Sprint (NYSE:S) is discontinuing sales of the Samsung Electronics Galaxy S4 mini, one of its first two phones enabled with its new Wi-Fi calling feature, less than a month after announcing the feature would be available in the phone.
Sprint's Galaxy S4 mini
Sprint spokeswoman Natalie Papaj confirmed to FierceWireless that the "Samsung Galaxy S4 mini is being discontinued, though customers may find some remaining inventory through Sprint.com and other sales channels. We plan to offer more Wi-Fi [calling]-enabled smartphones in the coming months." She said Sprint would be posting further information on its online Sprint Community forum about Wi-Fi calling.
Papaj said that there is no specific reason Sprint is discontinuing sales of the S4 mini. "It is just part of the normal [device] life cycle," she said.
The Samsung Galaxy Mega is now the only Sprint phone that supports Wi-Fi calling, which Sprint announced in late February. On Feb. 21, Sprint said that the phones would get access to the service after installing an over-the-air update. The update notification was to be pushed automatically to Galaxy S4 mini and Mega users "during the next few weeks," Sprint said.
The launch of Wi-Fi calling from Sprint pits it against T-Mobile US (NYSE:TMUS), which has offered first-party Wi-Fi calling for free since May 2011. Sprint plans to launch its first devices with Wi-Fi calling enabled out-of-box later this year.
Currently, Wi-Fi calling only works on Android phones since it needs to be deeply embedded into the handset, which is only currently only possible on Android devices, according to Sprint. The underlying technology is an embedded Kineto client and technology from Taqua.
In a blog post last month, Sprint touted the benefits of Wi-Fi calling, including enhanced coverage, easy setup and unlimited voice calling and messaging over Wi-Fi, since all domestic calling and messaging is free (standard CDMA international rates will apply for international calls). Sprint said its customers "will experience improved voice, data and messaging services in locations that previously had limited or no mobile network coverage." The service will be available via a Wi-Fi calling icon on a user's phone.
The offering from Sprint is notable in light of the fact that Sprint supports multiple MVNOs that have a Wi-Fi-first business model, including Republic Wireless and Scratch Wireless.
Sprint's LTE network now covers 200 million POPs, but has consistently been rated by third-party research firms as the slowest of the Tier 1 carriers. Adding Wi-Fi calling could potentially enhance data services in areas where Sprint's LTE network has not yet been deployed.
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