4G or not 4G? That is the question
Having started with tablets, pausing briefly at Internet TV, CES 2011 has moved swiftly on to LTE - the apparently default technology for the next generation of mobile communications technology otherwise known as 4G.
This show is starting to look like a US MWC. We say this because, while there have been as many mobile phone-related announcements as consumer electronics ones, they've mainly been US specific.
Yesterday was a big day for US giant mobile operator Verizon, which coordinated a disparate group of partners into all announcing products utilising its 4G LTE network at the same time.
Judging by the HTC announcement, which sees only Verizon fail to commit to an imminent launch date for its phone, Verizon has some catching up to do in 4G. But then it seems to be an LTE pioneer, so maybe 4G is already becoming an ambiguous and abused term.
HTC soft-launched three 4G phones at the show: the EVO Shift 4G with Sprint, the Inspire 4G with AT&T and the ThunderBolt with Verizon. But the latter is being heralded as one of the world's first LTE phones, while the Inspire in fact uses HSPA+ - an older and slower technology than LTE. We can see a big 4G marketing own-goal on the horizon along the lines of ‘Vista ready' or ‘HD ready'.
"HTC has always focused on delivering innovations that are inspired by our consumers to delight them in big and small ways. That pioneering spirit continues this week with the start of a new chapter through the introduction of three new 4G smartphones," said Peter Chou, CEO of HTC. Hardware wise, they all look like variants on the Desire HD theme at first glance.
Qualcomm, once more, seems to have stolen a march on its competitors, with the announcement that many devices using Verizon's LTE network will access it via the MDM9600 modem, often coupled with the MSM8655 SoC, which is a single-core evolution of the original Snapdragon.
"We are excited to be working with Verizon Wireless to help support this 4G network milestone and showcase the continued technology leadership we believe we've achieved through our Snapdragon platform," said Steve Mollenkopf, EVP at Qualcomm.
With military precision, HP promptly announced a variant of its recently announced Fusion-powered dm1 will come with a Verizon LTE Modem. Then Samsung launched the imaginatively named Samsung 4G LTE smartphone (pictured below) - which has a 4.3 inch Super AMOLED screen - as well as a Verizon LTE enabled Galaxy Tab. Why anyone would buy an Android 2.2 tablet now that Google has started teasing Honeycomb, however, is another matter.
We've also had the launch of the LG Revolution LTE phone, some kind of collaboration with NVIDIA over Tegra 2, and the announcement that Skype Mobile will soon be available on Verizon's LTE network.
At first glance it looks like Verizon has stolen a march on Europe - the traditional mobile trail-blazer. But it must be noted that its LTE network was only launched last month, and none of these announcements have any date commitments attached to them. So while we applaud Verizon for a well-choreographed CES, there's no telling when all this LTE goodness will become reality.