2011 Complete Guide to 4G Mobile Phones in the US: Sprint Edition, Best CDMA Android Phones from HTC, Samsung, Motorola

Introduction

The word "4G" was brandied about by the major and minor mobile carriers in the US as if it is some sort of talisman to ward off competitors. Find out why the term 4G had been neutered and what it was supposed to mean

This guide will discuss Sprint. Stay tuned for guides covering the other carriers, such as

Let's get started with America's first 4G Network...

UPDATED 27-OCT-2011 Added EVO Design 4G

Sprint Logo
Sprint Logo

Sprint: first to 4G claim

Sprint was the first to US market with "4G", by leveraging Clear's WiMAX network. Its first phone was the HTC Evo 4G, which is even today considered a very good Android phone. Later, it introduced a variety of devices that runs on Clear's 4G network, including tablets, notebook computers, mobile hotspot devices, and wireless modems for PC use.

Sprint was first on the market, but their expansion is relatively slow and limited mainly to the East Coast, with only a few major West Coast cities getting the WiMAX treatment, such as San Francisco and Los Angeles. On the other hand, WiMAX delivers a consistently decent speed that is noticeably faster than 3G. Later revisions may result in speedier performance. Engadget has reported that Sprint will have a BIG ANNOUNCEMENT soon (August 2011) so there may be something new.

Sprint offers competitive pricing and still offers unlimited data for one flat monthly fee. However, it charges $10 extra per month for all 4G devices, whether you can use the 4G capability or not. This annoys people who live in areas that still have yet to see 4G coverage but wants a 4G phone now.

Sprint current has these phones on their 4G network

  • HTC EVO 4G -- 4.3 inch screen and 1 GHz CPU
  • Samsung Epic 4G -- physical keyboard counterpart to EVO 4G
  • HTC EVO Shift 4G -- smaller, slower, but has a physical keyboard
  • Nexus S 4G by Google -- made by Samsung, Nexus S is a pure Google phone with 4G
  • HTC EVO 3D -- first 3D phone to hit market in the US, also Sprint 4G
  • Samsung Conquer 4G (coming soon) -- mid-range phone below Epic 4G
  • Motorola Photon 4G (July 31st, 2011?) -- high-end phone competing with EVO 3D
  • HTC Hero 4G (rumored) -- "budget" 4G phone, no detail specs yet
  • Samsung Epic 2 (rumored) -- successor to Samsung Epic 4G
  • Samsung Within 4G (coming soon?) -- Sprint's version of Samsung Galaxy S II

Sprint also has 2 tablets and and various modems and mobile hotspots as 4G devices. However, they will not be included here.


HTC EVO 4G for Sprint, 4.3 in screen, 1 GHz CPU, WiMAX 4G, every good spec even today
HTC EVO 4G for Sprint, 4.3 in screen, 1 GHz CPU, WiMAX 4G, every good spec even today

HTC EVO 4G

Features:

  • 4.3 inch large screen
  • 8 MP back camera / 1.3 MP front camera
  • 1 GHz CPU
  • 512MB of RAM
  • Rear kickstand
  • $99 with 2 year contract

The first 4G phone released in the US (June 2010), HTC EVO 4G has impressive specs then, and even now. It runs a 1 GHz SnapDragon CPU on a 4.3 inch display, one of the largest phones at the time, with 512MB RAM, this phone was the best Android phone for a long time, and even now is quite respectable, a whole year after its release.

It is also one of the first phones to support mobile hotspot from the phone, instead of a separate device (also known as wireless tethering). You can share your phone's connection with up to 7 other devices.

By today's standard it is no longer king of the hill, but it is a respectable phone even now.


Samsung Epic 4G, with keyboard extended. You can see 5 rows of keys as well as cursor keys and other function buttons
Samsung Epic 4G, with keyboard extended. You can see 5 rows of keys as well as cursor keys and other function buttons

Samsung Epic 4G

Features:

  • 4.0 inch Super AMOLED screen
  • 5 MP back camera / VGA front camera
  • 1 GHz CPU
  • 512MB of RAM
  • 5-row physical slide-out keyboard
  • $149 with 2 year contract

Samsung's Epic 4G is commonly seen as the keyboard cousin to EVO 4G, before the EVO Shift 4G became available. However, in reality, Samsung was far slower to offer source code to the modders, and the result often is pure chaos. While HTC EVO 4G already up to offical Android 2.3, Samsung' Epic4G is still on Android 2.2. Technically this is a phone in Samsung's "Galaxy S" series, but Samsung thus far have demonstrated a relative lack of support of the custom ROM community.

If you can live without the keyboard, HTC Evo 4G is probably a better choice. Else, this is the phone to get if you insist on a physical keyboard.


HTC EVO Shift 4G, with keyboard extended. You can see 4 rows of keys and a tiny directional pad.
HTC EVO Shift 4G, with keyboard extended. You can see 4 rows of keys and a tiny directional pad.

HTC EVO Shift 4G

Features:

  • 3.6 inch Super AMOLED screen
  • 5 MP back camera
  • 800 MHz CPU
  • 512MB of RAM
  • 4-row physical slide-out keyboard
  • $99 with 2 year contract

EVO Shift 4G is a smaller phone than the EVO 4G, but has a slide-out 4-row physical keyboard that resemble the original Motorola Droid. It really has no outstanding features. Launched months after the original EVO 4G, it is neither cheaper nor better than its cousin. Thus, it occupies the bottom of the hierarchy.

I honestly can't think of a reason why you would pick this phone, since the Samsung Epic 4G is superior in every way, and cost about the same.


Nexus S 4G by Google, a pure Google experience brought to you by Samsung and Sprint, now with 4G speeds!
Nexus S 4G by Google, a pure Google experience brought to you by Samsung and Sprint, now with 4G speeds!

Nexus S 4G by Google

Features:

  • 4.0 inch Super AMOLED screen
  • 5 MP back camera / VGA front camera
  • 1 GHz CPU
  • 512MB of RAM
  • Pure Google experience with Android 2.3 Gingerbread
  • $99 with 2 year contract

Nexus S is the current genuine Google Phone (previously, it was Nexus One built by HTC), and it is unofficially a variant of Samsung Galaxy S line. Spec wise it is rather average, comparable to top-of-line phones released 12 months,ago. However, it is considered to be the benchmark of all Android phones, and is the recommended phone for Android developers. Now Sprint has a 4G version of this phone.

If you hate bloatware, like all the apps carriers throw on like special customized interface, then you should love the "pure Google" phone like the Nexus S. However, it really has no special features to make you pick it over say, HTC EVO 4G. However, with the latest price drop (it launched on May 8th at $199, then $149, and now $99) it is once again a contender.


HTC EVO 3D, rear view. You can clearly see the dual 5MP cameras giving you stereoscopic 3D vision.
HTC EVO 3D, rear view. You can clearly see the dual 5MP cameras giving you stereoscopic 3D vision.

HTC EVO 3D

Features:

  • 4.3 inch Super LCD display capable of 3D w/o Goggles
  • Dual 5MP back camera for 3D content creation, 1.3 MP front camera
  • 1.2 GHz dual-core CPU
  • 1 GB of RAM
  • Bluetooth 3.0
  • $199 with 2 year contract

Only announced very recently, this 3D capable phone is king of the hill for Sprint, the best phone available, PERIOD. It has double-everything. Dual core, dual camera, double the memory of most devices (1 GB of RAM), and so on, but also the highest price tag.

If you must have the very best, then this would be your phone on Sprint. Otherwise, EVO 4G may still be your best choice.


Samsung Conquer 4G (coming soon)

Samsung announced the device on their own website, then removed it. Sprint had made no announcements. So what's the official word? Nothing. however, this phone did go through FCC certification recently.

As the phone has not been officially released, nor announced, no price and specifications are available. However, it is expected to be a mid-range phone with both front and back cameras.

Look at CNET's Samsung Conquer 4G blog entry


Motorola Photon 4G

Features:

  • 1 GHz Dual Core Tegra 2 CPU
  • 4.3 inch qHD display (960x540)
  • Global phone (GSM/UMTS 3G if you go outside the country)
  • Compatible with SOME of the docks for Motorola Atrix 4G (see AT&T roundup)
  • 8 MP back camera, VGA front camera
  • Built-in 16 GB flash memory
  • Kickstand
  • $199 w/ 2 year contract (expected price, subject to change)

Motorola Photon 4G has been released, and the specs are quite good. Camera quality turned out to be average only, and the "laptop dock" is NOT available. Still, battery life is good, and spec-wise this is a pretty good phone for Sprint.

http://www.engadget.com/2011/08/15/motorola-photon-4g-review/

HTC Hero 4G (rumored)

Phandroid reported (originally from PocketNow) that HTC Kingdom will appear in the US for Sprint as "HTC Hero 4G". However, no specs are currently available.

Read Phandroid news here.


Samsung Epic 2 4G (rumored)

"This is Next" tech blog claimed to have received a part of Sprint's 4G roadmap for latter part of 2011, and among the items mentioned is Epic 2. However, there are no details available thus far.


Samsung Within 4G (coming soon?)

Phandroid reported from "This is My Next" that a leaked photo of Samsung Within 4G, which is ONE of the US versions of Samsung Galaxy S II, was recently found, sporting Sprint logo and everything. Exact details are still unknown, but the 8MP back camera is easily visible in the slightly blurry picture. No idea about release date.

Read Phandroid Report here


HTC Evo Design 4G

HTC Evo Design 4G is a "budget" version of HTC EVO that will cost $100 with 2 year contract, with 4 inch screen, 1 GHz CPU, and otherwise, modern but unremarkable specs. It will have WiMAX. It is basically an Asian spec "Hero S" with WiMAX support.

See Engadget report

http://www.engadget.com/2011/10/19/sprint-unleashes-the-htc-evo-design-4g-available-october-23rd-f/

Q: Where is that dual-screen Kyocera Echo?
A: Kyocera Echo, the dual-screen phone that can be combined into a single screen, is a 3G phone, and is not 4G WiMAX compatible.

Conclusion

If you must have the very best, get the HTC EVO 3D

If you want just a good all-around phone, get the HTC EVO 4G. If you can't stand HTC Sense and other customizations, then get the Nexus S 4G.

If you must have a physical keyboard, get the Samsung Epic 4G, If you need more custom ROM support, then pick HTC EVO Shift 4G over the Samsung Epic 4G.

If it surprising that the best all around 4G phone for Sprint is still the HTC EVO 4G, even a full year after its release. HTC's phone was really ahead of its time.

Stay tuned for more 4G Phone Roundups.


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2 comments

daryl2007 profile image

daryl2007 5 years ago

I love smartphones..HTC is getting better and cooler now a days!!!


tamarindcandy profile image

tamarindcandy 5 years ago

HTC's great!

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