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.
Fool contributor Anders Bylund holds no position in any of the companies discussed here. Sprint Nextel is a Motley Fool Inside Value recommendation. Apple is a Motley Fool Stock Advisor selection. 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.