Sprint 4G Smartphone Rumored to Run Android

The 4G smartphone Sprint has in the works is likely to run Google's Android OS and take advantage of Sprint's WiMax investments with Clearwire. By the end of 2010, Clearwire will likely exceed 100 million U.S. subscribers, creating a solid customer base.

Sprint has a 4G smartphone in the works, and it's believed to run Google's Android mobile operating system, be made by Samsung and debut in 2010, according to reporting from PC World.

At the 4G World Conference in Chicago, Sprint Business Unit Vice President Todd Rowley confirmed to PC World that the carrier is indeed in talks with a handset maker for the phone, but was not forthcoming with additional details, except to say that Sprint won't begin selling the 4G smartphone until Clearwire acquires 100 million U.S. customers. This would put the timeframe of the device in late 2010.

Sprint, which owns 51 percent of Clearwire, is a major backer in the WiMax 4G technology. Clearwire currently has WiMax deployments in Baltimore, Portland, Las Vegas, Atlanta and, as of Sept. 15, approximately 20 square miles of the Silicon Valley. It anticipates having 80 cities covered with WiMax in 2010.

On July 23, Samsung rolled out a tablet device called the Mondi, which offers WiMax and Wi-Fi connectivity. The same day, Clearwire debuted a dual-mode 4G/3G Mobile USB modem that enables a 4G connection where service is available and defaults to a 3G connection where it's not. A 4G Android Sprint phone is expected to do the same.

Several factors point to Sprint and Samsung choosing Android, PC World points out. These include the success of the Mondi; that both Sprint and Samsung are members of the Open Handset Alliance; and that Sprint will host an Android-featured developer conference in October. That the Android OS is open source also makes it attractive to application developers, and on Oct. 11 Sprint will begin offering its first Android smartphone, the HTC Hero.

Ken Hyers, a senior analyst with Technology Business Research, says he can't confirm such reports. However, he told eWEEK, "I do think this is plausible and even likely. A CDMA EVDO/WiMax smartphone is an obvious step for Sprint, and Android is the obvious OS to develop such a device on."

Given Sprint's years-long relationship with Samsung, Hyers says it's the handset vendor he expects Sprint would turn to for a CDMA/WiMax device. Plus, he adds, "The timeframe fits because by late 2010 the WiMax network will have better coverage-there's not much point in rolling out a multimode 3G/4G device until the 4G coverage is there."

In a statement announcing Clearwire's Silicon Valley rollout, Larry Alder, Google's mobile product manager, remarked, "Mobile broadband is fundamentally changing the way people use the Internet, and 4G networks like Clearwire's have incredible potential. We're excited to see how developers will take advantage of this unique asset as Internet users increasingly expect connectivity regardless of their device or location."