Despite a nationwide marketing campaign, Sprint offers only one 4G-connected handset today: the HTC EVO 4G. That Android-powered smartphone joins its Verizon-bound cousin, the Droid Incredible, in leaning on Samsung for supplying the touchscreen hardware. But Samsung seems to reserve the lion's share of screens for itself these days, leaving but a trickle of supply for HTC and others.
A second 4G phone is coming Sprint's way now, and this one is a Samsung original. That should guarantee steady access to screens, though we're talking chronically volume-limited OLED displays this time. But aside from having 4G radios and a slide-out keyboard, essentially the same model is rolling out to every major network in North America. All told, I don't think that's enough of a difference maker.
Sprint is betting big on the 4G advantage, but the stars are not aligning for huge success here. The network needs to order up 4G handsets from a few more vendors to relieve that choking bottleneck, and make sure that they don't all draw crucial parts from the same single-component manufacturer. That's not easy to do for a company with shrinking annual revenue, negative earnings, and thus a limited budget for marketing and supplier concessions.
Has Sprint fumbled the 4G advantage beyond recovery or is the ball still in play? Discuss in the comments box below.