Will Verizon ever get a 4G Windows Phone?

It may not be the most popular smartphone operating system, but some wireless subscribers on Verizon Wireless and Sprint Nextel want more choices.

Verizon customers may have more 4G LTE Google Android smartphones to choose from than subscribers on any other U.S. carrier, but when it comes to a Microsoft Windows Phone devices, forget it.

The pickings for Windows Phone smartphones are pretty slim when it comes to Verizon Wireless and even No. 3 carrier Sprint Nextel. So what are interested consumers to do? Ask Maggie offers some advice and some predictions on when these carriers will offer more devices using Microsoft's mobile OS.

The long wait for a Verizon Windows Phone with 4G LTE

Dear Maggie,
I'm a Verizon customer, bogged down by a family plan where the contract on each line renews at a different time and a location where Verizon is the only network with good coverage. I am eligible for a new phone in about two months, and my phone is gimping along toward the finish line. I'm a current Android user, but haven't been impressed with the platform and am looking for a change.

Apple is out (for reasons unrelated to the phones themselves), and recent positive reviews of Windows Phones have made me really eager to switch. But it's got to be 4G. Verizon has nothing like this now, and I read in your column a few weeks ago that Verizon execs weren't "chomping at the bit" to get new Windows phones. Any updates, or predictions on when Verizon might get more Windows phones--or should I resign myself to another two years of Android fragmentation?

Thanks so much,

Dear Connie,
I am afraid I don't have a clear idea when Verizon will be getting more Microsoft Windows Phones. But I suspect that if your current cell phone is on the fritz it probably won't be soon enough for you.

I haven't seen anything in the market over the past few weeks to indicate that Verizon executives are preparing for a new crop of Microsoft Windows Phones.

Verizon has not had a great relationship with Microsoft. In 2010, Verizon launched Microsoft's pre-Windows Phone device, the Kin. This was supposed to be a mid-range "messaging" device geared toward heavy text message users. The device was a big flop. Within months of introducing the product, Verizon canceled it and took it off its shelves.

Since then, Verizon executives haven't been excited about new Microsoft products. Last year at Mobile World Congress in Barcelona, Verizon's chief technology officer, Tony Melone admitted he had doubts that Microsoft could "get the traction they are hoping for with Windows Phone 7."

Nearly a year has passed. Microsoft has updated its software and launched its first phones from Nokia. The new software and phones have gotten high marks from reviewers. But Verizon still doesn't seem excited about Windows Phone devices.

The company quietly put out one Windows Phone handset in the market in 2011. And in December when Verizon Wireless Chief Marketing Officer Marni Walden met with CNET, she didn't seem that interested in adding more devices.

The big hang up for Verizon is that until Nokia's new Lumia 900, no Windows Phone supported 4G LTE. And for Verizon, that is the most important element for its new phones.

"We've communicated to Microsoft that LTE is critical to us," Walden told my colleague Roger Cheng in an interview in December. "We need to see a timeline that makes sense if we want to continue to represent them."

But now that Microsoft has put LTE into a smartphone, the Nokia Lumia 900, which will soon be available on AT&T's network. But so far there has been no announcement of an LTE Windows Phone for Verizon.

Despite it's rocky relationship with Microsoft, I think that Verizon will eventually carry more Windows Phone devices.And those smartphones will support LTE. But the question is when. My guess is that the earliest we might see new LTE Windows Phones for Verizon is this summer. But Verizon may hold out for the newest update to the Windows Phone software.

On Thursday, details of Windows 8, code-named Apollo, were leaked. The new software, which is not expected to show up in devices until the fourth quarter, will support multicore processors, four different screen resolutions, a removable microSD card, and near-field communication, according to the latest leaks. It may also include tight integration with Skype.

The software will also integrate nicely with Windows Phone 8 for the desktop and for tablets. The idea is that app developers will be able to create apps that can operate on smartphones as well as tablets and ultrabooks.

The new software will bring Windows Phone on par with Google Android handsets, which have already been supporting dual-core processors, NFC and 4G LTE.

So what should you do? If you really want a Windows Phone from Verizon, you can wait. But prepared for the fact that you may have to wait six to nine months for a device that supports 4G LTE. If you can't wait, then unfortunately, a new Google Android device is your only option, given you must have an LTE phone and you are unwilling to get an Apple iPhone. (Besides, the iPhone doesn't yet offer LTE.)

Sorry to disappoint you and good luck!

Windows Phone or iPhone on Sprint?

Dear Maggie,
My contract recently ended with Sprint and I want to get a smartphone. This would be my first one, but I'm torn between getting a Windows Phone or an iPhone. I currently have an aging second generation iPod and an iPad 2 with a lot of apps and music. Though I'm used to the Apple OS, I'm really interested in the Windows OS, but with only one option for Windows Phone I'm not sure if its the right choice. What should I do?


Dear Joe,
You are correct that there is only one Microsoft Windows Phone on Sprint's network at this point. And I don't expect the company to offer anymore until around August or September. Like Verizon, Sprint doesn't seem to have much enthusiasm for Windows Phone. Sprint seems to be waiting for the platform to gain more traction.

But it can't be underestimated how much Sprint has bet on the Apple iPhone. The company has staked its whole future on the success of the iPhone. To get the iPhone, Sprint had to promise Apple it would sell a certain volume of iPhones.

Because it subsidizes every smartphone it sells to its subscribers, Sprint initially eats the cost of the devices it sells. It eventually makes the money back from the subsidy over the life of a subscriber's contract. Still, in order to get the iPhone, Sprint promised to pay Apple at least $15.5 billion over the next four years for the iPhone, according to Reuters.

This is a high price, especially considering that there are two other carriers selling the iPhone.

So what should you do? Should you buy the one and only Windows Phone currently available on Sprint or go with the iPhone 4S? Considering that the HTC Arrive, Sprint's only Windows Phone available through a contract, is almost a year old, I'd have to say that you should probably go for the iPhone.

The fact that you already own several iOS devices also helps push you further in the iPhone camp. Also you're already familiar with the apps and the software from your iPad 2.

That said, if you're on a tight budget and you don't think you need the most cutting edge technology and you can live without certain apps that may not yet be available on the Windows Phone platform, then get the HTC Arrive. It's only $50 with a two-year contract with Sprint, compared to the $200 you will spend for a new iPhone 4S.

I hope this advice was helpful. And good luck!

Ask Maggie is an advice column that answers readers' wireless and broadband questions. The column now appears twice a week on CNET offering readers a double dosage of Ask Maggie's advice. If you have a question, I'd love to hear from you. Please send me an e-mail at maggie dot reardon at cbs dot com. And please put "Ask Maggie" in the subject header. You can also follow me on Facebook on my Ask Maggie page.

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