Sprint and Motorola have introduced a fifth device for Sprints growing Long-Term Evolution network, the Photon Q 4G LTE. The device is Sprint's first LTE world phone with a dedicated QWERTY keyboard.
The five-row keyboard features a top row of numbers, for quicker typing, and is laser-cut, with each button outlined with LED lights, making it easy to use even in the dark. It slides out from behind a 4.3-inch ColorBoost display, which is another firstthe largest in the industry to be paired with a 4G LTE QWERTY smartphone.
The Phonton Q 4G LTE runs Android Ice Cream Sandwich and a 1.5GHz dual-core processor. It has an 8-megapixel rear-facing camera with 1080p video capture and playback; a front-facing high-definition camera for video calls; mirror mode for connecting to a HDTV or other screen with a High-Definition Multimedia Interface (HDMI) cable; and near-field communication technology, about which the Samsung Galaxy S III has helped to raise consumer awareness.
Motorola has also included its SmartActions application, which lets a user program in tasks to do everything from saving battery life to performing routine tasks. Its also what Motorola calls "Business Ready," so it has a suite of corporate security options, including remote wipe, pin lock and data encryption, and is Sprint Professional Grade, a new designation denoting enhanced security, device management and Exchange Active Sync capabilities.
Sprint will share information on pricing and availability of the phone in the next few weeks, the company said in a July 26 statement.
The same day Sprint announced the new Photon it said that, by Labor Day, it will extend its LTE network to four new cities: Baltimore; Gainesville, Ga.; Manhattan/Junction City, Kansas; and Sherman-Denison, Texas. On July 15, it launched in its first 15 cities, beginning the process of playing catch-up to Verizon Wireless and AT&T. Verizon now covers more than 230 people in 337 markets; AT&T, which has 51 LTE markets, says its 4G network (which includes both Evolved High-Speed Packet Access, or HSPA+, and LTE technology) covers 275 million people.
While it would seem the nations third-largest carrier has quite a bit of ground to cover, Technology Business Research analyst Eric Costa says Sprints in good shape do so. The carrier is in the process of decommissioning its iDEN network, and will refarm the 800MHz spectrum for LTE.
This strategy picked up speed during the second quarter, Costa wrote in a July 26 research note, thanks to increased investment and efforts in its iDEN teardown, which is now six months ahead of schedule. Sprint also benefitted, in May, when the Federal Communications Committee approved the use of the 800MHz band for 3G and LTE services.
Sprint will likely free up the spectrum by the end of 2013, allowing the operator to deploy additional LTE markets and gain on AT&T and Verizons LTE networks, wrote Costa.
By the end of 2012, Sprint plans to cover 123 million people. During Sprints second-quarter earnings call July 26, CEO Dan Hesse said Sprint was absolutely on track to meet this goal.
While Sprint lags behind its larger competitors, Costa added, the top two operators have not yet secured a large LTE subscriber base, allowing Sprint an opportunity to gain LTE market share in [the second half of 2012]. TBR believes this will be difficult with the current LTE lineup consisting of only four smartphones, compared to AT&Ts 13 and Verizons 12 LTE smartphones.
The Photon Q 4G LTE bumps Sprints number to five, and Costa said the carrier has more planned for the third quarter, which, he added, will attract additional subscribers and help increase the operators LTE penetration.
Widely expected to be among those devices is an LTE-enabled, sixth-generation Apple iPhone.