Sprint Nextel (NYSE:S) unveiled the pricing and release date for its second 3G/4G smartphone, the Samsung Epic, continuing the carrier's push to differentiate itself through its partnership with Clearwire (NASDAQ:CLWR).
The nation's No. 3 carrier will launch the Epic Aug. 31 for $249.99 with a two-year contract and after a $100 mail-in rebate. Sprint will begin taking reservations for the phone Aug. 13.
The device, a version of Samsung's Galaxy S line of smartphones, is Samsung's first WiMAX-powered handset and Sprint's second, after the HTC Evo. The Evo, which has been a strong seller for Sprint, retails for $199.99 with a two-year contract and after a $100 mail-in rebate. Like the other variants of the Galaxy S, the Epic runs Android 2.1 and sports a 1 GHz Samsung Hummingbird processor, 4-inch Super AMOLED screen and 5-megapixel camera. However, unlike other versions, it also offers a full Qwerty keyboard and a front-facing camera for video chatting. Sprint plans to upgrade the phone to Android 2.2. in the coming months.
Kevin Packingham, Sprint's senior vice president of product and technology development, is also leaving the company, Sprint spokeswoman Jennifer Walsh Kiefer confirmed to FierceWireless. Packingham's last day will be Aug. 16, and he is leaving to become the CEO of a new Kansas-City based venture, Walsh Kiefer said. Steve Elfman, president of network operations and wholesale, and Fared Adib, vice president of product development, will take over Packingham's duties, she said. Packingham was one of the driving forces behind Sprint's launch of the Evo. BTIG analyst Walter Piecyk first broke the news about Packingham in a blog post.
The news of Packingham's departure comes shortly after Dan Schulman, Sprint's prepaid chief, said he will be leaving the company, effective Aug. 23. Walsh Kiefer said the timing is purely coincidental. "They both had tremendous opportunities that they couldn't turn down," she told FierceWireless. "And it's a positive reflection on how highly regarded our executives are viewed in the industry."
Back on the 4G front, Sprint CEO Dan Hesse has made the expansion of 4G--and the wider availability of 4G devices that can use Clearwire's mobile WiMAX network--a key strategic imperative for Sprint this year. Clearwire has been steadily expanding the number of markets it serves, and now covers 49 markets and over 62 million million POPs; it plans to cover 80 markets and 120 million POPs by the end of the year.
- see this BTIG blog post (sub. req.)
- see this release
- see these Epic pictures and specs
Samsung unleashes slew of Galaxy S Android phones
Sprint gets back to positive subscriber growth in Q2
Samsung banks on LTE gadgets, Galaxy S
Sprint launching HTC Evo June 4 for $199
Article updated Aug. 12 to reflect who will be taking over Kevin Packingham's duties.