Sprint embraces WiFi in smartphones

Sprint Nextel is requiring its smartphone suppliers to add WiFi capability to their devices for the carrier going forward, and the operator announced it will release an updated version of the BlackBerry Tour next year that will include WiFi.

"Sprint is embracing WiFi in all its major devices going forward," Jeff Clemow, the carrier's director of business product marketing, told FierceWireless.

Sprint is launching the BlackBerry Tour smartphone Sunday for $200. The device features support for both CDMA and GSM networks. Verizon Wireless also is offering the device Sunday, for the same price.

WiFi is becoming a must-have for smartphone users. A recent ABI Research report on behalf of the WiFi Alliance shows consumers view WiFi as a "must-have" feature for mobile handsets. The firm found that 77 percent of mobile phone users want WiFi on their next handset and three-fourths of the people who have WiFi capability in their smartphones use it regularly.

As such, a major complaint among Tour reviewers is that the device lacks support for WiFi. To rectify the situation, Sprint's Clemow said the carrier will offer a version of the BlackBerry Tour starting next year that will include WiFi. He declined to provide a launch date for the device, other than to say that it will launch sometime after the first of the year.

Clemow said Sprint decided to launch the current version of the Tour without WiFi so as not to fall behind the curve. "Speed to market ... outweighed the desire to wait for WiFi," he said.

Verizon Wireless declined to discuss its plans for the WiFi-capable Tour. "In terms of the BlackBerry Tour, I won't speak to that specific device but we are certainly working with RIM to be able to offer WiFi on future BlackBerry smartphones," said Verizon Wireless spokeswoman Brenda Boyd Raney, adding that the carrier currently offers a range of smartphones that include WiFi functions. Rumors surfaced in April that the next generation of the BlackBerry Storm will include WiFi.

For more:
- see FierceWireless

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