NEW YORK (Reuters) - Sprint Nextel, the No.3 U.S. mobile service, is hoping to turn heads next month with the EVO 4G LTE, an HTC Corp phone with an advanced camera, a big screen, a high-speed wireless connection and crisper voice call quality.
While many people have claimed that voice is "dead" in point of fact it is not, and one persistent bug-a-boo with voice quality has been intentional bandwidth "management" by carriers. CDMA (and W-CDMA) along with GSM carriers have for years "squeezed" voice channels; AT&T for example ran half-rate CODECs basically forever on their GSM voice calls in order to double the available calls they could handle, but at the cost of material voice quality impairment. CDMA carriers and similar have done the same thing.
The new phone's "high definition" voice quality is likely an LTE-data-based calling enhancement; I've not looked into it yet but it makes sense. If in fact this is what Sprint and HTC are up to it will be significantly better than what you get now on a mobile voice call and that does matter.
I still use my landline for Blogtalk, for example, and for other times that I actually need to be able to hear the other side (and they me) despite having "unlimited" minutes on my cell. This is not vanity, it is simply call quality, and I'm on T-Mobile which is the only US carrier that has paid attention to voice call quality in the last decade or so. Unlike AT&T and others they never went to the half-rate CODECs, preferring instead to run full-rate AMR even though it meant their towers could handle fewer calls per cell.
If Sprint has committed to resolving this in favor of voice quality it's a good thing. The photo features in the new phone are also fairly impressive; multiple exposures with one button press will appeal to many people, especially in a small camera phone where "shake" often ruins a single shot (but one of a series may be good.)
The LTE capability is, of course, also important from a "brand" and "spec" perspective, but I'm less-sold on it in terms of practical application -- unless you're tethering (which Sprint supports), in which case it definitely does matter.
Sprint's stock has barely moved on this, probably due to the influence of the iFanboi craze. It will be interesting to see how the device plays once launched -- the Evo line in general has been a big seller for Sprint and a driver of their popularity as a carrier. Advancements in that line and the technology available, especially in voice quality, will continue to add to that appeal.
Disclosure: The author has a speculative long position in Sprint.
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