Leap to sell prepaid Android tablet next year

No-contract Cricket provider Leap Wireless (NASDAQ:LEAP) plans to sell a tablet in the first half of next year, said Matt Stoiber, VP and general manager of device development at Leap. Stoiber said the gadget likely would sport a 7-inch display, run Android 2.2 and offer prepaid voice and data services via Leap's CDMA EV-DO Rev. A network.

Stoiber declined to provide further details, including a vendor and pricing. He said the carrier expects to offer additional tablet products from multiple vendors in the second half of 2011.

That Cricket plans a tablet isn't much of a surprise; Samsung last month announced that all four Tier 1 U.S. carriers would sell its Android 2.2-powered GalaxyTab tablet (though none will provide voice service for the gadget). Indeed, handset vendors and wireless carriers alike are keen to jump into the tablet game following the massive success of Apple's (NASDAQ:AAPL) iPad.

Stoiber provided a few interesting insights into Leap's handset strategy. He said the prepaid, no-contract carrier expects to broaden its smartphone lineup during the first part of next year with additional BlackBerry and Android devices (the carrier this week introduced its second Android gadget, the Huawei Ascend). He also said the company is looking at Microsoft's forthcoming Windows Phone 7 platform, but said Leap has no plans to offer WP7 phones in the near future.

As for Apple's iPhone, Stoiber said Leap "would love to have" the option of selling the popular device. He said Leap has not had conversations with Apple for a possible CDMA iPhone for Leap's Cricket service. The Wall Street Journal this week reported that Verizon Wireless (NYSE:VZ) will sell a CDMA iPhone starting early next year.

Finally, Stoiber discussed Leap's handset sourcing efforts. He said Huawei recently has become a major device supplier to the carrier; Leap has introduced a number of Huawei gadgets in the past few months. Stoiber said Huawei has been able to meet Leap's requirements for inexpensive devices.

Interestingly, Stoiber said Leap also has contracted directly with Chinese manufacturing companies for handsets. He said the carrier currently works with Korean design company ACTS to design products, which Chinese manufacturing companies then build and ship to Leap in the United States. The effort helps Leap keep costs low, Stoiber said.

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