May 13, 2010
Capping off a week that saw the introduction of the Garminphone and the non-Droid-branded LG Ally to the growing stable of Android devices on T-Mobile and Verizon, Sprint provided more details on the most impressive Android device announced to date – the HTC Evo 4G. First shown at CTIA, the Evo 4G is thinner than I remember it looking, and includes a similar scarlet interior to the Droid incredible (which I thought that was done just for Verizon).
The event also included a pre-screening of Disney’s forthcoming Prince of Persia. The movie really has no tie-in to the device, unless the Evo has a heretofore unannounced time rewinding feature (which I would gladly pay a premium for only to go back in time and no longer need it). Sprint will offer the sleek superphone – with its large screen HDMI out, dual cameras (including one 8 GB one) and HD video capture features — for $199 with a two-year contract starting June 4th, a few days before Apple’s World Wide Developer Conference where the company has released new iPhone models in the past.
There’s been a fair amount of discussion regarding Sprint’s data plan for the device, which I’ll refer to as “Simply Most Things”. The Evo 4G will require a $10 per month surcharge for uncapped 4G (and 3G). You’ll also pay handsomely for its vaunted eight-device hotspot feature which is a $30 per month add-on. In contrast, Verizon throws in mobile hotspot functionality on the Pre Plus for free.
All told, on top of Sprint’s relatively low prices for other services it’s not a bad deal although the hotspot premium is excessive. At the event, I heard someone note that the hotspot pricing is designed to appeal to those replacing their home broadband with WiMax, but I doubt many Evo 4G buyers will use the device that way. I’d rather see a $20 per month 4G surcharge that included mobile hotspot features.
One of my main concerns regarding the Evo 4G, was battery life, particularly after encountering disappointing results with Sprint’s Overdrive hotspot in 4G coverage areas. A Sprint represented said that if you’re streaming video, you’ll get about two hours, but more typical voice and light Web access will yield eight to ten hours. I still don’t think we’ll see even that, but even the seven hour range would put it within reach of other recent Android devices.
Tags: battery life, data plans, Evo 4G, HTC, Sprint
April 16, 2010
Now that Palm is apparently up for sale there seems to be as many alleged reasons for its struggles as there are people serving them up. One of the most popular ones is that Palm should not have
Palm CEO Jon Rubinstein has expressed some regret that Palm couldn’t launch on Verizon earlier and vie for the kind of promotion that the Droid received. Even if Palm had had the Pre for only three months, though, it’s doubtful that Verizon Wireless would have jumped in with as much support after Sprint had the opportunity to debut Palm’s handsets, even with the “Plus” enhancements.
Sure, it would have been better to ride the twin horses of AT&T and Verizon to higher market share, but Sprint was the best deal Palm could get. It believed in Palm and the platform, and offered strong marketing support. Sprint is still the third largest U.S. carrier. Its 50 million customers were more than an ample base into which Palm products could be sold, and its 3G network generally has good coverage and very good speed.
The strongest argument against blaming Sprint for disappointing WebOS volume, though, is to contrast it against the launch of the T-Mobile G1, which launched on a carrier with fewer subscribers, lower ARPU, and (at the time) an embryonic 3G network, but which still managed to sell a million units in its first quarter of availability and set the stage for continued Android growth throughout 2009.
Tags: blame, launches, Palm, Sprint
May 14, 2009
When I spoke with Laptop Magazine regarding the Palm Pre,, one of the questions was whether the Sprint exclusive helps or hurts the imminent first webOS device. I leaned on the side of help. Sprint’s customer service has been steadily improving and the Pre would get overshadowed at AT&T. I also considered the long history of launches that Palm and Sprint share.
Upon further thought, though, there are at least two more synergies between Sprint and Palm. The first is that both companies are on the comeback and certainly the Pre will attract a lot of attention to the revitalized carrier. It won’t be iPhone-level attention, but it will certainly help Sprintt’s flagging post-paid business.
The second is Sprint’s focus on mobile. As Palm noted in the Pre launch, Palm, unlike many of its competitors with interests in consumer electronics (Samsung, LG) and PCs (Apple), does only mobile products. And while Sprint certainly has wireline assets, it is more of a wireless pure play than AT&T and Verizon. With limited exclusivity, Sprint and the Pre won’t be “2gether 4eva” but the companies’ many commonalities and long history should make for a strong launch.
Tags: Palm Pre, Sprint
December 10, 2008
The spotlight shone on the three largest US carriers who will drive 4G adoption in the U.S. as executives spoke at conferences held by their partners and vendors this week First, there were comments by AT&T’s Roger Smith at a Symbian conference that AT&T would seek to standardize on one smartphone operating system. Many observers chortled that it was at best uncharacteristic for the operator that has pursued a handset strategy of broad selection and exclusives to do so, or that it was even unrealistic to think it could.
However, the key phrase was “AT&T-branded,” and subsequent dialog implied that this this would include handsets such as, say, the AT&T Tilt, but not devices that included brands such as Nokia and Samsung. In my further discussion with AT&T, they’ve backed off even this position, which seems to have been more of a wistful musing stemming from the frustration of developer fragmentation and support headaches.
Verizon, of course, has also felt that pain, and is seeking to offload some of that support burden with its open development initiative while expanding its handset choice via LTE. At a Cisco conference, CTO Dick Lynch said that it would have LTE “in service somewhere.. probably” at this time next year. That sounds a lot like operator-speak for a trial. Even so, if Verizon can get to mass deployment by the middle of 2011, it would mitigate the time-to-market advantage of Sprint and Clearwire. Lynch also made the bolder prediction that “broadband capabilities will be found in virtually every electronics product out there.” That’s rich fodder for another discussion.
And speaking of Sprint and operating systems, Google’s Rich Miner is slated to speak at Sprint’s developer conference hot off the momentum of attracting 14 new members to the Open Handset Alliance, including Sony Ericsson, which has dipped its toe deeper into the U.S. smartphone market with the XPERIA X1. Sprint Nextel, which has been supporting three network deployments (WiiMAX, CDMA and iDEN) and a variety of business models (Sprint post-paid, Boost pre-paid, and aggressive MVNO leasing in their brief heyday), has he most complex business among the four major carriers.
While the Open Handset Alliance is trying to mitigate Android’s fragmentation within its own ecosystem, the bottom line is that it’s impossible to embrace openness without additional complexity as operators must let different ecosystems compete. This is particularly true when, as Lynch said at the Cisco event, carriers are trying to move away from bundling the phone and service to where consumers — advanced ones for the near-term — will mix and match devices and data and the business looks progressively even less like the cable industry. As consumer choice expands, carriers will need to move toward more of a partnership support model as more traffic will be coming from devices outside of their handset portfolio. Take, for example, the early example of the Amazon Kindle. Consumers don’t call Sprint if they have a problem with it.
In a saturated market like the U.S.,and faced with the Internet chameleon, carriers have no choice but to diversify. By and large, only humans have a need for voice communications on a wireless network. But while Lynch’s prediction of universal broadband enablement may lie far in the future, devices — and the ways in which consumer use them — have nearly infinite usage permutations.
Tags: at&t, openness, operators, Sprint, verizon, Wireless
December 2, 2008
Quite a few years ago I had some friends who got married but had family and friends that lived all over the country. To accommodate as many people as possible they decided to have at least four separate wedding receptions. By the time the third one rolled around,, some of the glow of celebration had worn off.
The same might be said for what will now be called Clear, nee XOHM, nee simply Sprint’s 4G WiMAX network. With all the investments, trials, JV rumblings and confirmations, a mega-7-way partnership and conquered regulatory hurdles, it feels like this is at least the fifth coming-out party for the first 4G network in the US.
By naming its service brand Clear — not to be confused with another company promoting expedience — the new Clearwire is adopting a brand that is simpler and more tangible as opposed to the abstract, Internet-evoking XOHM brand that barely had a chance to be promoted in the market. Well, at least it’s far less of a rebranding challenge than AT&T faced with Cingular.
Tags: clearwire, Sprint, WiMAX, Xohm
March 19, 2008
I certainly agree with Verizon CEO Lowell McAdam that mainstream consumers will be in no hurry to abandon the subsidy model. But in addition to seeing whether more sophisticated customers will shell out $200 or more to run advanced wireless devices on Verizon’s network, we have to see how Verizon will price open access before understanding the impact it will have on new or integrated devices in the market.
McAdam acknowledges that consumers won’t sign up for multiple $50 per month plans, and at Gearlog, Sascha Segan notes that Verizon might offer incremental device access for $5/month. This is the kind of scheme that Sprint has talked about for Xohm as well although Sprint has acknowledged there should be an unlimited access cap.
There are already a number of devices other than handsets that are obvious candidates to work on a high-speed wireless network — portable navigation devices, handheld gaming consoles, MP3 players/Internet radios, and more. Consumers are already buying these devices. Sure, adding WAN modems would add cost, but it’s really the high price of wireless broadband that is holding them back. Verizon needs to offer a cheap tier of service that entails either limited data or limited speed. Such pricing would go a long way toward enabling the kind of creative innovation that Dash Navigation has enabled with only a GPRS connection at its disposal.
Tags: open access, pricing, Sprint, Verizon Wireless, Xohm
March 7, 2008
Om Malik pretty much nails the challenge that such an acquisition would have. Sprint’s customer base would do wonders for T-Mobile’s ARPU. However, the company would be juggling four wide-area networks (and five altogether if you include Wi-Fi). On one hand, a WiMAX network would be an attractive asset for migrating those T-Mobile Broadband customers forward. On the other hand, T-Mobile could just shut down the expensive Xohm initiative and transition everything to LTE.
Tags: Sprint, T-Miobile, WiMAX