Remember the map wars between AT&T
A new Sprint ad shows two young dudes lounging on a park bench -- or rather, one guy lounges while the other is frantically battling his cell phone. That phone turns out to be an Apple
"My friend Steve's iPhone is cool, but it's limited to AT&T's 3G speeds," he says. "So I'm gonna use the Overdrive 4G mobile hotspot to make it up to 10 times faster. While that's happening, I'm gonna enjoy this tasty snack." He pulls out a Sprint-connected portable Wi-Fi hotspot and -- of course -- a tasty apple, and Steve's 3G troubles are over.
Cue the legal fireworks. If AT&T got incensed over Verizon using Ma Bell's own 3G coverage maps as a weapon, you have to think that this no-nonsense critique of the AT&T network will cause some aggravation as well.
Verizon could at least back its claims with some solid data, even if AT&T's spotty coverage has reportedly improved since then. Sprint is picking cherries to climb the Apple tree here. That "10 times the speed" claim rests on a worst-case 3G connection and the most positive 4G data Sprint can muster on its own network. "Triple the speed" might be closer to the truth on average.
Besides, Sprint's 4G network has only opened up in 33 cities so far, with a heavy Midwestern concentration. Major population centers like San Francisco and New York, where AT&T's network quality has drawn the most ire so far, are not covered at all -- so Matt's clever solution wouldn't help Steve at all in most cases. Sprint's own coverage information will make that very clear if you try to order an Overdrive gadget.
With iPhones, iPads, and Google
By the time Sprint has covered most of the country, chances are that Verizon and AT&T have gotten their own 4G installations in gear. After the undisputed failure of the Palm
Fool contributor Anders Bylund owns shares in Google, but he holds no other position in any of the companies discussed here. Sprint Nextel is a Motley Fool Inside Value pick. Google is a Motley Fool Rule Breakers selection. Apple is a Motley Fool Stock Advisor recommendation. Try any of our Foolish newsletters today, free for 30 days. You can check out Anders' holdings and a concise bio if you like, and The Motley Fool is investors writing for investors.