottom bezel of the phone. The left-hand side is home to the microUSB port and volume rocker. When the keyboard is closed, the volume rocker and power button (used to wake the phone) are easily reachable. When the keyboard was open, however, we kept hitting the volume down button and getting a buzz for our transgressions. That could likely be reviewer error, and it's not the worst thing in the world as we keep our phones on vibrate 99 percent of the time anyway. But it's something to look out for.

Flip the phone over and you have the battery cover, with cutouts for the 5MP camera with LED flash, and the speakerphone. It's done up in that soft-touch paint that we love, and it ever so slightly extends over to the side bezels of the Shift.

Under the cover

HTC EVO Shift 4G

You open the battery cover by prying it up from the bottom of the phone. And it's on there pretty good; we were a little worried about breaking it off, but haven't managed to do so yet. You have to remove the 1500mAh battery to get at the microSD card (the Shift comes with a 2GB card; you can use up to a 32GB card), and then pry up a little tab to unseat the card. And even after all that, you're still going to have to work just a bit to get a grip on the card. It's not quite as awkward to get at as on the original EVO 4G, but neither is it as easy as having a spring-loaded slot. Point is, you're not going to want to have to swap cards too often.

HTC EVO Shift 4G software

The Shift runs Android 2.2 Froyo out of the box, with HTC's Sense user interface (see our review) on top of it. It's the same flavor of Sense (there are several, actually) that debuted in February 2010. That's not to say it's dated, it's just familiar to phone reviewers. That is to say, if you've used the HTC Droid Incredible, EVO 4G, Wildfire, Legend, Desire, etc., you know what you're getting.

HTC EVO Shift 4G

If you're new to Sense, you're getting a series of preset home screens (seven in all), with a mix of widgets, switches and icons. On the default home screens, you have the Google search bar; calendar widget; favorite contacts widget; switches to toggle 4G data, Wifi, Bluetooth and GPS; the trademark HTC clock/weather widget, icons to default apps such as Internet, People, Camera and the Android Market, a music widget, Sprint TV, Sprint apps, Bookmarks, and FriendStream widget (which combines your Twitter, Facebook and Flickr feeds).

HTC EVO Shift 4GThe Sense UI also has "Scenes," on which you configure different home screens for different occasions. You can have homescreens for work, a different scene for the weekend, or holiday, all with different icons and widgets in place. There are seven Scenes preloaded (including a clean slate) that you can customize however you wish.

The Shift comes with a pretty good number of applications already installed. Sprint Football Live, Sprint TV and Sprint Zone are all there, as is the standard Sprint NASCAR app. There's also Sprint Hotspot, which lets you wirelessly connect the Shift's 4G data to up to eight other devices and service as a Wifi hotspot. That'll cost you $29.99 a month extra on your plan, of course.

There's also Adobe Flash Player 10.1 and Adobe Reader for PDFs, the Amazon MP3 store, Facebook, Flashlight, FM radio, the Footprints photo tagging app, FriendStream, HTC Mobile Guide, Amazon Kindle e-reader, Google Maps, Places, Latitude and Navigation, Peep (HTC's own Twitter client), Telenav GPS Navigation, YouTube, and a number of other standard apps like weather, Google Talk and Voicemail.

The EVO Shift 4G camera

The Shift has a rear facing 5-megapixel camera with LED flash. There is no front-facing camera. The camera software is the usual Sense variety and is pretty easy to use. We'd love to see a panoramic option, though, which is included on other manufacturers' smartphones.

(Warning: Images below open full size in a new window)

HTC EVO Shift 4G camera testHTC EVO Shift 4G camera test

HTC EVO Shift 4G camera testHTC EVO Shift 4G camera test

HTC EVO Shift 4G camera testHTC EVO Shift 4G camera test

Video recording is set at 800x480 by default. We prefer upping it to 1280x720, which you can do in the settings. That's what we used in the example below.


YouTube link for mobile viewing

Hackability

HTC EVO Shift 4G rooted

We're a little early into the hacking game so far as the Shift goes. But early indications are pretty familiar. The z4root (link) or VISIONary (link) apps will give you temporary root access, but as of this writing the NAND is still locked, so no custom ROMs just yet. But that likely will change at some point. Keep an eye out in the forums for that to change.

Other odds and ends

  • Speakerphone: We've complained in past about HTC speakerphones sometimes being too quiet -- there's been none of that with the Shift. Crank it up, and the levels are right about where they should be. Loud, but not so loud that you're worried about breaking something.
  • On-screen keyboard: The Shift has that physical keyboard, of course, but there are times you want to type on the screen. HTC's excellent on-screen QWERTY keyboard is there, and you can change it up to a phone-style keypad or compact QWERTY if you wish. Or, you can install a new keyboard such as Swype or Swiftkey.
  • Voice/data: You can talk on the phone and browser the Internet at the same time if you're connected to 4G data or Wifi. Making phone calls was just fine. The speaker sounded crisp and clear.
  • Wifi: Speaking of Wifi, you have 802.11 b/g/n connectivity.
  • Bluetooth: You've got Bluetooth 2.1 with A2DP (stereo).
  • Battery life: We haven't really talked battery life yet. And that's because your mileage will vary. We conducted our review in the harshest conditions, with dozens upon dozens of e-mails coming in all day and night, bouncing back and forth off 3G and 4G data, deep inside the Las Vegas Convention Center and Sands Expo Hall. The Shift did OK with its 1500 mAh battery. We needed to charge up in the evening time, which isn't usual for us.
  • 3G/4G data speeds: Same goes for Sprint's data speeds. It all depends on where you are. If you're in my house (and you better not be), it's pretty good. Buried inside the Las Vegas Convention Center sometimes proved to be a problem. YMMV.

The wrapup

The EVO Shift 4G is a powerful smartphone with a great physical keyboard, with the ability to use Sprint's high-speed 4G data. That is to say, it's right up there with the cream of the crop. There are no real surprises, just a solid, powerful Android smartphone.

EVO 4G, EVO Shift 4G and Epic 4GIs it the newest smartphone tech, running the latest version of Android? It's close, but not quite. But those aren't strikes against the Shift. You'll continue to hear about dual-core phones in the coming weeks and months, but the Shift hardly is a slouch in the power department. And the clock's already ticking on upgrades to Android 2.3 Gingerbread -- which the Shift is likely to receive (we'll go so far as to predict sometime in the spring).

Let's put it this way: We made the Shift our main device during CES 2011, in part because Sprint's network was relatively stable with 120,000 people or so in just a few square blocks. And also because you know that with an HTC device, you know you're getting quality. The keyboard was a breeze to use, and the phone stood up to everything we could through at it. The Shift is well worthy of kicking things off for Sprint in 2011 and following up one of the most popular phones of 2010.

 

Reader comments

HTC EVO Shift 4G review

46 Comments

how can you do a phone review and not even get the specs correct? Did you just read off a piece of paper? Or did you just get lazy half way through? Cause you got the fact that its actually a 3.6" display not 3.7" as its stated everywhere, so if you did measure it good job on catching that...u said it has 512mb ram and. 2gb rom, it doesnt... it has 390mb ram and a very small less then 500mb rom, it has same ram as G2 and less then half the rom, it has a 2gb sd card but thats not rom.. not cool...ppl read your reviews to make decisions on whether or not the device is worthy signing a 2 year contract for or using their beloved upgrade. if you put incorrect information it defeats the purpose...in the G2 review did you say that it actually has a 3.8" inch display or just read the spec sheet and say 3.7"? Cause it actually has a 3.8" and you would only know this if you physically measured it..just like the shift has 3.6" its alot easier to click and read how much memory a device has then to physically take the time to measure the screen.. please double check these things for your reviews in the future and it would be nice to see a correction.

The z hinge on the G2 rocks i have one and it is the next generation of slider

After reading your thoughts I decided to do some research of my own.. I spoke with an HTC rep myself about the 390 RAM. She said that the only reason you might see 390 RAM on the phone was because of the applications that are already preloaded / working. Try and disable as much as you can (cannot stop all apps obviously) and let's see. I'd do it myself, yet I'm still thinking about whether or not I should get it..

Even without a front-facing camera or HDMI-out, I might run out and get this if it had the Z-hinge. Oh well.

Care to share why you prefer the Z hinge? I thought it made the G2 seem cheap and made people worry or something when it first came out?

Um, no. Zoom is an optical feature. The Evo doesn't have a zoom lens, nor does the Shift. Very few phones have zoom.

That "digital zoom" thing is just stupid and is not zoom.

More info about the screen please? Is it a super LCD or IPS with improved brightness and viewing angles like the iphone 4. How does the screen stack up against the EPIC Super AMOLED? I for one think the old style LCDs on the Droid X and EVO are far inferior to the Super AMOLED on the EPIC and want to see more HTC phones using a super LCD

I love it. When the G2 came out everybody bitched and complained about how much they hated the z hinge (not me, I love my G2). Now that the shift is out people are lamenting that it doesn't have the z hinge. I would hate to be a phone designer for HTC lol.

I picked up a Shift on 1/9 and I agree with the review for the most part. For me, this phone has some shortcomings that will likely make me return it: 1) Too heavy (5.9oz) -- it's almost as heavy as the EVO, 2) Battery life is just okay, 3) Screen is too small at 3.6" -- why not 3.8 or 4"?, 4) Keyboard is hard to open -- with the Sprint provided 2 piece case, it is extremely hard to get at the keyboard. All that being said, this is a solid HTC phone and a better choice than any Samsung product in Sprint's lineup.

Should've just got a regular EVO. It's amazingness bundled into a phone, not to mention the dev support for it is off the hook

Should have gotten an EVO! I love my EVO. I am surprised to hear that the shift doesn't have a front facing camera!? Small screen.. No kickstand?!

Agreed, Nice to see smaller screens. I hate monster phones. 3.6 or 3.7 are big enough for me.

I've been loving this phone as my first android phone. It is a great size and seems very fast although a little overwhelming coming from a flip phone with no data or texting plan. I keep forgetting I don't have to worry about data charges which is weird when you are so used to avoiding data/texting like the plague because of fees.

Very nice phone, but I almost feel like it's a downgrade from my current HTC Evo cause of the screen size.

DAMN!!!!thats some good looking french toast.....huh? what there was a camera review?......that french toast man!!

oh no!!! no it doesnt have a z-hinge, oh whatever will i do!?
the z-hinge is stupid; if it was as popular as you assume, they would have made the t mobile g3 or something not called the evo shift. if you want a front facing camera, get an evo or an ipod touch. its a smartphone not a pocket camera/computer/tablet/phone with a z-hinge and a bowl of cookies.

The wrap-up part: "The keyboard was a breeze to use, and the phone stood up to everything we could THROUGH at it."

shouldn't it be "throw" or something?

Totally sticking with my Evo. Not a fan of the physical keyboard, and the screen is too small on the Shift. Heck, I dont think I can own anything smaller than a 4.3 screen now. It would just be too small. Probably why I havent bought an Iphone yet. I WOULD however buy a phone that was bigger...like a 4.5" or 5" but it would have to be an HTC because from what I've seen, they are making the best quality phones right now, and they have spoiled me.

I own this phone. The slider is awesome, unlike any I have ever seen, its much better than the z-hinge. As for putting it up against the Epic, this phone is way faster. I have a buddy with a Epic and a buddy with the Evo 4g. We did speed tests and my shift came out on top every time. It is a bit heavy, but it is packing a slide out keyboard and a super fast processor. The only reason I would get rid of this for a Evo 4g is to have a FFC to video chat with family.

Palm Pre user...made the switch to Android...and so far so good...Im addicted to customizing it with a million Home Screen replacement apps ...ADW EX is the best so far.....Fast phone..great keyboard...Purchased a really good blue case at Radio Shack and have a $20 screen protector from Best Buy....Worse thing about the phone is the volume placement..always hitting it

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I've set a couple of these phones up for customers of mine. I find this phone a bit difficult to slide open first of all. It may work itself to being smoother to open after a while, but out the gate not so nice. This is a great entry level 4G Android phone. If you really don't mind the lack of a keyboard you should consider it's older brother the Evo. If you want something a little nicer and absolutely need the keyboard I would consider the Epic over this. With deals like Radio Shack is offering this week to trade in a phone this week on the Evo line I would consider it if you want the entry level Android.

Once you start using Android more and more you find yourself in need of a more powerful phone. Keep that in mind when you buy. I currently have a Moto Droid and every single time I use our demo Epic, sell an Evo, or any other higher end Android phone from any of our carriers I feel where mine currently lacks. You'll thank yourself if you spend the extra in the long run.

*I'm basing this from the currently available phones from Sprint*

Am a new user. Really love the shift. Fast, pwerfull and nice qwerty.
Only cons i could think of is the battery and lack of android inbuilt task manager to limit the background runnig application.

Initially the answer to your question is that...you cannot.

I suggest you look for a phone with a forward facing camera if you want video calling. Do you have 4g coverage in your area? I have heard/read that video chatting without wifi or 4g is horrible at best to not possible. ** I may be wrong about that.** If I were you I would do more research into what mobile companies allow video calls over their 4g networks.

I also know that I would hate to see how much precious battery power that video calling would use, it must be absolutely heinous. All I know is the thought of video calling while not in front of my macbook is not appealing to me, IMHO.

I have had the htc evo shift for about 1 month now. I love it. I have had two other HTC phones on the past (HTC Pocket PC, and HTC Droid Eris). Both of the previous phones were great. The hardware quality was good. The customer support was excellent too (contacted HTC for the Pocket PC). I had no problems with the HTC Droid Eris that required me contacting HTC and/or Verizon Wireless customer service.

I switched to sprint to get a phone with a physical keyboard because I don't hate virtual keyboards but I do dislike them a lot. I also switched to sprint to stop paying a huge wireless phone bill. So far, I'm pleased with sprint and the sprint service.

My first phone with sprint was the samsung moment m900. Let's just say my first samsung phone did not give me the idea that samsung was up to par with LG an HTC phones. In my experiences, LG and HTC make better products and have great customer service too. We all know customer service is just as important if not more so then good hardware. As it stands now, I will never seriously buy a samsung phone again unless a friend has one and they let me play with it to see how it works. I'm, personally, sticking with LG and HTC from now own.

I love how fast this phone is. This is a great phone. I know that the processor is not as fast as the HTC Evo nor the other galaxy Samsung phones. For an "entry" phone, this is a very good phone.

1) The phone feels sturdy and well built
2) I like that the phone looks like it's metal when it's not. It looks like a more expensive phone.
3) The weight of a mobile has not bothered me (unless you're talking about a mobile that weighs 10lbs but it is on the heavier side. ***IMHO, I feel the weight contributes to the sturdy well built feel to the phone.***
4) The screen is the perfect size. not too small but not too big. Rule number 1 in mobile devices: the larger the screen, the more power required to run it. I have a macbook with a 13inch screen, if I want a larger screen I'll start up the macbook.
5) The slider mechanism. Many have stated it's hard to open and you can drop the phone while trying to open it. Try taking off all the plastic wrap first...you'll notice it's a bit easier to open and close. Personally, I like the slide mechanism a lot. I prefer it over the spring loaded mechanism on the samsung moment. To me, the slider mechanism feels secure and like it will last a long time without breaking. **I have not used a phone with the z-hinge, but I have read the reviews about it. Personally and IMHO, I would not be happy with a z-hinge.
6) I'm no longer hanging up on people when I want to wake my screen up during a phone call. I lost track of how many times I hung up on people with the samsung moment while on a call just to wake up my screen. ugh and sigh. With this phone, just press the top power button and the screen is on.....and no disconnecting with my caller. The designer(s) at samsung whom thought that it was smart to make the "end" key the turn on/off screen button was/were not thinking at all. the dpad or "start"/green phone button would have been a better choice functionally.
7) This phone is very fast and allows me to multi-task. I am able to mutli-task extremely well. I'm constantly using my work Email (touchdown by nitrodesk), gmail, texting with handcent, some phone calls, going on the web,etc. I judge my electronics on the ability to multi-task and this phone scores well in my book. I do have a task killer running in the background to stop any apps that I'm no longer using but I have been using android for some time now and I know which apps I really want to run in the background and which ones I don't. I also know which ones not to touch because it will mess with the functionality of my phone. I have my auto task killer set to "safe" which does not show any system apps so I don't kill an important system app.
8) battery life...it's not too bad. It's much better then the samsung moment. I do have a spare battery for this phone but I have yet to use it. I can last almost a day with normal use (work email, text, gps w/ google maps or telenav, some phone calls but not much, and lots of data). If I am not using it that much then I can get 1.5 days out of it. This mobile is my home/mobile phone, so I don't ever let it get to "zero" I always have it charging or it is charged. I tend not to use the spare battery mostly because I have a hard snap on case plus I put my phone in a holster. Removing the hard snap on case is not my favorite thing to do. Also, the biggest thing I don't like about this phone is the batter door. I feel like I'm going to break a few tabs off the battery door (tabs that hold it on) when I remove it. Getting it on isn't too bad but I did have one time in which I had to remove and put back on at least 6 times to get the back on correctly.
8) Pics and Video... First of all, this is a mobile phone not a camera. With that said, It takes great pics for a mobile phone. I do notice that I need to add flash to some indoor pics when there should be sufficient light but that's not a deal breaker for me because, it's a phone not my digital camera or digital slr camera. The video, I have my phone set to do HD video, I noticed that when I video taped an indoor scene with a decent amount of light the video play back was kind of like that king kong black and white movies with bad voice overs...come on...you all know what I'm talking about. The mouth moves and the sound come some time later. I was playing with my phone and I did have a lot of apps running the background when I did this test video so maybe that had something to do with it? I also know that I did this test video during essentially "normal use conditions" for me. So, here again...I'm back to the fact that this is not a camera, but a phone. Am I disappointed by the not so cool bad king kong voice over effect...I'm so so. I'm not pleased by it but I don't expect this phone to act like a real video camera either.
9a) the display is quite nice. I like the colors it can display. I like the touch sensitivity. The samsung moment had a lot to be desired in this department. The HTC Evo Shift 4g, is great! I don't have any complaints.
9b) The display switches between landscape and portrait very fast. I like the response time.

Over all, I would recommend this phone. This phone is a good phone and I fail to see any major issues with this phone. I'm not a big gamer, my desire is to have a phone that can multi-task well and still be fast. This phone give me that. I have my 16gig micro sd card and I'm ready to go.

I am looking into buying a 32gig micro sd card but I want some feed back from people who have used them and what they have to say before I drop that kind of cash on a potentially not so good item (there's a lot of mixed reviews about 32gig micro sd cards).

I bought this phone in Feb. I love this phone, I would def recommend this phone to anyone who doesnt want complete touch screen. Most of the comments on here I have to laugh at. Half of you have never even touched the shift. For the fact of it being too heavy...Are you serious? If you want a phone that weighs as much as a feather, you have fun when you drop it and it shatters. I will stick with the Evo Shift over aything!

I'm expecting this phone at my door in the morning! I've done very little research on this phone, so i'm glad I came across this review. It was much more thorough than alot of other reviews i've read, great work!

I've had this phone for several months now and it's a great phone despite the horrible battery power. Once I unplug the phone and wait a few minutes the battery power goes down one bar, now mind you the phone has been sitting on the charger all night. As suggested all features such as GPS, 4G, WiFi, etc... are all off and I also have my screen brightness at a low setting. Another negative is if you want to video call anyone, the camera is on the back of the phone not in the front where you can see who you are talking with... very annoying flipping the phone back and forth. Because of these negatives I would rate the phone a 3 out of 5.