Sprint Shifts to Next WiMax Phone

Following weeks of teasers and leaks, Sprint Corp. (NYSE: S) made the High Tech Computer Corp. (HTC) (Taiwan: 2498) Evo Shift, the handset maker's follow-up to the first ever WiMax phone, the HTC Evo, official today ahead of International CES . (See Sprint Unveils HTC Evo Shift 4G.)

In addition, the carrier announced a WiMax-capable version of the Novatel Wireless Inc. (Nasdaq: NVTL) MiFi mobile Hotspot, bringing its total number of 4G devices on the market to 17.

The Android 2.2-based HTC Evo Shift isn't that different from its predecessor, except for the addition of a qwerty keyboard. It also sports a lower price tag, at US$149.99 after a $100 mail-in rebate and with a two-year service agreement on its $69 monthly unlimited plan plus the $10 4G premium. The MiFi will retail for $49.99 after a rebate and with a two-year plan.

Why this matters
The battle lines for FauxG marketing are being drawn. Yesterday, MetroPCS Inc. (NYSE: PCS) announced new lower price plans, positioning itself as the Long Term Evolution (LTE) price leader, but Verizon Wireless is planning announcements for CES this week that could make it the leader in terms of smart phone choice and, certainly, geographic coverage. (See MetroPCS Continues 4G Price War.)

Sprint has had the first-mover advantage to date, as well as the largest 4G device lineup, but with the bevy of recent and expected LTE announcements, it will have to work hard to ensure its advantages aren't soon forgotten. (See CTIA 2010: Hesse – LTE Will Be Bigger But We Are First.)

Meanwhile, HTC is making a name for itself as the 4G device leader, competing most fiercely with Samsung Corp. It may also be behind Verizon's first LTE smart phone, rumored to be the HTC Thunderbolt with a CES unveiling this week. (See Verizon 4G Androids Expected at CES.)

For more
For more on Sprint's WiMax smart phone trailblazing, check out the following stories:

— Sarah Reedy, Senior Reporter, Light Reading Mobile

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