Sprint keeping busy, set to release Android 2.1 update and 4G handset

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Even though Sprint is the number three carrier here in the US, they do have certain advantages over Verizon and AT&T. For starters, they were the first of the bunch to have an Android smartphone, the HTC Hero. And they're still the only US carrier to have an actual, honest-to-goodness, working 4G WiMAX network, while the others simply talk up their eventual migration to the competing LTE standard.

This week, Sprint has made a couple of announcements that should keep them near the front of the pack, as well as make owners of the HTC Hero and Samsung Moment Android handsets very happy. According to EVDOforums, Sprint will be releasing an update to Android 2.1 in early Q2 2010 for both of the flagship devices, delivering such features as multi-touch browsing and Google Goggles. In addition, there will be new weather, news, and music apps, as well as new gallery and maps applications.

While software updates are definitely better than the alternative (product obsolescence), it's the promise of some game-changing hardware that has me excited to still be a Sprint customer.

While the current top dogs will have their software tweaked to Google's latest, they will still be missing one thing, and that is integrated 4G broadband. Astute readers may remember some sketchy info on the "Supersonic" about a month ago, which promised to be the first 4G handset to carry the Sprint logo. Well, Sprint has now confirmed to Forbes that they are indeed on track to release their new superphone by summer, a few months ahead of the original estimate. They haven't stated exactly who will be making this device, but if Android ends up being the OS, my money would be on HTC crafting the hardware. Something along the lines of the Nexus One would look mighty nice pumping some 4G bits on the WiMAX network that Sprint shares along with Clear.

We could be in for an interesting first half of the year, as all four US carriers feverishly work to improve their networks and product offerings, especially on the Android front. If Apple predictably refreshes the iPhone in June or July, it will still remain in the lead, but the race is long and Sprint is sure to try and keep pace. Sounds like they're off to a great start, as they continue to recover from the huge mass exodus of customers over the past few years.

I'll always have a soft spot for Sprint, even though my primary smartphone has been in the form of my iPhone on AT&T for the past few years. I've been a continual customer since 1996, and Sprint was always ahead of the other carriers, with the snazziest most feature-laden phones and the fastest data rates, plus it didn't hurt matters that their pricing was rarely undercut. For this reason, I still use them for my secondary phone and mobile broadband, and I hope to add an Android 4G smartphone to the mix this summer. Exciting times, indeed.

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Chris King

Chris King is a former contributing editor at Pocketables.

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