HTC Evo breaks sales records amid new Apple iPhone hoopla

Sprint says new HTC-built smartphone breaks company's first-day sales record days before start of Apple's WWDC

While the next Apple iPhone is sure to get everybody's attention this week, Sprint-Nextel's new HTC Evo 4G smartphone broke sales records during Friday's launch day.

Sprint said today that sales of the new model set a single day record for the company. The record was previously held by the Samsung-built Instinct and Palm Pre, Sprint said in a statement on Monday.

HTC EVO 4G smartphone
The HTC EVO 4G smartphone from Sprint.

Sprint didn't reveal specific sales figures, but said that customers had lined up at some stores on Friday morning, and that some of the 22,000 sales locations, including Sprint stores, RadioShack, Best Buy and Wal-Mart, temporarily ran out of phones.

Sprint today touted what it called attention to what it called rave reviews for the device and quoted a group of customers lauding the Evo. The company also noted the Evo's capability to work over faster 4G wireless, or Wimax networks that are now available in 33 cities.

Coverage is estimated to reach 43 million people in those 33 markets, and up to to 120 million by the end of 2010, adding Boston, Cincinnati, Cleveland, Denver, Los Angeles, Miami, Minneapolis, New York City, Pittsburgh, Salt Lake City, San Francisco, St. Louis and Washington, although no exact timeline has been described. Many analysts question the long-term viability of the Wimax network behind Sprint's 4G coverage because they expect next-generation LTE technology coming from Verizon Wireless and AT&T to dominate the business by 2012.

While Sprint hopes to draw the focus of the Evo launch to its 4G network capabilities, others are pointing out the design of the Evo by HTC Corp., touting the manufacturer's prowess as a possible competitor to the iPhone.

HTC also made the popular Droid Incredible smarthone, which is often compared to the iPhone, that Verizon Wireless started selling in April. The Incredible is on back order, and will ship June 28 if ordered today.

While HTC is far smaller than industry leader Nokia and others such as Samsung and Research in Motion, it is gaining a strong reputation for its Android prowess.

Verizon Monday announced its VCast streaming on-demand video service is available on all Android phones, including those by HTC and Motorola. A smartphone data plan and a $10 monthly subscription to VCast is required, and the application can be found in the Verizon Channel in Android Market, the Android version of the App Store.

Apple filed a lawsuit against HTC in March, saying HTC infringed on 20 patents. In May, HTC responded with a complaint before the U.S. International Trade Commission charging Apple with infringing on five of its patents.

Apple is also apparently launching a legal attack against Google, which behind the Android OS and Google's Nexus One, also manufactured by HTC. A patent attorney, Barry Cohen of Thorp Reed & Armstrong LLP said in March that Apple's intent is unclear, but could be both to attack HTC and Google.

Matt Hamblen covers mobile and wireless, smartphones and other handhelds, and wireless networking for Computerworld. Follow Matt on Twitter at @matthamblen, or subscribe to Matt's RSS feed . His e-mail address is mhamblen@computerworld.com.

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