Sprint’s 2nd WiMAX Phone: Samsung Epic 4G

June 27, 2010

There’s no pricing or ship date yet, but the folks at Sprint have officially announced the “second WiMAX phone” for the company’s 4G network. Engadget has a full rundown on all the specs which by now seem to be the opening ante for the advanced-smartphone market: Front-facing extra camera for handheld videoconferencing, big fine-grain viewing screen, etc. And we assume you can hold this one any way you want without downgrading the antenna, if you know what we mean. :-)

Not having seen or held the Samsung WiMAX entry the feature that may appeal more to us is the slide-out QWERTY keyboard, something we here at Sidecut central have become somewhat addicted to on our current phone of choice for faster texting. Like the HTC EVO 4G this phone will also sport a built-in Pocketspot or portable Wi-Fi router capability, though it will only support five additional devices as opposed to the EVO’s eight. We’ll have to try a pocketspot shootout between the devices sometime this fall.

Though there isn’t any mention of it in the press release we are guessing the Epic launch is the stick-a-fork-in-it moment for the late great Samsung Mondi, the original WiMAX mobile Internet device that we rightly wronged for being overpriced and underfeatured. It will be interesting to see whether the new WiMAX phone parade coupled with the additional WiMAX markets being launched by Clearwire and Sprint will result in more business use of WiMAX as 2010 winds into late summer and fall. And though there is no “official” launch date for the Epic, we will hazard a guess that this phone will be available when school starts again… in stores near more of you, if you know what we mean.

Report Excerpt: Clearwire Hurt by Dearth of Devices

October 12, 2009

Editor’s note: The following is an excerpt from our latest quarterly report on all things Clearwire, the CLEARWIRE NTK OCTOBER 2009 (need to know) report, available now for the low low price of $4.95. In this excerpt we talk about why we think the lack of interesting WiMAX end-user devices (or the overpriced ones that did launch) have kept users from flocking to Clearwire’s 4G wireless broadband offering. For the full report, order online here. Report excerpt follows:

Prices and Devices: Waiting for a reason ‘Why’ to try WiMAX

Without a doubt, the coolest thing about WiMAX is its ability to provide a true broadband connection with cellular mobility. One of Clearwire’s biggest problems, however, is a lack of a compelling reason to take advantage of that mobile connection — and the dearth of devices that would allow you to even try.

The growing popularity and use of smartphones points to another WiMAX weakness — the lack of truly portable devices that can take advantage of the technology’s superior connectivity. As Clearwire CEO Bill Morrow showed during his 4G World keynote speech in September, in a side-by-side download speed comparison WiMAX leaves 3G in the dust. But even the (videotaped) demo itself showed a bit of the WiMAX underwear peeking out: To make the tricky demo — it was a side-by-side screenshot of two iPhones in a car driving down the road — all the “regular” iPhone had to do was connect via the 3G cellular network; the WiMAX powered iPhone had to connect via Wi-Fi to a Clear Spot router in the car, which was connected to the WiMAX network via a plug-in USB dongle.

So: The WiMAX iPhone was faster, yes, but its kit was also more expensive and in need of a stylish European man-bag to tote all the extra gear around. Though hybrid WiMAX smartphones do reportedly exist — HTC claims to be selling one for the Yota WiMAX network in Russia — Clearwire’s customer base so far doesn’t seem to be big enough to convince device makers that producing such a beast is worth it.

The one vendor that did launch a cool handheld WiMAX device — Samsung’s Mondi, unveiled at the Vegas Clearwire launch — turned out an overly expensive, somewhat confusing form-factor machine that wasn’t big enough to do “real” laptop work. It also doesn’t contain an alternate cellular link to make voice calls an easy proposition. To top it off, Samsung and Clearwire couldn’t even get their pricing message straight — in Las Vegas, a Samsung PR representative told us that the device would sell at $450 unlocked, or $350 with a two-year Clearwire contract. But a few weeks later when Clearwire started offering the Mondi, the subsidy discount was nowhere in sight — the device would be $450 to all users, contract or no contract. Meanwhile, the iPhone 3GS sells for $199 with a two-year contract. Any questions?

For all the Clearwire knowledge you NEED TO KNOW for the latest quarter, order our CLEARWIRE NTK OCTOBER 2009 report today for just $4.95 — that’s right, less than five bucks for a lengthy take on Clearwire market launches, device plans, business news and more.

Clearwire Shows a Strong Hand at Vegas Event

July 22, 2009

Our quick impression from a full day and a half spent inside the Clearwire bubble, at the company’s “official” market-launching event in Las Vegas on July 21: The nascent national WiMAX-providing company seems well past its sometimes-confusing stumbles of 2008 and into full execution mode, showing it can put on a confident, coherent local event even as its overall marketing, pricing and demographic messages remain somewhat a work in progress.

The ability to stage a fairly seamless, fun and informative day on the small stage of Las Vegas still doesn’t answer how Clearwire will fare when it takes on the bigger challenges of market launches in places like Chicago, Dallas and Philadelphia, which still lie ahead on the company’s ambitious 2009 rollout schedule. But embedded within the Vegas-flavored parts of Tuesday’s proceedings were some new, strong marketing messages, which, if coupled with continued execution on the networking side of things, should bring cheer to Clearwire investors, partners and customers as the WiMAX express rolls onward.

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