4G World abuzz over LTE devices

Samsung shows off its two 4G smartphones now deployed in the U.S.; Verizon still says most LTE devices will be disclosed at CES

CHICAGO -- The 4G World conference this week attracted 10,000 attendees, but offered few clues about upcoming 4G smartphones and end-user devices other than a few for WiMax 4G already announced by Sprint Nextel and Clearwire.

The focus at most of the more than 100 booths at 4G World here was on either WiMax or LTE infrastructure gear, ranging from antennas to signal analyzers to heavy-duty radio receivers.

Still, most of the attendees seemed curious to find out what smartphones and other devices will run over the Verizon Wireless LTE network the company plans to light up in 38 markets before year's end.

Verizon Wireless representatives have repeatedly said they announce most of the devices that will run on the LTE network at the Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas in early January. In a keynote on at 4G World on Thursday, one Verizon executive did describe the types of coming LTE devices to be used in business settings, such as wireless videoconferencing tools used by field technicians.

Meanwhile, Samsung showed off two currently-selling smartphones for 4G, including the Samsung Craft for LTE that just became available over the past two weeks to Metro PCS customers in Detroit, Dallas-Fort Worth and Las Vegas, where the carrier has already turned on LTE services. The other was the Samsung Epic 4G, sold by Sprint Nextel for use with its Wimax networks, now in 55 U.S. markets.

Both smartphones were held on tethers at the display, and both are horizontal sliders with physical keyboards. The Epic runs Android 2.1 and has dual cameras and a 4-inch AMOLED touchscreen. The Epic runs a version of Touchwiz, a proprietary OS from Samsung, on a 3.3-inch AMOLED screen.

While it might seem possible that the Craft smartphone could run on the coming Verizon LTE networks, the model on display for use by Metro PCS showed it works in the 1700 and 2100 MHz spectrum bands, while Verizon uses the 700 MHz band. The Craft for Metro PCS also runs over CDMA, the same as Verizon uses in its 3G networks, showing further commonality.

The Craft could conceivably be converted for use on Verizon's 700 MHz band, although a Samsung representative at the booth said he and other workers at Samsung haven't heard Verizon's final plans. "We're excited to hear what's coming from Verizon," he said.

AT&T is also planning an LTE rollout in 2011, although even less is known about what devices it will sell for LTE networks.

Samsung had two other WiMax smartphones on display inside a glass case at 4G World, but it was not clear if they are working units or just prototypes being shown to carriers such as Sprint or others. The two smartphones were identified only as the SPH M8400 and the SPH M830.

Samsung also showed off a WiMax-ready Mobile Internet Device with a keyboard under the glass, identified as the SWD M100 and a Wimax netbook with the label of NP N150.

Samsung earlier this year said it wants to expand its global presence in smartphones, and launched the Galaxy S line of smartphones on U.S. carriers and others that feature the clarity of the AMOLED displays.

Samsung is also the maker of the Galaxy Tab, a 7-inch touchscreen tablet that all four major U.S. carriers will sell for use in 3G networks later this year. Verizon hasn't said whether it will make the Galaxy Tab for use with 4G, but plans to sell it for 3G for $600 without contract starting Nov. 11.

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.

Copyright © 2010 IDG Communications, Inc.

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