Top 5: CTIA Las Vegas Top 5 stories

Noah Kravitz
 from  Oakland, CA
| Published: March 26, 2010

Top 5 Thursdays is a day late this week, but I have a valid excuse: It took me a full day to begin recovering from the madness that is a trade show in Las Vegas. So without further ado, I give you my Top 5 stories from CTIA Vegas 2010.

Note: Check out all of our CTIA Las Vegas 2010 coverage in one handy place

1. Sprint HTC Evo 4G

Evo stole the show, though perhaps by not quite as wide of a margin as other reports might have you believe. Still, the buzz in Vegas was all about Sprint's forthcoming HTC-made WiMax Android phone. Set to ship "sometime this Summer," Evo 4G takes the large, thin form factor of HTC's HD2 and steps it up with the Android 2.1 operating system, a dual-mode WiMax/EV-DO radio, and an 8MP camera with 720p HD video capture complimented by a front-facing 1.3MP cam. The result is arguably the most advanced cell phone in the world, if you can call something like this a "phone" and not a "pocket computer" or "Star Trek Communicator Thingy."

Sprint considers 2010 to be the year of 4G - Their year, in other words. While Evo may or may not be too big and too advanced for mass consumer adoption, there's no doubting the device's prowess. Aaron and I got some hands-on time with a demo unit running far-from-final software, and it was still smooth and fast. Android 2.1 with HTC Sense looks and feels great on the massive 4.3" capacitive display, and the form factor is pretty ideal for watching HD video on the go, a feature Sprint hyped up in their launch and demos to media. Look for a massive advertising campaign aimed at getting Evo into the hands of the masses - and not just the early adopters - when the phone drops in a few months. Hopefully by then Sprint's nationwide 4G rollout will have made it to my neck of the woods, too - not only will Evo 4G be the first WiMax phone to ship in the US, but it'll also double as a mobile hotspot.

2. Samsung Galaxy S

While most reporters at the show would have you believe nothing else announced in Vegas came close to the starpower of Evo 4G, I actually thing Samsung's new flagship smartphone is a worthy competitor for the title of "Superphone of the moment." Why? Galaxy S has a ton of processing power under the hood and an insanely beautiful 4.0" Super AMOLED display going for it. The phone also runs Android 2.1, and Samsung's recent efforts at skinning Android and WinMo have been less than successful, Galaxy S actually may have some interesting software add-ons going for it in the way of cloud integration and media/file sharing goodies. 

But who cares what the custom UI looks like when at its core the device is an Android-running monster? Galaxy S is fast and smooth, and that 4" display is absolutely stunning - Super AMOLED looks like it's ready to make good on the promise of "Everything you love about AMOLED, but it works in direct sunlight, too!" Beyond that, the device is ultra thin at just 9.9mm from front to back, it's lightweight, and it's capacitive touchscreen is complimented by an optical D-Pad. And the custom 1GHz processor packed into the phone has three-to-four times the graphics processing power of the iPhone 3GS, Motorola Droid, or Snapdragon-powered Nexus One.

Perhaps just as noteworthy than the phone itself, however, is this juicy bit of gossip I heard from a very well-placed source: Samsung is doing everything they can to launch Galaxy S on all four major US carriers this Summer. Now wouldn't that be interesting?

3. T-Mobile's Lightning-Fast HSDPA+ Network

Everyone's talking 4G, but T-Mobile's 3.5G HSDPA+ network is actually faster than Sprint's current 4G WiMax implementation.Theoretically, T-Mo's new network can achieve 21 Mbps down, while Sprint's WiMax maxes out at 10 Mbps peak. In practice, I saw T-Mo's new webConnect Rocket USB stick do just over 8 Mbps down and 2 Mbps on more than one test. And I was able to use my "old fashioned" webConnect USB stick - which has a 7.2 Mbps theoretical max - to achieve uplink speeds on par with my home cable modem. More on that in a separate post.

Neither network is rolled out nationwide, but if both carriers make good on their promises for the rest of the year, T-Mobile could very well have the fastest mobile data network in the land - with enough people covered to make for some pretty good PR ops - before 2010 is through.

4. Tablets

iPad hits early adopters' hands next week. NVidia showed off more Tegra 2-based prototypes they swear will hit market later this year. JooJoo is actually shipping, or so they say. AT&T launched their other tablet, the OpenPeak OpenTablet. And Dell was in the house with their Android-powered slate, too. The tablets are coming, and they'll be sucking data through the same pipes as your smartphone. Get ready.

5. Cheap phones still rule

Mostly we talk about smartphones because that's where the big money, hot specs, and sexy features are. But cheap phones still rule. During their media luncheon, AT&T said that 65% of phones they sold in Q4 of 2009 were "non-smartphones." David Christopher, the carrier's chief marketing officer, said that sales of Quick Messaging Phones - AT&T's name for mid-range messaging devices - are on the rise with buyers who want access to mobile Email/messaging and other smartphone features, but don't need all of the bells, whistles, and complexity of a true smartphone.

Messaging phones are also marginally cheaper - both in terms of out-the-door and monthly service costs - than their "smarter" counterparts. So while I still think the messaging phone's days are numbered, don't count them out just yet. Especially not when AT&T and Verizon are both making a push to open "App Stores" for their messaging phones.