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Sprint Swipes at Apple With 4G Phone

LAS VEGAS (TheStreet) Sprint (S) took a swipe at Apple's (AAPL) iPhone at CTIA Tuesday, with the launch of the world's first 4G smartphone.

In what was probably one of CTIA's worst-kept secrets, the telco took the wraps off the EVO 4G, which it claims will shake up the smartphone market. Built by HTC, the EVO 4G was originally codenamed "'Supersonic," and runs Google's (GOOG) Android operating system.

"What the world has been missing is a good 4G smartphone," said Dan Hesse, the Sprint CEO, who appeared on stage to the strains of Led Zeppelin. "This is going to take multimedia to a new level."

Hesse explained that the EVO 4G comes with an 8-megapixel camera and a camcorder that is equal to high-definition devices.

With a 4.3-inch high-definition screen, the EVO 4G is powered by a 1 GHz Snapdragon processor from Qualcomm (QCOM), and Sprint is pushing the device as an alternative to camcorders and even DVRs.

"It's a terrific smartphone, even on 3G networks," Hesse told a packed press conference. "Even if you just have 3G coverage, this is as good as it gets."

There has already been speculation that the EVO 4G could mount a big challenge to Apple's iconic iPhone. A Sprint spokeswoman told TheStreet that the 4G phone will be "aggressively priced" when it is launched during the summer.

The high-speed smartphone market is certainly a goldmine for companies like Sprint. During Apple's recent first-quarter results, iPhone shipments climbed a massive 100% compared with the same period last year, helping grow the company's overall revenue by more than 30% to $15.68 billion.

Sprint is in third place in the wireless market, behind AT&T (T) and Verizon (VZ), but is the trailblazer for high-speed 4G networks.

With consumers and businesses clamoring for faster data speeds, Sprint launched its first 4G network in Baltimore in September 2008. 4G, which is said to be up to 10 times faster than 3G, has already been extended to 27 cities, according to Sprint. Working closely with its WiMax partner, Clearwire (CLWR), the telecom giant says that this coverage will be extended even further during 2010.

Despite all the buzz surrounding 4G, there is some skepticism about when the technology will deliver investor upside. Ericsson (ERIC)CFO Jan Frykhammar, for example, has warned that 4G will not generate significant revenue until 2012.

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