Sprint's first WiMax smartphone called Supersonic, runs Android, say reports

Reports and a photo of Sprint Nextel Inc.'s first WiMax smartphone, code-named Supersonic, have surfaced , but the company has not yet confirmed the device.

Sprint Nextel Inc. officials enticed reporters at CES in early January with comments that its first WiMax-enabled smartphone was coming later in 2010, partly to show the value of the emerging next-generation wireless network.

Phonenews.com said Supersonic, built by HTC, has a 4.3-inch capacative touchscreen, FM radio, and includes HTC's acclaimed Sense user interface atop Android 2.1 mobile OS. The design is said to be based on the HTC HD series and MAX 4G sold in Russia.

The smartphone will feature a Snapdragon processor running at a fast 1GHz like Google's recently launched Nexus One , also built by HTC. Some commenters have noted that Snapdragon does not currently work with WiMax, but perhaps some future iteration could.

Sprint officials could not be reached to comment on the latest report of the Supersonic.

If Sprint does launch a WiMax touchscreen smartphone like the Supersonic it will be seen as big boost for Sprint's fast WiMax network, several analysts noted. While WiMax speeds of between 3 and 6 Mbit/sec have been touted by Sprint and others for two years , few devices other than laptop cards have surfaced to take advantage of the wireless technology. Sprint doesn't even refer to WiMax very much in its marketing materials, referring to the speed it offers as 4G, partly to draw attention to slower 3G speeds being touted by the largest two carriers, Verizon Wireless and AT&T. Both Verizon and AT&T are launching a competing 4G standard called LTE this year and next.

At CES, Sprint announced the Overdrive 3G/4G Mobile Hotspot that will work with WiMax networks, where available, to bring 3 to 6 Mbit/sec speed to the wireless router and distribute the signal to five devices via Wi-Fi.

Overdrive went on sale Jan. 10 at Sprint and Best Buy stores for $100 after a $50 rebate, plus a two-year contract that runs $60 a month. For that monthly cost, customers get unlimited 4G downloads. Where 4G is not available, downloads will be limited to 5GB of data per month on 3G networks.

Sprint also announced at CES that it will be the wireless provider for the upcoming Skiff e-reader , but launch date and other details were not announced.

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

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Copyright © 2010 IDG Communications, Inc.

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