While everyone loves to gush over flagship phones, the truth of the matter is that for many customers, cheaper phones - be they last-gen's flagships or this-gen's budget devices - are the route of choice. Traditionally, the former route tended to work out better, especially for enthusiasts; after all, generation-old flagships tend to still outperform and out-feature current-gen budget devices. Plus, high-end devices generally have a ton of developer support and are usually better supported by the manufacturer. But is buying a used flagship still the better option for a budget-conscious consumer? After spending some time with a brand new budget phone from Pantech and Verizon, I'm not so sure.
Sprint may not have officially announced its plans to fire up the speedy LTE network outside of the initial launch markets and a few additional ones, but it looks like a working 4G-LTE connection can be already picked up in the Bay Area Peninsula way ahead of the rumored schedule.
Our tipster Seth reported getting 4G connectivity on his Galaxy Nexus around Palo Alto and Mountain View, getting Speedtest.net speeds of 13+Mbps down and 8+Mbps up. After looking into the situation, I found a number of users of the S4GRU forum confirming connectivity in the same area, along with Sunnyvale and Cupertino, the home of Apple.
As we've seen occasionally in the past, ZTE is capable of producing a genuinely impressive budget phone. It looks like they're coming up to bat again, because some purported specs for an upcoming phone have leaked, and they certainly look impressive:
Android 4.0 (could be bumped up to 4.1 by release)
4.5" HD IPS Display (1280x720) with Gorilla Glass
1.5GHz dual-core Snapdragon S4 CPU (MSM8960)
12.6MP rear shooter, 1MP front
8GB storage + microSDXC
.38" (9.6mm) thick
Custom ZTE UI pictured
The specs largely match today's flagships, such as the US variants of the HTC One X and Samsung Galaxy S III - right down to using the exact same CPU.
During Sprint's earnings call, CEO Dan Hesse outed a the Motorola Photon Q, stating that it's "coming soon." With the cat out of the bag, The Now Network just sent out the press release making the device official, thought it's still missing pricing and release date information.
While this may be the first time we've heard the Photon Q name, it's not the first time we've heard of the device itself. In fact, we got a glimpse of this QWERTY slider last month. At that time, however, we didn't have the full specs. Now, of course, we do.
- 4.3" ColorBoost display
- 1.5GHz dual-core processor (presumably Snapdragon S4)
- 1GB RAM
- 8GB storage, microSD card slot
- 8MP 1080p rear shooter, 720p front-facing camera
- HDMI out
- Full QWERTY slider
- LTE, global ready
- Android 4.0.4
According to the press release, pricing and availability will be "announced in the next few weeks." In the meantime, you can find out more about the Photon Q right here.
AT&T just flipped the LTE switch to 'on' for four lucky markets in parts of Florida and Massachusetts, including:
- West Palm Beach, FL
- Fort Lauderdale, FL
- Miami, FL
- Worcester Area, MA
It also expanded in a few other markets:
- Baltimore, MD
- Boston, MA
- Washington D.C. (which expanded the network into Northern VA)
While AT&T's still small-ish LTE network pales in comparison to Verizon's nearly-nationwide 4G blanket, it seems to be rolling out new markets on a consistent basis, making sure to cover all the major metropolitan areas.
At this point, you have to wonder if Sprint or T-Mobile will ever catch up.
After announcing its financials for the second quarter with money bleeding left and right, Sprint decided to follow up the negatives with a few positives and switched subjects to something a little less gory - upcoming 4G LTE markets. Before Labor Day, which happens to be September 3rd this year, the following areas will be lit up with speedy (but probably patchy) LTE:
- Baltimore, MD
- Gainesville, GA
- Manhattan/Junction City, KS
- Sherman-Denison, TX
Compared to dozens of cities announced at every Verizon and AT&T 4G expansion, Sprint is definitely lagging behind, but we're hoping they will be picking up the pace towards the end of the year and into next year when the Network Vision rollout is supposed to be completed.
Just last week, Sprint finally lit up its LTE network. Not before selling a number of LTE-equipped phones, however. If you were worried about Sprint's ability to keep up with the big dogs in the race to expand LTE coverage, the WSJ has some comforting words for you. Wait, did I say "comforting"? I'm sorry, I meant worrying. Very, very worrying.
The long and short of it is, Sprint simply doesn't seem to have enough spectrum to keep up. The initial LTE rollout covered 15 markets, compared to Verizon's 330 and AT&T's 47. Despite the rather distant third-place position, Sprint hopes to have coverage in all areas by the end of 2013.
Normally, we don't get very excited about leaked images of mid-range devices. This one is no exception.
Still, it is a first look at a new device, so that counts for something.
What you're looking at there is a Samsung device codenamed Jasper. It's a mid-ranger with specs to match:
- 1.5GHz Dual-core Snapdragon MSM8960
- 800x400 display (ewww)
It's hard to say how large the display is judging by the image, but we'd guess it's probably around four inches. It also looks very similar the last year's Droid Charge, so we could see this emerge as the Droid Charge 2, Charge Mini, or some other Charge-y thing.
You know what time it is: time for Big Red to light up some new areas with its hyperfast 4G LTE network. The lucky ones this month:
- El Dorado/Magnolia and Russellville, Ark.
- New London County, Conn.
- Fort Pierce/Vero Beach and Melbourne/Titusville, Fla.
- Columbus and Rome, Ga.
- Burley, Idaho; Mattoon, Ill.
- Anderson and Muncie, Ind.
- Manhattan/Junction City and McPherson, Kan.
- Lafayette/New Iberia, La.
- St. Joseph, Mo.; Bozeman/Livingston, Kalispell and Missoula, Mont.
- Goldsboro/Kinston, Roanoke Rapids and Rocky Mount/Wilson, N.C.
- Zanesville, Ohio
- Meadville and Punxsutawney/DuBois/Clearfield, Pa.
- Orangeburg, S.C.
- Sherman/Denison, Texas
- Cedar City and Logan, Utah
- Rutland/Bennington, Vt.
- Lynchburg and Winchester, Va.
- Bellingham, Wash.
- Beckley, W.Va.
While some users were able to connect to Sprint's LTE network over the weekend, the official rollout has just begun. The Now Network started with 15 initial markets, including:
- Atlanta, Ga.
- Athens, Ga.
- Calhoun, Ga.
- Carrollton, Ga.
- Newnan, Ga.
- Rome, Ga.
- Fort Worth, Texas
- Granbury-Hood County, Texas
- Huntsville, Texas
- San Antonio, Texas
- Waco, Texas
- Kansas City, Mo.-Kan.
- St. Joseph, Mo.
Don't expect the break-neck speeds of Verizon or AT&T's respective LTE networks, however: Sprint is only promising a paltry 6-8Mbps down and 2-3Mbps up with bursts up to 25Mbps. Of course, if you've been stuck using Sprint's 3G network (or even its current "4G"), this is definitely a welcome speed boost, even if it doesn't compare to the competition.