How will Sprint's WiMAX/3G smartphone match up to the new iPhone?

Sprint Nextel is set to release its first WiMAX/3G phone, the HTC Evo 4G, on June 4. It's got a hefty set of advanced capabilities but it also comes with a hefty price tag if you want to take advantage of all it has to offer. Perhaps the biggest aspect is that you pay for WiMAX access whether it's in your market or not in a bid to emphasise the premium nature of the high-speed technology.

The problem is WiMAX still has a ways to go for a solid footprint. It's available in 32 markets today with plans to expand to another 18 markets by the end of 2010. But perhaps the impressive array of features will make that point moot. The Evo has a 4.3-inch touch screen display, an 8-megapixel camera on the back, a 1.3-megapixel camera on the front, HD video capture, Android 2.1, HTC's Sense UI, Qualcomm's 1 GHz Snapdragon processor, support for Adobe's Flash technology in the browser and a hotspot capability whereby it can broadcast a WiFi signal for up to eight devices.

If you want to take advantage of the device, you pay $200 with a two-year contract and the standard $100 rebate. According to Cnet, the device will require an Everything Data Plan, which begins at $70 per month, along with a $10 "Premium Data Add-on" for WiMAX, regardless of whether you live in an area where WiMAX is available. The idea is for subscribers to take advantage of WiMAX if they happen to travel to a WiMAX market. In all, you would pay at a minimum of $110 per month if you also opt for the hotspot capability that costs another $30 per month.

Interestingly, Sprint apparently believes that the Evo 4G can hold its own against the updated version of the iPhone, which is expected to be introduced in June. In fact, Apple's WWDC event begins on June 7, and Apple is expected to unveil the newest version of the iPhone at this event.

It's not the first time Sprint has done this either--think the Palm Pre, which was introduced last year on June 6, the same month the new iPhone came out. The newer iPhone overshadowed the Pre. Will it happen again? Will subscribers balk at paying an extra $10 month if they aren't going to use WiMAX?

This should be an interesting test for other operators looking to roll out 3G/4G devices when 4G coverage isn't so optimal. Can you charge extra for services subscribers may not use just because it's more advanced?--Lynnette