As of Monday, Verizon's 4G LTE network is 1 year old.
It's also the largest 4G LTE network in the U.S., with AT&T having launched its LTE service in November, while Sprint uses a WiMax 4G network and T-Mobile's 4G service runs on a HSPA+ network.
Sprint and T-Mobile are planning to move over to LTE sometime in the future, but when they do, the two carriers will have some catching up to do, as AT&T does now.
On Dec. 15, Verizon's 4G LTE network will expand to a coverage area of 190 markets, populated by about 200 million people, the company said in a statement.
So what's the difference between 4G in an LTE flavor versus WiMax or HSPA+?
LTE networks, from both AT&T and Verizon, offer higher top speeds than the other networks and can be as much as 10 times faster than 3G service, with theoretical peaks of 300 megabytes per second for downloads and 75 megabytes per second for uploads.
HSPA+ networks have theoretical top speeds of 42 megabytes per second for downloads and 23 megabytes per second for uploads. Sprint's WiMax 4G lists a theoretical top speed of more than 10 megabytes per second for downloads and 1 megabyte per second for uploads.
But, as always, just how fast and how reliable a phone or tablet runs on any cellular network varies by city, by device and by carrier.
Cyber Monday is to online shopping what Black Friday is to brick-and-mortar retail stores. And Cyber Monday 2011 is expected to be a big one -- possibly record-setting.
But, just as with Black Friday, everyone seems to be having a sale, and finding what you actually want online and not just what's cheap can become a chore.
So what sort of Web-only deals are out there? Here are a few from some major retailers.
Discounted goods on Amazon.com can be found pretty much all year. So while a sale is nothing new for the online retail giant, the company is promising that it's Cyber Monday discounts will be significant. However, unlike most retailers, Amazon's Cyber Monday promotion isn't lasting just one day, but instead all week. Head over to Amazon.com for details.
Barnes & Noble
Amazon's e-reading and tablet rival, Barnes & Noble, is having a one-day Cyber Monday sale too. Among the promotions is a free $25 Barnes & Nobe gift card with the MasterCard purchase of a Nook Simple Touch e-reader, a Nook Color tablet or Nook Tablet. If you use any other payment method to buy a Nook you'll get no free gift card.
The bookstore chain, which sells DVDs, Blu-Rays, CDs and toys too, is also offering 30% off of any one item, 50% off New York Times bestselling books and up to 70% off Blu-Ray movies. Head over to BN.com for details.
Best Buy is the largest bricks-and-mortar consumer electronics retailer out there, but it doesn't shy away from Cyber Monday. Among the price cuts: a 55-inch Samsung LED-backlit TV, normally $1,500, is selling for $999.99, the HTC Titan running Windows Phone and the HTC Wildfire S running Android are both free with a new two-year contract, point-and-shoot cameras are $40 to $80 off, a number of laptops are on sale including a 15.6-inch Toshiba Satellite for $279.99, and Barnes & Noble's Nook Simple Touch e-reader is down to $79.99 from $99.99. Head over to BestBuy.com for details.
Dell also regularly offers discounts on its website, but for Cyber Monday it has discounted 21 specific items, some of which are already sold out. The computer maker dropped the price a variation of its Inspiron 14R from $499.99 to $399.99, selling out its run of that laptop. Other laptops are on sale to, but at only $50 off rather than $100, such as the Inspiron 15, Inspiron 15R and Inspiron 17R.
Dell is also offering a $600 discount, down to $798, on a 46-inch Sony Google TV with 1080p resolution. And the Nintendo Wii with the New Super Mario Bros. game is down $15 to $134.99. Head over to Dell.com for details.
Staples is offering a wide range of discounts on gadgets, furniture and office supplies, including as much as $200 off Toshiba and Hewlett-Packard laptops, as much as $130 off printers, as much as $100 off point-and-shoot cameras and up to 50% off office chairs. Head over to Staples.com for details.
Verizon Wireless' Cyber Monday sale is nearly the same as its Black Friday promotion: the Motorola Xoom 4G tablet is down to $199.99 and the HTC Droid Incredible 2, Sony Xperia Play and Motorola Droid Pro are free, as long as you get each item with a new two-year data plan as well. Head over to Verizon.com for details.
Black Friday isn't here just yet, but Verizon Wireless is already offering some limited-time-only discounts on tablets and smartphones to kick off the holiday shopping season.
One standout is an HTC Droid Incredible 2 smartphone in a loud red, offered free with a 2-year-data plan. The Incredible 2, which launched in May, isn't the newest handset from Verizon to run Google's Android operating system, but it's still one of the nicest phones available from the carrier.
The model features a four-inch touchscreen, an eight-megapixel rear camera with dual-LED flash and 720p video, and a speedy one-gigahertz Qualcomm Snapdragon processor. The handset runs on Verizon's 3G network.
One downside is that the phone comes with only eight gigabytes of storage via an included microSD card. (The gigabyte or so of built-in storage is taken up by the Android operating system and preloaded apps). But after paying zero upfront, buying a larger microSD card is pretty reasonable.
Verizon is also offering as part of its Black Friday promotion the Motorola Xoom 4G LTE tablet for $199 with a two-year-contract.
The Xoom, which launched for $600 in February, features a handsome 10.1-inch screen with a high-definition 1280 x 800 resolution, a 2-megapixel front facing camera, and a 5-megapixel rear camera that can shoot 720p video. The Xoom also runs Google's Android Honeycomb operating system designed specifically for tablets, is powered by a one-gigahertz dual-core processor and comes with 32 gigabytes of built-in storage and a microSD card slot for those looking for more.
Other devices on sale include the Sony Ericsson Xperia Play smartphone, free with a 2-year contract, and the Motorola Droid 3 for $149.99 on a 2-year plan.
The anticipation for the latest version of Google's Android operating system, the first that has been designed for both phones and tablets, is palpable.
The Samsung-built hardware will be the first device to run Ice Cream Sandwich, and from photos and videos of the device and operating system, it all looks to be impressive and as if the combination is begging be seen, touched and, in my case, put through its paces for a review on this here Technology blog.
Somewhat frustratingly, the new smartphone is already on sale in the U.K., but not yet in the U.S.
In fact, we still haven't even received an official stateside release date or a firm price.
We do know that when the phone arrives, it will be available only from Verizon Wireless, running on the carrier's 4G LTE network.
On Monday, the world learned that Canada will get the Galaxy Nexus on Dec. 8, from Bell for $159.95 and Virgin Mobile for $159.99 on the carrier's respective data plans.
The Galaxy Nexus will feature a 4.65-inch touchscreen with a resolution of 1280 x 720 pixels, a 1.2-gigahertz dual-core processor, 1 gigabyte of RAM, a 5-megapixel rear camera capable of shooting 1080p video and a 1.3-megapixel camera on the front for video chatting. The phone's profile is slightly curved to sit a bit closer against a user's face than most flat-screen smartphones on the market.
So far, other Android phones will have to wait until next year before they get a software update to Ice Cream Sandwich, including the Samsung Galaxy S II and the Motorola Droid Razr.
Stay tuned readers. When Verizon and Google offer up an official U.S. release date and other launch details, we'll let you know.
Motorola's Droid Razr mightily impresses on paper and in the hand.
The new Razr, which brings back last decade's famous flip-phone nameplate, is super thin and light, and that really is its big selling point.
At just 0.28-inches thick and weighing in at 127 grams, the Razr packs in a 1.2-gigahertz dual-core processor, 1 gigabyte of RAM, 16 gigabytes of built-in storage and a microSD card slot with a 16-gigabyte card included. Inside there are the usual smartphone components: proximity sensor, ambient light sensor, electronic compass and accelerometer.
Those are top-end specs sandwiched into the thinnest form factor of any 4G phone on the market. Off the bat, the Razr feels like something special — like an achievement of smartphone engineering.
On the software side, the Smart Actions feature stands out, allowing users to easily program their phone to automatically launch applications or change settings after specified inputs. For example, I set the Droid Razr to launch the Pandora music app every time I plugged a set of headphones in. It worked seamlessly and it's a feature I wouldn't mind seeing on more phones.
The Razr, which is exclusive to Verizon Wireless, runs Google's Android Gingerbread operating system, with Motorola's user interface changes. An upgrade to Android Ice Cream Sandwich is promised for early 2012.
Motorola's trademark camera bump shows up at the top of the Razr — a design cue I actually like. It houses the Razr's 8-megapixel rear camera — which can shoot 1080p video — plus an LED flash, mini-HDMI port, mini-USB port and a front-facing 1.3-megapixel camera.
The front of the Razr is covered in the extremely durable Corgina Gorilla Glass. I took a pen and later a fork and kitchen knife to the display and not a single scratch showed up, bringing a smile to my face.
The back of the phone is largely Kevlar, the strong, flexible material used in bullet-proof vests and NASCAR body panels — but, no, the Razr is not bullet-proof. As on Apple's iPhone but not many Androids, the battery on the Razr is not removable by the user; instead it's sealed under the Kevlar back. That helps make for a thin phone and is a trade-off I'm personally fine with.
The combination of Gorilla Glass on the front and Kevlar on the back add up to a phone that feels solidly built, with no visible gaps or cheap-feeling plastic surfaces anywhere to be found, save for a flip-out door on the left side of the Razr that hides the microSD card slot and the 4G LTE sim card. And yes, as always, Verizon's 4G LTE network is blazing fast for streaming video, loading Web pages and general Web data consumption.
But that small door feels like it will eventually break off and is a weak point of the otherwise luxurious design. Battery life isn't great, but I've yet to test a 4G smartphone from any manufacturer that delivers great battery life.
With heavy use, I would have to charge the Razr before a work day is done. Daily charging would be a part of life with the Razr and anyone considering buying this phone should have a charger at home, work and in the car.
However, the door and battery life are minor complaints compared to the Razr's 4.3-inch touch display. Beneath the wonderful Gorilla Glass is what Motorola calls its Super AMOLED Advanced qHD screen, with a 540 x 960 pixel resolution. Frankly put, the screen is a major disappointment.
Colors look oversaturated, text on Web pages often appears jagged and rough, and overall the display looks pixelated, adding up to a screen that is more distracting than immersive.
The Droid Bionic, while thicker and nearly as attractive style-wise, has a better-looking screen (and now sells for $250 on a two-year contract from Verizon after first launching at a price of $300). Even better looking is the Samsung Galaxy S II's display. Top of the smartphone heap, in my opinion, is the display on Apple's iPhone 4 and 4S.
Compared with these three top handsets, the Razr's screen looks dated and not worth the $300 asking price.
Every time you use a smartphone, you're looking at its screen. If you don't like what you're looking at, well, that's a deal breaker. It's about equal to hating the seats, steering wheel and dashboard of the car you drive each day.
If the Razr's screen would have just matched the look of the Droid Bionic, the Razr could be challenging the Samsung Galaxy S II as my favorite Android on the market. Instead, the Razr leaves me wondering what could have been and hoping for an improved Razr 2 some day.
Verizon Wireless is doubling the caps on its 4G LTE users' data plans at no additional cost in a limited-time promotion that began Tuesday.
The promotion applies only to Verizon's 4G smartphones, and not other products such as tablets, USB air cards or mobile hot spots, said Ken Muche, a spokesman for the wireless carrier, in an emailed statement.
"For example, a customer who purchases the 2-gigabyte plan for $30, will receive 4-gigabytes for $30," Muche said. "The double data plans are available for new and existing customers." Existing customers must request the change via customer service or through their online My Verizon accounts, he said.
Verizon currently offers three different monthly data plans for its 4G smartphones: 2 gigabytes for $30, 5 gigabytes for $50 and 10 gigabytes for $80.
With the doubled data promotion, users could use up to 4 gigabytes for $30 per month, 10 gigabytes for $50 and 20 gigabytes for $80. The promotion follows Verizon's elimination of its unlimited data plans and moving to usage-based plans in July.
Once new and existing users are set up on the doubled data allotments, they will keep that higher data cap as long as they have a 4G smartphone through Verzion, even when it comes time to renew their data plan, Muche said.
As far as the limited-time part of the deal goes: "Limited time refers to our selling it, not customers using it," Muche said, noting that Verizon hasn't yet specified an end-date for the promotion and it would likely be offered through the holiday shopping season.
The HTC Rezound will be the first phone with Beats Audio to hit the U.S. when it arrives in Verizon stores Nov. 14.
At $300 on a two-year contract, the Rezound will feature a 4.3-inch touchscreen, a 1.5-gigahertz dual-core processor, an 8-megapixel rear camera capable of shooting 1080p video, a dual LED flash on the back, a 2-megapixel front camera and 32 gigabytes of storage (16 gigabytes built in and 16 gigabytes on an included micro SD card).
The Rezound will ship with Google's Android Gingerbread operating system, skinned in the HTC Sense user interface, but will be upgraded to the new Android Ice Cream Sandwich early next year.
The phone will run on Verizon's 4G LTE network and ship with Beats Audio in-ear headphones; black with red cables to match the phone, which will be black with red highlights.
HTC is hoping that Beats Audio will be a differentiator for its smartphones as the competition for high-end handsets grows -- the Motorola Droid Razr and the Samsung Galaxy Nexus are both launching this month on Verizon too.
In order to get Beats Audio's name and technology into its product line, HTC purchased a $300-million stake in the company known mostly for selling high-priced headphones marketed by hip-hop legend Dr. Dre.
HTC has already released smartphones with Beats headphones and speakers, such as the Sensation XE, in markets outside the U.S.
Record mogul Jimmy Iovine, who is chairman of Beats Audio and started the company with Dr. Dre, has pitched Beats as more than just fancy headphones and speakers on HP laptops and in Chrysler sedans. Rather, Iovine preaches Beats as a solution to the music industry's sales decline as digital music files and cheap headphones have degraded the quality of music being sold.
"HTC fully recognizes the destruction to audio caused by the digital revolution," Iovine said in a statement. "They embrace our vision to repair this ecosystem and bring the feeling from the recording studio to the smartphone."
AT&T is launching its 4G LTE network Sunday along with two new 4G LTE smartphones in a bid to catch up with Verizon, which launched its 4G LTE network in December.
The first two AT&T 4G LTE handsets will be the Samsung Galaxy S II Skyrocket and the HTC Vivid.
The Samsung Galaxy S II Skyrocket is the AT&T's second Galaxy S II, but there are a couple of differences between the two phones.
The previous Galaxy S II on AT&T had a 4.3-inch screen, ran on the HSPA+ network and sold for $200 on a two-year contract. The Galaxy S II Skyrocket gets the larger 4.5-inch screen found on Sprint and T-Mobile's Galaxy S II variations, and runs on AT&T's LTE network and is priced at $250 with a two-year data plan.
Both versions of the flagship Samsung phone feature Android Gingerbread with a modified user interface, a 1.5-gigahertz dual core processor, an 8-megapixel rear camera that can shoot up to 1080p video, a dual LED flash on the back, a 2-megapixel camera in front and 16-gigabytes of built-in storage.
The HTC Vivid will sell for $200 on a two-year contract and also features a 4.5-inch touch screen but with a screen resolution of 960 x 540 pixels to the Galaxy S II Skyrocket's 800 x 480 pixels.
The Vivid has a 1.2-gigahertz dual core processor, 16 gigabytes of built-in storage, an 8-megapixel camera that can shoot 1080p video, a dual LED flash and a 1.3-megapixel camera in front. The Vivid gets Android Gingerbread skinned with the HTC Sense user interface.
AT&T's 4G LTE data plans will be offered at the same prices as the carrier's 3G and 4G HSPA+ plans. AT&T offers 200 megabytes of data for $15 a month and overage charges of $15 for an extra 200 megabytes of data. Another option is 2 gigabytes of data for $25 per month with an overage fee of $10 for each extra gigabyte of data.
When it launches, AT&T's 4G LTE service will be offered in just five markets: Atlanta, Chicago, Dallas-Fort Worth, Houston and San Antonio, the carrier said in a statement. However, AT&T has said it plans to expand its LTE coverage aggressively and that 4G LTE is where its network is headed.
Verizon has a hefty head start on AT&T and other rivals with its 4G LTE network currently offered in 165 markets.
AT&T has offered 4G phones for months, but its previous handsets ran on the company's HSPA+ network, which offers theoretical top speeds of 42 megabytes per second for downloads and 23 megabytes per second for uploads.
LTE networks, from both AT&T and Verizon, have promised to be as much as 10 times fast than 3G networks, with speeds of theoretical top speeds of 300 megabytes pers second for downloads and 75 megabytes per second for uploads.
Of course, just how fast and how reliable a cellular network varies by city and by carrier. T-Mobile currently uses a HSPA+ 4G network and Sprint uses a technology called WiMax for its 4G service, but both are also looking to eventually switch to LTE networks as well. LTE refers to "long term evolution" and is considered to be the most scalable of the 4G options for telecommunications companies.
Nonetheless, the hype around both phones is building.
One thing the two phones share, other than launching on Verizon Wireless and having big screens and thin profiles, is that neither has a set U.S. release date as of yet.
But the Galaxy Nexus does now have a U.K. release date. According to an Amazon.co.uk listing, the Galaxy Nexus will be released on Nov. 17.
That's none too far away. So far, Verizon has only said that the Galaxy Nexus will launch "before the end of the year" in the U.S. and "early November" for the Droid Razr.
The Galaxy Nexus, which is being produced by Samsung with Google's input on design, will feature a 4.65-inch touchscreen with a resolution of 1280 x 720 pixels, a 1.2-gigahertz dual-core processor, 1 gigabyte of RAM, 16 gigabytes of built-in storage, a 5-megapixel rear camera capable of shooting 1080p video and a 1.3-megapixel camera on the front for video chatting.
The Droid Razr will feature a 4.3-inch touchscreen, a 1.2-gigahertz dual-core processor, 1 gigabyte of RAM, 16 gigabytes of built-in storage, an 8-megapixel rear camera capable of shooting 1080p video and a 1.3-megapixel front-facing camera for (you guessed it) video chats.
The Razr will launch running Android Gingerbread (the most recent version of Android before Ice Cream Sandwich) also include a 16-gigabyte microSD card, a price of $300 on a two-year-contract and be the thinnest 4G smartphone available. The Razr will get an update to Ice Cream Sandwich next year.
Verizon has not yet stated a U.S. price for the Galaxy Nexus.
Motorola's new Droid Razr smartphone went on pre-order Thursday at a price of $300 with a two-year Verizon contract.
The new Razr, named after the popular flip phone from the early 2000s, should hit stores in early November -- Motorola and Verizon have yet to name an official release date.
The major selling point of the Razr is its slim 7.1-millimeter thickness and its light weight. Motorola says the Razr is the thinnest 4G phone on the market.
The phone also has a back covered in kevlar, which aids it in being so thin, with a 4.3-inch touchscreen up front and a 1.2-gigahertz dual-core processor inside.
As for cameras, the Razr will pack an 8-megapixel and 1080p shooter out back and a 1.3-megapixel front-facing camera. It also features 1 gigabyte of RAM and 32 gigabytes of storage (16 gigabytes built in and another 16 gigabytes on an included microSD card).
The Razr will displace the Droid Bionic, which launched in September, as the top Android handset in Verizon's product line -- that is, until the Galaxy Nexus from Samsung is released sometime before year's end.
The Razr will run Android Gingerbread. The Galaxy Nexus will be the first handset to run Android Ice Cream Sandwich, the newest version of Google's mobile operating system. The Razr will get an Ice Cream Sandwich update, but that probably won't come until next year.