Sprint Jumps Into 4G Tablet Lead

June 6, 2011

Sprint HTC EVO View 4G, at CTIA. Credit: Sidecut Reports.

Sprint jumped into the unofficial 4G tablet market lead Monday by announcing a June 24 availability date for the HTC EVO View 4G, the slick device that Sprint and HTC announced back in March at CTIA. While the form factor of the device doesn’t break new ground the data plans do, especially the fact that Sprint’s truly unlimited amount of 4G data downloads means that heavy data users — those who use their tablets to watch a lot of video, for instance — may want to gravitate toward Sprint’s offerings instead of those from other vendors, who impose strict caps or data-speed slowdowns.

While Sprint’s new data plan structure for tablets and pads is sure to cause some customer confusion (there are several different rates for different amounts of monthly data available via the device’s 3G connection), there is no confusion around Sprint’s 4G data usage metering — under all circumstances users still get real unlimited data use on the Clearwire WiMAX network that Sprint uses for 4G services. The new HTC tablet itself, with a 7-inch touchscreen, is priced at $399.99.

The HTC View launch, in our mind, puts Sprint ahead of 4G rival Verizon, even though Verizon has been selling the “4G capable” Motorola Xoom tablet since earlier this year. However, Verizon has whiffed on its promise to make the Xoom 4G enabled in 90 days and is now only saying that the no-cost upgrade to support connection to Verizon’s 4G LTE network will happen sometime later this summer. (Even in its recent radio and TV commercials Verizon has been careful to call the Xoom a “4G ready” tablet, whatever that means.)

Sprint also announced today the June 24 availability of the HTC EVO 3D, a phone that has to be seen to be believed for its ability to show 3D images without the silly glasses. Is it something you really need? If so for $199.99 and the standard contracts it can be yours later this month.

Sprint EVO 3D, shown at CTIA. Credit: Sidecut Reports.

CTIA Updates: Sprint — The Uneasy Leader of 4G?

March 28, 2011

Sprint CEO Dan Hesse at CTIA. Credit: Sidecut Reports

You knew Dan Hesse was taking this chairman of CTIA thing seriously when he showed up in Orlando last week wearing black dress shoes instead of his surfer-casual Vans. But Dan’s plans for another blockbuster CTIA were waylaid by the AT&T-T-Mobile takeover announcement, an industry-shattering news event that put a big stink on Sprint’s plans to show itself as a cellular leader.

Without a doubt, Sprint still had the coolio introduction of the show in the mind-bending HTC EVO 3D phone alongside a true 4G tablet, also from HTC. In its usual cutting-edge hip fashion Sprint paid to slice off a largish amount of the show floor to stage its 3D press event, with a small media stage and a whole bunch of nightclubby couches intermixed with gratutitous food stations and even an open bar serving up martinis just after lunchtime on Tuesday.

But even though media types and regular boothgoers crowded the Sprint stations to get a hands-on demo of the eye-popping 3D phone (you really have to see one to experience the coolness of the device) the whole week felt like AT&T had just set off a big stink-bomb at the Sprint party, because every appearance, every panel session and just about every hallway conversation revolved around the new new question: How the heck will Sprint be able to compete as an incredibly distant No. 3 in the U.S. cellular market?

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Verizon’s LTE Smartphone Data Pricing: $30 a Month for Unlimited 4G/3G Data

March 15, 2011

Finally — Finally — we have the final piece of the puzzle when it comes to Verizon’s Long Term Evolution (LTE) smartphone strategy, namely the price of the LTE data plan. After dropping $249 on the HTC Thunderbolt device itself and signing up for a 2-year contract your data plan from Verizon is $29.99 a month for unlimited data downloads, a plan that Verizon says covers connections via both the 4G LTE network or the company’s 3G network when a 4G connection isn’t available.

With the mandatory nationwide voice contract (the lowest is a $39.99 plan for 450 minutes) that means it will take approximately $320 out of your wallet to get connected to what is arguably the quickest and certainly the least-used mobile broadband network in the country for now. While that price may be a bit steep for some, Verizon is offering a bit of a sweetener for those who move quickly, throwing in the mobile hotspot capability embedded in the Thunderbolt for free until May 15. After that date, all Thunderbolt customers old and new will pay an additional $20 for each 2 GB of data that they use via the hotspot function.

Our quick take on this pricing breakdown is that Verizon doesn’t see itself getting snowed under from users connecting to its LTE network via the handsets themselves, but it is protecting itself from the potentially huge data downloads that could come by using the phone as a mobile hotspot, since it can connect to up to eight additional devices. For right now, Verizon is holding still on its 4G LTE USB modem data plan pricing, charging $50 for 5 GB per month and $80 for 10 GB per month of data downloads; prices on the devices, however, have fallen to $69.99 with an online discount. Potential customers however might do well to peruse the reviews on the Verizon website and ask your local salesperson politely if the connection problems for the modems are being fixed.

While the 4G LTE data plan for the Thunderbolt may not be revolutionary, it certainly offers heads-up competition to Sprint’s unlimited 4G data plans for its WiMAX-based smartphones and mobile hotspot devices. At the very least we should have some fun debate about the term unlimited at the wireless CEO panel at next week’s big CTIA show in Orlando. If unlimited is the new table stakes for 4G, the real winners already are the potential customers of the faster data networks.