I just received this e-mail from Best Buy. Looks like the rumors that several other people and I posted are true. I am just surprised it is being released so early.
The phone actually looks really solid from the reviews so far:
At least in the Quadrant benchmark, the HTC Evo Shift 4G outdoes the original HTC Evo 4G:
(6 minutes in)
It's kind of stupid that they stepped down the camera, tossed the front-facing camera and left out the number keys. I would've been a lot happier with a full-size Evo 4G that just adds a keyboard, though the slightly faster CPU is certainly welcome. Apparently the Shift CPU is just plain more efficient, which isn't that surprising given it's newer - it gets slightly better battery life than the plain Evo 4G on top of being faster.
That said, I need to get rid of my Samsung Moment - Samsung treats its customers like crap (going so far as to hold back on software updates and patches to drive users to buy the next one), and HTC's had a good record with Android phones from the beginning. The Evo Shift 4G looks to be the first QWERTY phone for Sprint that isn't made by a bunch of jerks. I'm thankful for that.
The issues with the Shift appear to be that the screen is dim in sunlight, and the camera's 5mp are faked (as many cellphone cameras are) - you can see in shots taken with it like this...
...that a much lower-res picture is actually being taken and then a sharpness filter is being run. You can see how high the sharpness filter has been turned up by looking at the lamp on the right - the bright white glow around the lamp post is caused by that sharpness filter. Meanwhile the lamp itself doesn't contrast enough to get affected, so you can see it blur out around the edges into the sky - what the edges of the lamp post would have looked like had they not been sharpened. To get an idea of how badly this is faked, I had to get this ~2500x1500 image down to 1000x600 before it came out clear. That's about 600,000 pixels, or .6 megapixels. Pretty crappy, although again most cellphone cameras pull this same kind of fakery, so I'm sure there are those that claim to be 3mp and really turn out .3mp. Interestingly, 1000x600 is pretty close to its maximum video resolution, 720p (1280x720). Sure enough, its video tests produce fairly clear video.
I'm going to try this phone out in a store or 2, I'll report back with what I find. Also going to monitor this community for issues people report - I'm not putting up with a broken GPS or compass again after Samsung's awful Moment - so done paying to use a half-completed phone!
Another review comparing HTC Evo vs Shift
In this one the Shift loses slightly on "Productivity" (typical app usage), but blows the older Evo away on 3D. In a related test, the Shift bests the Epic slightly on "Productivity," but the Epic blows the Shift away on 3D.
Got my HTC Evo Shift 4G!
Brightness: The Shift screen is actually just as bright as the Epic and the Moment at full brightness. I'm not sure why one review suggested otherwise. I held all 3 up next to each other with Auto Brightness off and the bar pulled all the way up - they're all equally bright at max setting. One awesome thing about the Evo Shift 4G though is that its minimum brightness is MUCH lower than the Moment and Epic - a major gain for reading in dim lighting, for me. I hate when the phone is blindingly bright in a room with no light.
Loudness/sound quality: I'm finding the speaker/music quality at loud settings to be a bit better than my old Samsung Moment. It's not quite as good as an iPhone, but close. I'm able to hear MP3s with people talking in them (educational podcasts, etc) in the car pretty well, which was more difficult with the Moment.
2G/3G Reception: 2G/3G Reception in Los Angeles is just as bad on the HTC Evo Shift 4G as it is on Sprint's other phones - pretty bad. Calls corrupt and drop, 3G downloads abruptly cut out because your 3G connection dropped and it stalls while it falls back to 1x, etc. Not good. This is Sprint's network at fault, not the phone. Sprint is the cheapest US network though, and you do get what you pay for. If I wanted a perfect connection all the time, I'd have gone with Verizon for twice what I pay a month now. That's the honest trade-off. I'm OK with these connection issues, but I want to be clear about what they are.
4G Throttling: I was hoping 4G would solve my Sprint reception issues, and it's a mixed bag. The 4G chip is a separate chip on the Shift and it turns off when not in use to save power. The Shift turns the 4G off "for" you as often as possible, and there doesn't appear to be a setting to reduce how often it does so. I realize I'm gaining in battery life because of this, but it definitely makes for a dodgy experience. It would be nice if a software update could be released by Sprint/HTC that lets you modify how aggressively this turns off, and a mode to eliminate 4G disconnect entirely.
4G/3G Fallback: The fall over to 3G from 4G when 4G service is not available or when the phone turns 4G off to save power is not pretty - it's more like a crash than a hand off. You lose data access for a while and any open connections die. I for example had a news page open on 4G, and midway it dropped out. As a result all the images not only didn't load - they all came up as though they were broken, when really it was just the phone failing over ungracefully.
I assume in the future someone - probably HTC - will make a Sprint phone that can integrate 4G into a single chip experience so this kind of crash over doesn't have to happen anymore. Watch for that. I also assume this is why Verizon's iPhone has no 4G yet.
4G Coverage: Sprint is definitely playing games with its initial 4G rollout. Every Sprint store I've visited clearly has a 4G antenna either in it or very close by - I get 4 bars of 4G signal on all Los Angeles phones. Now that I have a 4G phone in my hand, I can check the phone from time to time and basically use the 4G signal strength meter as a "Proximity to Sprint store" meter. I get it... it's actually pretty smart of them to start with the stores. But it still sucks that your experience in-store is nothing like what you're about to get when you leave.
4G Speed: When 4G is on, it's FAST. I get 0 bars of 4G at my home and it's still screaming fast. Go 4G. Very happy with the speed.
GPS: The GPS is somewhat slow to acquire - takes about 30 seconds. On the upshot though, once GPS lock is acquired, it's as accurate as civilian GPS is allowed to be - no bouncing around, no screwing up Google Navigation. Neither the Moment nor the Epic can manage to resolve their issues in that regard.
Cell Location: I need to mention the cell-location service - where the phone cheaply triangulates your location in the background - is REALLY fast on the Shift. As soon as you turn Google Maps on, it's got the cell location marked.
Multitouch: Multitouch is enabled and accurate. No Nexus One style zoom bugs.
Swype: Swype is not included, but can be installed via the beta program (beta.swype.com) - a bug in the Installer requires that you run the Installer when connected over Wifi. A bug in Swype causes Swype to no longer work correctly after you restart the phone. To re-enable it, you go to Settings, Language & Keyboard, uncheck Swype, hit Back, hit Language & Keyboard again, check Swype, say OK to the Agreement, and hit Back again to save. Swype is re-enabled until you next power the phone off (sleeping it doesn't disable Swype).
Speed: The phone is way faster than the Samsung Moment. Puts it to shame. Very pleased.
I realize that on paper this phone isn't as good as the Epic, but the Epic has a pile of issues, and Samsung is known for treating their customers like crap. In my opinion this is the best QWERTY phone on Sprint's network. It's got good features, and it isn't a pile of annoying problems you constantly have to struggle with.