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.