This year at the Consumer Electronic Show, like every year, we could see all of the gadget makers show off their new products for the coming year. This included smartphone makers, along with all the carriers on which these phones will work. All of the US carriers talked in depth about their vision for this year, and what will be coming on the market. Here’s an overview of what each one had to say, and what you can expect to see in the coming months.
First, if there’s one thing that’s clear, is that 4G is now a reality, and the focus of every single wireless carrier. 4G completely dominated CES and it was very visible from all the vendors and other organizations. To start off, AT&T currently has its LTE network well under way, and covers 26 markets as of now. They keep building this new network, and they’ve introduced the largest number of devices at the show, with over a dozen new LTE 4G phones. Many of them run Android, with some Windows Phone models as well. Sprint used to be the black sheep, going after its own WiMax system, but now they’re on board as well, with their brand new LTE network seeing the light of day in 3 markets. They also announced 3 devices that will be forthcoming, and when their 4G network actually launches at some point this year, customers will be able to take advantage of these new phones.
Verizon is still the big carrier, with the most impressive 4G network to date, covering 190 markets. It’s clear that the company is quickly letting its older CDMA phones by the wayside, and embracing LTE as fast as it possibly can. On the device side however, they had a smaller selection than AT&T. They announced 3 devices, including one tablet. T-Mobile was the one major carrier that still refuses to embrace LTE. The network that they call 4G is actually using HSPA+, which is 3G with additional features. In reality, the speed is close to what LTE currently offers, and with the 175 markets covered, their current network is still very impressive. Also, the fact that it still uses HSPA means that 3G devices work on it, and don’t need to be brand new devices made especially for LTE. Still, in the long term, there’s no question that LTE will be the wave of the future, and bring much faster speeds than HSPA+ is capable of, so it’s unclear what the long term goals of the company are.
Overall, 4G was everywhere at CES 2012, and each of the major networks was pushing their new devices, and their higher speed services. One notable exception of course is the iPhone, which is still only using 3G, and there was no sign whether or not the next version will support 4G. An interesting bit of information is that Verizon promised that no new device will come to their network without 4G support, which would seem to imply they will not support the iPhone 5 unless it has LTE. Time will tell whether that’s the case.