The problem was especially bad in our Seattle and Los Angeles tests. Of the 22 testing locations in those cities, the EVO Shift 4G connected at a 4G-like 2-mbps-plus speed at only one (2.15 mbps in south-central Los Angeles). One explanation might involve the way the EVO Shift 4G moves back and forth between 3G and 4G modes: When the Shift searches for 4G service and doesn't find any, it turns the 4G radio off--but whether the phone turns the radio back on when it picks up the 4G signal anew remains unclear.
Overall, the Shift's average speeds were about the same as those we recorded in our 13-city speed tests earlier this year using the Shift's older sibling, the EVO 4G. The EVO 4G ended up with a 1.50-mbps average download speed and a 0.56-mbps average upload speed.
Network latency times on the Shift were similarly unimpressive, at 237 milliseconds. Although we didn't test the video-chatting feature that Sprint shows in its ads, we doubt that it would work very smoothly with delay times like that.
A Final Note About the Testing
Our testing method is designed to approximate the experience of a real smartphone user on any given day in their city. We speed-tested our four phones from ten to twelve testing locations spaced evenly throughout our five testing cities. At each testing location in each city, we took a "snapshot" of the performance of each wireless service, testing for upload speed, download speed, and network latency. We looked for the fastest signal available for each carrier, searching first for 4G service, and then, failing that, defaulting to the carrier's 3G service.
Because wireless signal quality depends to a large extent on variables such as network load, distance from the nearest cell tower, weather, and the time of day, our results can't be used to predict exact performance in a specific area. Rather, they illustrate the relative performance of wireless service in a given city on a given day.