Today is a big day for Cricket Wireless, as the carrier has announced an expansion of its 4G LTE network as well as its first two LTE-capable smartphones. Cricket's LTE network is now live in Philadelphia, Pa. and Phoenix, Ariz., as well as Houston, San Antonio, Austin, Laredo, Corpus Christi and Brownsville-McAllen-Harlingen, Texas. Cricket says that its LTE service now covers 21 million people in 11 markets.
The first Cricket smartphone that will be capable of accessing that newly-deployed LTE service is the LG Optimus Regard. Available online and in Cricket stores starting today, the Optimus Regard touts a 3.5-inch HVGA display and VGA camera on its face, along with a 5-megapixel shooter around back. Under the hood is a 1.2GHz dual-core processor, 1GB RAM, 8GB ROM, microSD slot and a 1,700mAh battery. The Optimus Regard comes preloaded with Android 4.0 Ice Cream Sandwich and carries a price tag of $249.99, though it's currently available from Cricket's website for $229.99.
A bit higher on the specs ladder is where we'll find Cricket's second LTE smartphone, the Samsung Galaxy S III. The Galaxy S III will be available from Cricket stores and online by November 23 for $549.99. Cricket's S III is the same unit that's available on several other U.S. operators, meaning that you can expect a 4.8-inch 1280x720 HD Super AMOLED display, 1.5GHz dual-core processor, 16GB storage, 8-megapixel rear and 1.9-megapixel front cameras and a 2,100mAh battery. Cricket's Galaxy S III will come to market with Android 4.0 Ice Cream Sandwich in tow.
As far as rate plans for these new LTE smartphones go, Cricket is offering "4G LTE Android Double Data" plans that include twice the full-speed data allotment of its 3G plans for a limited time. The lowest tier plan offers 2GB of full-speed 4G LTE data for $50 per month, and there are also $60 and $70 plans that include 5GB and 10GB of full-speed data, respectively. Cricket also says that its Muve Music service will not be available on either the Optimus Regard or Galaxy S III at launch, but that it will be added in updates that are expected to be released in December.
Cricket first launched its 4G LTE network in Tucson, Ariz., back in late 2011 and then expanded it to Las Vegas, Nev., last month. Today's expansion has made Cricket's LTE footprint significantly larger, and the carrier's first two LTE smartphones offer either an affordable way to hop onto that LTE coverage as well as a higher-end option for folks that want to go that route. So now that Cricket's LTE network is growing and its got one 4G smartphone already here and another on the way, are any of you thinking about giving Cricket LTE a go?