Better late than never, I suppose. Today Sprint announced that it's bringing new LTE service to Boston and Framingham, Mass., Austin and Bryan-College Station, TX, Fort Wayne, IN, and Western Puerto Rico. The latter is actually not the first round of 4G coverage for the territory, as PR has had coverage in a few southern cities for a while. Additionally, the carrier improved its 3G services throughout the entire island.
It's a good start for 2013 as Sprint continues its Network Vision plan, which should only ramp up this year as a variety of deals—including the Softbank acquisition, the Clearwire buyout, and spectrum purchases—finalize.
Sprint this morning announced plans to offer a new ultra-rugged Kyocera smartphone with Direct Connect "this spring." The device – dubbed Torque – offers the standard features expected from a ruggedized phone, including water resistance, dust prevention, and drop protection. That means you'll be able to drop it in the toilet, use it during a sandstorm, or throw it out of frustration without fear of shattering it into pieces.
If you want specifics, the Torque can be submerged in meter-deep water for up to 30 minutes, handle temperatures from –22 to 140 degrees for three hours, stay safe from "heavy dust" for up to six hours, and be dropped more than 20 times from a height of four feet.
At this point, you've probably heard that starting tomorrow, it will become illegal to unlock your smartphone to use it on another carrier. You certainly should have heard so since the decision was made three months ago. That being said, there are still quite a few questions that folks want to have answered. Chief among them, 'How does this affect me?' Well, I'm glad you asked, dear reader.
For a bit of context, first, let's take a look at exactly what has changed.
Round and round and round she goes. Where she stops nob-holy mother of crap! That car just exploded! Okay, alright. Maybe I can understand a little bit of why folks like NASCAR. And in solidarity with my fellow southerners who adore the sport, allow me to share this with you: NASCAR Mobile '13.
The app gives you access to news, schedules, driver information and a ton more.
AT&T has a problem on its hands. It's big, but is it big enough? If you're a CEO of a major corporation the answer to that question is always "no." However, the carrier has difficulty expanding on the home front. An overwhelming majority of U.S. citizens have phones with one carrier or another, so there's very little wiggle room to grab new customers. And gaining in market share when you (and all your competitors!) are dead set on locking people into two-year contracts is very difficult.
There might be more appealing national networks to run your phone through, but Sprint is hoping to lure in more customers with some free money. A leaked internal Sprint doc indicates that a previously popular promotion is coming roaring back on January 18th. If you meet the qualifications to take advantage of this deal, it can mean big savings on a couple new smartphones.
Before you get too excited, you have to be opening a new account with Sprint, along with the following eligibility requirements:
IL [Independently Liable] customers activating 3-5 new handsets [read: phones only] on new lines of service
At least one line must be a port-in from another carrier
Customers must activate all phones on an Everything Share or Simply Everything Share plan
The independently liable stipulation is just referring to a line that you own, not one handled through an employer.
A couple of small OTA updates - both of which are primarily bug-fixers - are making their way to the Flash and Epic 4G Touch on Sprint this morning.
Flash owners, you can expect LED blink timing improvements, camera enhancements, better text input with Swype, and a tweak to the information provided in Settings > Applications > Running applications.
The list is actually shorter for the Epic 4G Touch, with only two things in the OTA: it adds Sprint's Connection Optimizer, and brings some security updates.
Break out the popcorn, folks, it's time for some corporate drama. As we reported last month, LTE service provider Clearwire is looking to sell itself, with 50% stake holder Sprint Nextel the obvious choice. But while Sprint's $2.2 billion offer (plus another $800 million in staggered investments) sits on the desks of both Clearwire shareholders and the Federal Trade Commission for approval, satellite TV provider Dish Network has made another offer.
If you have Sprint's version of the LG Optimus G, you may want to head into Settings > About phone and see if the latest OTA is available on your handset. The update – which bumps the device up to build LS970ZV9 – is just a small one that brings a couple of fairly minor enhancements to the device:
Visual Voicemail update
This just started rolling out today, so don't stress if it's not yet available to you.
If you want to use Sprint's network without signing a contract, there are a lot of options out there, including its subsidiary Boost Mobile, the American MVNO Virgin, and hybrid provider Republic Wireless, among others. Sprint hopes that there are at least some prepaid customers left out there, because starting on January 25th, it will be offering its service in contract-free flavors.