Was there some other tablet announced today? For those early birds who bought the Motorola Xoom from Verizon back in February, your LTE upgrade — which was supposed to happen in 90 days — is now available. The official website is here. Our take that Verizon’s LTE network is still a work in progress, which we still think is true, is here. Discuss.
Call it the equivalent of a public-relations carpet-bombing: Verizon Wireless today issued 11 separate press releases heralding the arrival of its 4G LTE network in a slew of smaller-sized cities across the nation, including ones you may have heard of (Hartford, Conn.) and some that don’t sound as familiar (Spartanburg, S.C.). But as Verizon continues to get PR mileage out of announcing and re-announcing LTE market locales, there are still unanswered questions about the stability of the network and unexplained LTE device delays. Though Verizon’s LTE network has apparently remained upright since its brief collapse in late April is it possible the new fast network is ruling the air about as well as King James is ruling the NBA?
Witness the “4G enabled” Xoom tablet from Motorola, which went on sale Feb. 24 with the express promise that “The Motorola XOOM will be upgradeable to 4G LTE service at no additional charge in the second quarter of 2011.” News coverage of the Xoom’s launch typically included some well-intentioned explanations as to how consumers who bought the thing would be able to send it back to Verizon to get 4G automagically installed. Only problem is — the second quarter of 2011 only has 18 days left in it, and so far there has been no news from Verizon as to when those Xoom customers might be able to send their tablets in for an upgrade. (An update from Verizon PR today said the upgrade is still “coming soon.”)
Another area where Verizon still seems to be having LTE problems is with its data cards — even the most recent reviews on the Verizon site talk of poor connections and continuing performance problems. Granted these reviews are unvetted and may be due to operator error but the volume of people complaining is usually a fair indicator that not all is well in Verizon LTE land.
In our recent report on Verizon’s LTE business we noted that Big Red is far ahead of its competitors when it comes to network deployment — but it is possible that its aggressive push to launch LTE may now be biting Verizon a bit when it comes to keeping the high-speed network performing as advertised. It will be interesting to see if Verizon’s LTE problems have slowed the momentum the new network showed during the first part of the year, when Verizon added nearly a half-million users to its new network. We’ll watch for Verizon’s next quarterly report in July to see if the numbers have a tale to tell.
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.