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The Smartphone reborn at CES?

HTC Thunderbolt. LG Revolution. Samsung LTE. New 4G devices from LG, HTC and Samsung attempted to redefine the smartphone from an Android perspective this week. Or was it just Verizon Wireless attempting to justify its investment in an LTE network? All three manufacturers have bought into Android as their operating systems, and all offer dazzling 4.3″ touchscreens. The crowds were in but the jury was out at the Consumer Electronics Show (CES) in Las Vegas this week, as ARTHUR GOLDSTUCK reports.

The announcements came thick and fast at the Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas yesterday and today:

Verizon Wireless and LG Mobile Phones announced the first 4G LTE smartphone from LG, the LG Revolution.

Verizon Wireless and HTC unveiled its newest 4G smartphone, the HTC ThunderBolt, one of the world’s first 4G LTE Android smartphones, ‚coming soon exclusively‚ to the Verizon Wireless 4G LTE Mobile Broadband network.

Yes, you get the message: it was all about Verizon Wireless and its 4G LTE network, which theoretically will allow connectivity at speeds many times that of 3G.

The Verizon Wireless 4G LTE Mobile Broadband network was launched in December 2010, and claims to provide speeds up to 10 times faster than Verizon Wireless’ 3G network. It theoretically reaches one-third of all Americans, with plans to expand the network to the company’s entire 3G coverage area over the next three years.

But behind the announcements came the subtext: a new generation of smartphones is about to bring a new era in communications capabilities for individuals.

For example, the LG Revolution offers ‚complete HD support for streaming, playing and recording video multimedia while on-the-go‚ . It is ‚equipped with a chic design, large 4.3-inch touchscreen and Android 2.2 platform.‚

‚LG Revolution combines the Verizon Wireless 4G LTE Mobile Broadband network with the power of Android 2.2 to deliver a blazingly fast experience,‚ said Marni Walden, vice president and chief marketing officer for Verizon Wireless. ‚The introduction of the LG’s first 4G LTE smartphone will be a positive addition to our robust lineup of powerful smartphones.‚

The makers of the Android phone widely acknowledged as 2009’s phone of the year, the HTC Hero, are back with a bang, unveiling the HTC ThunderBolt, ‚one of the first smartphones to integrate Skype mobile with video calling. Rather than relying on a standalone application, it can be made as easily as a standard voice call ‚ with features like presence icons that indicate the availability status of friends built into the standard contacts list‚ .

Aside from a front-facing camera enabling video calling, the ThunderBolt also features the 1GHz Snapdragon processor from Qualcom and HTC Sense technology, all running on the Android 2.2 platform.

The features keep coming: ‚Creating and consuming mobile multimedia content is made possible with a 4.3‚ WVGA display, Dolby surround sound, 8-megapixel camera and HD video recording. With wireless DLNA capability, the HTC ThunderBolt can stream and share content directly with compatible home theater components, including HDTVs and stereo receivers that feature built-in DLNA support.‚

“”We are proud to not only be bringing one of the first 4G LTE Android smartphones to the Verizon Wireless network, but to offer people the unprecedented speed and ease of use that the HTC ThunderBolt provides to them,”” said Jason Mackenzie, president of HTC Americas. “”What makes 4G so compelling is not just technology, but what the technology allows people to do.””

Then there is the Samsung 4G LTE smartphone, equipped with the full Google smorgasbord: Google Search, Google Maps, Gmail, YouTube and access to the full Android Market of more than 100,000 applications.

It’s the screen quality that destroys the opposition here: ‚The Samsung 4G LTE smartphone boasts a 4.3-inch Super AMOLED Plus touch screen display, powerful 1GHz application processor and HTML5 Web browser that uses high-speed 4G LTE connectivity for faster downloads.‚

It also comes with a rear-facing 8-megapixel camera with LED flash and front-facing 1.3-megapixel camera, the better to video chat.

“”The Samsung 4G LTE smartphone is an ideal option for those who look to Samsung Mobile for sleek and innovative devices combined with blazing fast speeds of Android 2.2 on the nation’s most advanced 4G network,”” said Walden. “”This powerful combination enables our customers to connect face to face with family and friends, while still enjoying premium multimedia and social networking features backed by the Verizon Wireless 4G LTE Mobile Broadband network.””

Of course, the crowds flocked to the Verizon Wireless Stand at CES to sample these and other new devices, but there was no unanimous buzz of approval.

When the devices hit the stores, and connect to the 4G network ‚in the wild‚ , the evidence of real life will tell us how well they live up to the hype.

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