Carriers Create 4G Noise As Verizon Launches 3G iPhone

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AT&T and T-Mobile carriers would hotly deny that their recent 4G product announcements were meant to distract attention from this week’s launch of Verizon’s 3G iPhone, but the announcements probably had that effect.

AT&T announced plans for availability of its first 4G smartphone, the Android 2.2-based HTC Inspire 4G, priced at $99.99 with two-year contract through the carrier’s company-owned stores and web site. The Inspire will be available Feb. 13 through AT&T-owned stores, the carrier’s web site, dealers, and select national retailers, the carrier said.

For its part, T-Mobile announced the planned expansion of its HSPA+ 4G smartphone selection to three with the February launch of a 4G version of Samsung’s Galaxy S Android-based smartphone. T-Mobile also began on Feb. 2 to offer its first tablet, the 4G Dell Streak 7 at $199 with postpaid mobile-broadband data plan and $449.99 with prepaid data plan.

In 3G smartphone developments, prepaid provider Virgin Mobile announced the addition of its second Android smartphone, and TWICE learned that HTC’s next-generation Incredible for Verizon’s 3G network will add global-phone capability.

At AT&T, the HTC Inspire 4G will be the carrier’s first Android phone with the 2.2 version of the OS, the carrier’s first phone with embedded mobile hot spot, and the phone with the largest screen size in the AT&T portfolio at 4.3 inches. It’s also the first phone in the U.S. with HTC’s next-generation Sense user interface experience and HTC cloud-based services, including remote wipe.

With 4.3-inch screen and 1GHz processor, the HTC Inspire 4G “is the first true superphone to launch at under $100,” said HTC Americas president Jason Mackenzie.

The Inspire is the first of more than 20 4G devices that AT&T said at International CES would be available during the year. Also at CES, AT&T said it would deliver two 4G phones in the first quarter, including the Samsung Infuse 4G, and a total of five to seven 4G devices in the first half.

The HTC Inspire operates in 3G/4G mode only in the 850/1900MHz bands, so it won’t operate in 3G/4G mode in other countries.

AT&T 4G phones using 700MHz 4G LTE technology, which will deliver faster data speeds, will be available in the second half following the mid-2011 of LTE service in select markets. The LTE rollout is expected to be largely complete at the end of 2013.

As previously announced, the carrier also plans to launch two 4G tablets — including its first LTE tablet — by mid-summer, with additional LTE tablets planned for the second half of 2011.

HSPA+ capability has been deployed in almost 100 percent of the AT&T network, and when combined with an Ethernet or fiber base-station backhaul, it delivers download speeds up to 6Mbps. AT&T said it expects the backhaul enhancements to be installed in almost two-thirds of its network by the end of the year.

For use in AT&T’s HSPA+ network, the Inspire 4G offer 8-megapixel camera/camcorder with 720p video capture, dual LED flash, autofocus, Adobe Flash, 4GB embedded memory, included 8GB MicroSD card, Dolby Mobile and SRS WOW HD sound technologies and an aluminum unibody design. It comes preloaded with a Blockbuster app and eReader app.

The next-generation HTC Sense user interface includes HTC’s FriendStream service, which delivers Facebook, Twitter and Flickr updates in a consolidated view. The Inspire 4G also lets owners pinpoint the location of a lost phone on a map and send a command to make the phone sound an alert – even if the phone is in silent mode – through the

website. Owners can also remotely wipe all of the phone’s data with a single command in addition to forwarding calls and text messages to a different number.

In 4G developments at T-Mobile, the carrier announced plans to expand its selection of HSPA+ 4G smartphones to three in February with the launch of a 4G version of Samsung’s Galaxy S Android-based smartphone.

Of the three, the Android 2.2-based Galaxy S 4G will be the fastest, T-Mobile contends, because it will be capable of theoretical peak download speeds of up to 21 Mbps, while the other two are capable of 14.4Mbps download peaks.

The other two phones are the HTC-made MyTouch 4G and HTC-made G2, both of which are also Android 2.2-based smartphones.

Like the T-Mobile’s 3G version of the Galaxy S, called the Vibrant, the 4G version features proprietary 4-inch Super AMOLED touchscreen, Samsung 1GHz processor, and ability to download movies and TV shows for rent or purchase via WiFi and cellular. The Galaxy S 4G, however, adds front-facing camera to allow for Qik video chat via Wi-Fi, 3G and 4G. It also adds DoubleTwist with AirSync technology to auto-sync and back up photos, HD videos and music to and from a home computer via Wi-Fi.

T-Mobile’s other major 4G announcement was the launch of the 4G Dell Streak 7 tablet with postpaid and prepaid data plans through the carrier’s store and website. Availability through third-party retailers wasn’t announced.

The carrier used International CES to unveil the tablet, which it said at the time would be available “in the coming weeks” followed “in the coming months” by the LG-made Android 3.0-based T-Mobile G-Slate with Google. Both operate on the carrier’s 4G HSPA+ network, which is currently capable of running at peak theoretical download speeds up to 21Mbps.

The Streak 7 runs the Android 2.2 OS and features 7-inch WVGA touchscreen, dual-core Nvidia Tegra 2 processor to deliver 2GHz processing speed, Adobe Flash 10.1, 5-megapixel rear camera, and 1.3-megapixel front-facing camera for video chats. Other features include HD camcorder with 1080p video capture, 16GB internal memory, SD Card slot, Wi-Fi 802.11 b/g/n/, and mobile hot spot capability.

The device operates in 4G HSPA+ mode in the carrier’s 1.7/2.1GHz 3G/4G band, 850/1900MHz bands in the U.S. for roaming, and the foreign 2.1GHz band.

In 3G developments, Sprint’s Virgin Mobile prepaid brand expanded its selection of 3G smartphones with the launch of the LG Optimus V at $149.99. The Android 2.2-based Optimus V joins the $199 Android 2.1-based Samsung Intercept smartphone and the $199 BlackBerry Curve in Virgin’s 3G smartphone lineup. LG Optimus V is similar to Sprint’s postpaid LG Optimus S at $49.


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