Sprint launches loaded Evo for LTE network

Bloomberg News file photo

Old name. New phone.

Sprint Nextel Corp. on Wednesday debuted a new Evo smartphone — a gizmo the carrier said is geared to take full advantage of its coming upgraded network.

The $200 phone made by HTC Corp. will move on the wireless company’s fastest-to-date broadband network and tap into technology that will even make phone voice conversations clearer.

It will be available the first half of the year.

The original HTC Evo — introduced about two years ago — was the first phone to use Sprint’s first high-speed 4G network over WiMax technology. Now Sprint is shifting its wireless broadband customers to LTE, or long-term evolution, 4G technology. The new Evo figures to be the first star of the Sprint stable of phones to put that network to use.

The company has sold 7 million of the earlier Evos.

Sprint expects LTE service to light up in Kansas City and a handful of other markets this summer. Industry leaders Verizon Wireless and AT&T are well ahead of Overland Park-based Sprint in deploying roughly comparable networks.

Sprint is in the midst of a multi-billion-dollar upgrade of its network to spread LTE 4G across the country and to improve its 3G service like that used by Apple’s iPhone and other data-hungry devices.

“It’s the latest and greatest technology in one phone,” said Fared Adib, Sprint’s vice president of products.

The latest Evo will cost users about $80 a month before taxes, meaning the total cost of carrying the device over the length of a two-year contract tops $2,100. While comparing the plans of different carriers is messy business, Sprint’s rates generally run below those of Verizon and AT&T.

Sprint also is continuing the unlimited data consumption — at least as long as a user is on the Sprint network — that sets it apart from the field.

Launching the Evo might mean short-term expenses for the struggling No. 3 cellular company. The true cost of smartphones is much greater than the retail price that consumers pay. Carriers recoup that cost over the length of the service contracts.

The latest Evo comes loaded with a variety of features sure to make gadget obsessives salivate — excluding iPhone fanatics. It will run on the latest Android operating system from Google — what the company calls the Ice Cream Sandwich. Reviewers have been largely adoring of Ice Cream Sandwich phones recently put on the market by other carriers.

It also includes Beats Audio technology, a recent favorite among audiophiles. It has a camera that can shoot video and still pictures simultaneously. It’s slightly larger than the already bigger-than-most Evos that preceded it.

And Sprint said the new Evo would take advantage of what the company calls an “HD Voice” network, perhaps reducing the ways cellphone calls so often and so maddeningly sound like cellphone calls. Sprint said it will launch that higher-quality sound network late this year.