A Guide to 4G Devices

4G-smartphones

on May 3, 2011   |   4 comments

4G promises speed, speed, speed, but you need a solid 4G device and network access in order to reap the benefits. Each of the four national carriers in the U.S. (AT&T, Sprint, T-Mobile and Verizon) have some form of 4G in place, utilizing three different technologies (HSPA+, LTE and WiMax) among them. There is already an array of devices, including smartphones, wireless cards, tablets and netbooks, that can take advantage of 4G’s faster speeds and new features. All of these devices are also 3G compatible,
since 4G network coverage is still spotty. I’ve talked about where you can get 4G; here’s how to get 4G.

First of all, if you want a 4G smartphone right now, you’ll have to go Android, though that may change in the coming months. You
can’t yet get a 4G BlackBerry, 4G iPhone or 4G Windows 7 phone. Currently, Sprint and T-Mobile offer three 4G smartphones each, AT&T has two and Verizon, just one.

Since all of these 4G smartphones have the Android OS, features are similar, though there are a few standouts. AT&T’s HTC Inspire 4G is the cheapest of the bunch, at about $100 with contract; most 4G smartphones are at least $200 with contract. The Motorola Atrix 4G, also from AT&T, has received a lot of buzz, mainly because it can morph into a netbook with the help of an optional dock. Verizon’s LTE 4G network is said to be the fastest, and its lone 4G-capable smartphone, the HTC Thunderbolt, lives up to its name in expert tests. T-Mobile’s myTouch 4G offers Wi-Fi calling, so you can save on minutes. Finally, if you like a hardware keyboard, the Samsung Epic 4G (Sprint) has one, in addition to its virtual keyboard.

Of course, smartphones aren’t the only way to get 4G. Sprint and Verizon both offer a decent selection of wireless cards that you can connect to your laptop, as well as 4G MiFi mobile hotspots, so you can access and share your 4G connection with others. Neither AT&T nor T-Mobile offers a 4G MiFi; AT&T currently has just one wireless card, while T-Mobile has two.

If you want a 4G tablet or netbook, you’ll have to go through Sprint or T-Mobile for now. Sprint currently has two Dell netbooks on offer, but will soon be selling the BlackBerry 4G Playbook and HTC Evo View 4G tablets. T-Mobile has three tablets including the Samsung Galaxy Tab and the T-Mobile Slate as well as a Dell netbook.

As 4G networks expand over the next several months, we expect to see more and better 4G devices available. In addition to the aforementioned BlackBerry 4G Playbook and HTC Evo View 4G tablets, Sprint will soon release two more 4G smartphones: the Google Nexus S 4G and Sprint HTC Evo 3D, which displays 3D content that can be viewed without special glasses. T-Mobile will soon resurrect the Sidekick with a 4G model. AT&T’s next 4G smartphone will be the Samsung Infuse 4G, while Verizon will soon offer the much-anticipated Droid Bionic.

{ 2 comments… read them below or add one }

Michael May 4, 2011 at 8:17 am

Sprint has two Qwerty keyboard 4G phones, the Samsung Epic 4G and the HTC Evo Shift 4G. What you need to understand is that AT&T and TMobile’s underlying technology is not 4G and won’t be 4G compatible with their future 4G platform, LTE or LTE-Advanced. On the other hand Sprint and Verizon both have 4G infrastructure which is upgradable to the ITU’s real 4G standards. This means that both companies can upgrade their platforms without effecting their legacy 4G networks or devices. On the other hand AT&T and TMo will be unable to do so.

Simply put my HTC Evo 4G will be able to use WiMax 2, aka WirelessMan-Advanced or IEEE 802.16m, when Sprint decides to upgrade its network. All of this will require nothing more than a software upgrade and minor adjustments to their attenae.

jimmytdc May 9, 2011 at 3:48 pm

Correction on the T-Mobile WIFI calling. It DOES use your minutes. It just allows you to make calls when you may have a weak cell signal but have WIFI hotspot near by.

Per T-Mobile FAQ:
Wi-Fi Calling is a free feature for T-Mobile customers with a Wi-Fi capable phone. Wi-Fi Calling is an excellent solution for coverage issues in and around the home or wherever cellular coverage is limited. Minutes used while connected to the Wi-Fi network count against available rate plan minutes.NOTE: To avoid international data roaming fees when using Wi-Fi calling when outside the United States, the Data Roaming feature on your device must be turned off.

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