Move it along, Sprint

Sprint adds 4G service in Kansas City, but more cities need to happen

I'll admit that I'm a little cranky, but I think I have every right. Almost two months ago, I posted a list of expectations that I had for Sprint's Evo 4G smartphone. At the time, I had just seen the device at CTIA 2010 in Las Vegas and I was duly impressed with its design, features, and zippy 4G speeds. And because I want spiffy phones to sell well I advised Sprint to take care with the Evo's marketing, pricing, and performance and to widen its 4G coverage as quickly as possible.

Show us the 4G! Sarah Tew/CNET

I wasn't able to review the Evo when it finally went on sale, but I was glad Sprint and HTC followed through on most of my expectations. As my colleague Bonnie Cha found--she is very hard to impress so I trust her opinions thoroughly--the Evo 4G is "feature packed and powerful, and shows the promise of 4G."

To test the phone, however, Bonnie had to travel from her home in New York City to Philadelphia just so she could get 4G service. Even at the time of its most important product launch since the Palm Pre, I was astounded that Sprint did not have 4G service in the nation's largest city.

Nothing against Philly, but Sprint needs to step up its game if it wants the Evo 4G to be successful. As Bonnie said in her review, the $10-per-month charge for 4G data is fair for the speeds it brings, but it's preposterous if you live in an area without 4G service. Not only is New York currently out of the picture, but so too are Los Angeles, San Francisco (it's all about me), Boston, Cleveland, and St. Louis. And that's just a sampling.

These cities are expected to get 4G in the "near future," but until that time quite a few people won't be able to use the 4G to its full potential. Remember, we're talking about the first 4G phone with a U.S. carrier. That's a big milestone, and Sprint earns a lot of points for making it happen. But if the carrier wants to turn things around and seriously challenge AT&T and Verizon Wireless with a showpiece handset, it can't leave out some of the country's most populous and tech-savvy burgs, particularly places (New York and San Francisco) where dissatisfied iPhone users complain the loudest.

To its credit, Sprint expanded 4G service to its hometown of Kansas City, Mo., Tuesday and partner Clearwire switched on central Washington D.C. But more needs to happen, and quickly.

 

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