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HTC Does What Google Wouldn't: Sell an LTE Phone That Sidesteps AT&T 290

Posted by Soulskill
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schwit1 writes "You won't see it advertised on billboards or television, you won't hear it mentioned in a carrier store, and your less technologically-savvy friends most certainly won't know about it — but quietly, HTC's done something extraordinarily important this month: it's broken AT&T's stranglehold on its nationwide LTE network. It's a move that even Google, for all its money, power, and influence, didn't make with the Nexus 4. HTC is shipping both 32GB and 64GB versions of the One — an early contender for the best phone of 2013 — in a carrier- and bootloader-unlocked version that supports both T-Mobile and AT&T LTE. No strings attached."
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HTC Does What Google Wouldn't: Sell an LTE Phone That Sidesteps AT&T

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  • News at elleven (Score:5, Informative)

    by spectrokid (660550) on Wednesday April 24, 2013 @05:23AM (#43534489) Homepage
    company dears to do something in the US (under cover of darkness) which is standard practice everywhere else on this planet. Welcome to the 21th century!
    • Re:News at elleven (Score:5, Insightful)

      by captainpanic (1173915) on Wednesday April 24, 2013 @05:26AM (#43534491)

      I was just gonna write something similar. It is very common to be able to buy a phone without contract in the Netherlands, and then buy a separate sim-card somewhere. What's all the fuss about? But then I guess we do occasionally blow news items from the USA out of proportion, so maybe I should just take it with a grain of salt and grab another cup of coffee.

      • Re:News at elleven (Score:5, Informative)

        by sabri (584428) * on Wednesday April 24, 2013 @05:43AM (#43534543)

        It is very common to be able to buy a phone without contract in the Netherlands, and then buy a separate sim-card somewhere.

        You can do that in the U.S. as well. You will just pay the full price.

        The reason why lots of cellphones are carrier-locked, is because the carrier subsidizes the purchase and charges less for the phone than the manufacturer does. Your brand new Nokia 6220 will cost Telfort 300 Euries, but you will only pay 49.95 if you sign a 2 year contract. So in that case, Telfort's business model to subsidize your new phone will be based on the assumption that you will use their service. In order to "force" you to do so, the phone is locked to accept only Telfort Sim cards.

        This model has evolved to certain manufacturers doing only business with certain service providers and basically locking them in. For example, here in the U.S. the first Iphone could only be purchased at AT&T and thus would be sim-locked for the AT&T network.

        The news here is that HTC now breaks that tradition and just offers their cellphone directly to consumers, simlock free. And that does matter.

        • The reason why lots of cellphones are carrier-locked, is because the carrier subsidizes the purchase and charges less for the phone than the manufacturer does. Your brand new Nokia 6220 will cost Telfort 300 Euries, but you will only pay 49.95 if you sign a 2 year contract.

          Yeah, they do that here, too. What I don't get is why that requires SIM-locking. You sign a two-year contract. So if you decide you want to jump ship in the middle of it, you're still required to pay out that contract. In fact, it's in Telfort's best interest if you do - not only do they receive your full payment for however long you had left on your contract, they won't have to provide you any service. There's no need to lock your SIM to force you to use their service; the contract already guarantees you'l

        • Re:News at elleven (Score:5, Insightful)

          by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday April 24, 2013 @07:55AM (#43535085)

          No, you idiot. You pay 49.95 now, and the rest as downpayment through your 2 year contract. The cost isn't subsidised, it's hidden.

          • Re:News at elleven (Score:5, Insightful)

            by nightgeometry (661444) on Wednesday April 24, 2013 @08:31AM (#43535289) Journal
            Pity you are at 0, because this is exactly it. Whenever I wish to change phone I look at the same phone on contract 'subsidised' and paying outright. Every time so far it has worked out cheaper to buy the phone, then equivalent service. Also every time my monthly cost has dropped after some time, so it works out even cheaper than the original calculation makes out. Further - if i wish to change phone, I sell the old one, and get to choose a new one (I never come out ahead, but it is nice to reduce the burden).
            • by Andy Dodd (701)

              The problem is that sometimes it is hard to get service without the subsidy penalty.

              Fortunately, it is much easier now than it was a year or so ago, thanks to Straight Talk and Net10's SIM-only plans (both give you choices of AT&T or T-Mobile's network, although new AT&T ST SIMs may be temporarily unavailable.) and T-Mobile's new plan structures.

              When my contract is up, it's off to ST (if they are offering AT&T SIMs again at that point) or Net10 for me.

          • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

            by jawtheshark (198669) *
            Yes, that is true... However, it's not the whole story. Especially not where I live, considering iPhones. A mid-range iPhone contract costs 45€/month for everything flat-rate, except roaming. When you subscribe to that contract you get an iPhone 4S for 49€ or an iPhone 5 for 149€. The thing is: there is no contract that is cheaper which would provide the same functionality.

            I don't have an iPhone. My wife does. She got it two years ago, with that plan. The phone is still perfectly fine

    • by bfandreas (603438)
      I also wondered how this was newsworthy. I'm quite used to buying a phone that's not locked and not worry about a carrier. We've got 3 carriers busily beavering away at this LTE thing with and they have achieved some kind of coverage. Yet none of them offer a data plan that makes some sense. At least I got some choice.

      Isn't LTE godawful for a phone? Wasn't there that thing where phones had to be switched down to GSM/UMTS to make voice calls? I'd like LTE for a tablet, but on a phone it makes very little s
      • by todrules (882424)

        T-Mobile has a truly unlimited data plan, which is on their HSPA+ as well as LTE, if available. Granted, their LTE coverage pretty much sucks as of right now but should be much improved by the end of the year.

        And, I agree about the downgrading the voice experience though. Not a very elegant solution. However, Voice Over LTE (VoLTE) should solve this, and most major carriers (AT&T, Verizon, and T-Mobile) are planning to implement this either in 2013 or 2014.

    • Apple has already been selling an LTE phone that sidesteps AT&T since last year:
      http://store.apple.com/us/buy/home/shop_iphone/family/iphone5
    • Schwit1 is sending traffic to the verge.
  • I doubt google had anything to do with the Nexus lacking AT&T LTE support and a lot more to do with LG cutting everything it could while optimizing for flagship performance. There is a reason LTE is disabled on the Nexus 4 now

    • by Lumpy (12016)

      It's not disabled, its plain old not there.

      • by Sollord (888521)

        Its disabled on the phones shipping now the first couple of months band 4 lte was fully functional which while worthless on AT&T for the most part does allow use of it on the new T-Mobile LTE network which is on band 4. Google eventually updated the Nexus 4 which killed the accidental LTE support so now you have rollback and use an old modem firmware and certain roms like CM10

  • Looks great except for One thing: No SD card slot, so screw it. I'm not buying into the "stream everything" BS. "Always online" is a disease. Lack of this basic feature is a huge "Fuck You" to me and anyone else who shuffles a lot of data -- The power users -- The people who would by the thing -- The target demographic...

    I mean, even my cunting Sansa Clip+ has a fucking SD card reader -- Loaded with a 64 gig micro SD... Which is more than this damn thing can store (the full 64GB of the 64GB version isn't fully usable for data) -- And I have a 8 of these cards (in a CD jewel case holder). It takes me 10 seconds to swap cards -- That's 384 GB/sec... For the price they're changing for this thing, it should be as feature complete as a $30 music player.

    What is it going to take? Wait until software defined radio gets cheap enough before I can have a damn SD card slot back? Ugh.

    • by nametaken (610866) on Wednesday April 24, 2013 @06:06AM (#43534607)

      Believe it or not, people care about different things.

      I use the hell out of my smartphones, but I've yet to need more than a few gig of local storage. I just don't use my phones to hold my entire music and movie collections, even if I have the option.

      And given how many smartphones do not have card slots, I'm going to go out on a limb and guess it isn't necessarily a make-or-break feature.

      • by dunkelfalke (91624) on Wednesday April 24, 2013 @07:03AM (#43534821)

        It is for me. Not only that my 16gb MicroSD card is almost full (offline navigation data, music), the micro USB port of my phone is broken. I can neither recharge it nor copy data through USB.

        If I had one of the many smartphones without a card slot or a changeable battery, I'd be screwed. As the things are right now, I can continue to use the phone - a top of the line device few years ago - until something else fails. I can even still update the firmware without much hassle.

        • by Lumpy (12016)

          "the micro USB port of my phone is broken. I can neither recharge it nor copy data through USB."

          Hello use the 802.11n wireless works just fine for copying data back and forth.

          Because my incredibly old and out of date Google Nexus HSPA+ (the galaxy nexus GSM as sold in europe.) has 802.11n.. and Wireless data access works fantastic, I just connect to the phone as it sits else where in the house. I can ssh into it, access files, etc... no problems at all.

          Oh and a tip moving foreward, be more careful wi

          • That works fine if you need to copy stuff only when you are at home. And yes, my even older HTC HD2 with the broken USB port has got 802.11n as well.

            • by Lumpy (12016)

              Why? your laptop doesnt have wireless? Wierd.... Because I do this at work, home, in my car, woods, secret bunker under the whitehouse....

              • My PC at work does not. There is no need because it is connected to the company LAN through gigabit ethernet.

    • by paziek (1329929)

      I honestly don't care about that, but I can imagine some people need it. What angers me most with todays phones is no LED notify on the phone, so we have to use some weird applications that either blink camera flash, buttons or actually turn on screen. I had very nice LED notify on my G1, as well as trackball (worked as mouse cursor in some webbrowsers) and hardware keyboard. If I could switch internals from my SGS2, then I would be happy to do it, even if it was more bulky.

      Also, it seems like battery is NO

      • by D4MO (78537)

        The HTC One has a LED notification light.

        The non-removable battery is a bit of a head scratcher alright.

    • by D4MO (78537)

      You, even by power user standard, are an edge case. I'm technology inclined / power user and the 64GB model is good enough for me without need for SD card.

    • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

      by Lumpy (12016)

      1999 called and they want their pissing and moaning back, You also forgot your rant about not being able to easily remove the battery. (Another red herring that has been a non issue for over 5 years now.)

      You are in a very small minority, because the large majority of smartphone users do not care at all about a microSD card slot in the age of 32gig phones.

    • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

      VortexCortex, please sit down, as it might come as a shock to you. No matter what your GPS display shows, you are not the center of the world, and the world does not pivot around you when you make that right turn from Lincoln Ave to Water St. Your use case is so extreme, supporting your needs produces so little marginal revenue for so much of pain, they will happily ignore you. If your needs are met, it would be purely an unintended side benefit happening because of supporting some more mainstream use case.
    • by poetmatt (793785)

      plex + home nas. Since when is streaming an issue?

  • Confusion? (Score:2, Interesting)

    by Anonymous Coward

    Wait a sec..

    ...bootloader-unlocked version that supports both T-Mobile and AT&T LTE.

    What does the summary mean by AT&T LTE?

    Does it mean that AT&T LTE is different from Other carrier's LTE? Why would a manufacturer make a phone that works only on a single carrier? Isn't LTE supposed to be a standard as opposed to a propreitary tech?

    I don't live in the USA, so I wouldn't know.. Everyhere else in the world, people would practically boycott the carrier which sold locked down phones like that..

    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      by Dorianny (1847922)
      Each carrier uses different frequencies. The majority of phones in the USA are sold by the carriers rather than the manufacturer, which they then sell to the user for a steep discount in exchange for signing up for a multi-year contract. Because it is the carriers rather than the end user who is making the actual purchase from the manufacturer, they typically ask them to do things like place sim-card restrictions and drop support for frequencies they do not use.
    • Re:Confusion? (Score:5, Informative)

      by squiggleslash (241428) on Wednesday April 24, 2013 @07:32AM (#43534963) Homepage Journal

      There's a variety of possibilities here, because LTE has kinda screwed up the standards thing.

      1. It might just mean frequency. For example, T-Mo's UMTS is different from AT&T's in that T-Mobile runs their's on 1700Mhz and 2100MHz, while AT&T runs their's on 850MHz and also on 1900MHz. That said, this seems unlikely, both are running LTE on 1700/2100, though AT&T is also running it on 700MHz.

      2. How the two networks use their frequencies may vary, though I doubt it. Verizon and AT&T choose different ways to handle, for example, uplink and downlink frequencies when running it on their 700MHz allocations.

      3. I don't know if either network supports voice on LTE yet, but there's at least three different ways to implement it and it's not impossible that T-Mobile has selected a different voice protocol to AT&T. No, I'm not making that up - originally, the intention was that voice on LTE would be GSM's pre-existing IMS protocol. Several carriers balked, arguing that it doesn't support what's necessary to ensure there's a consistent quality of service when the network is congested, and as a result there's VoLTE and also, for reasons that remain unclear to this day, a version of GAN (UMA - that "GSM over Wi-fi" thing) all competing in that space.

      Before you rule out (1) and (2) and deduce it must be (3) by process of elimination, (3) is unlikely to be the issue as most phone makers are simply avoiding the entire question by routing voice over 2G or 3G.

      So I don't know. My guess is that this is a regular phone that supports LTE, in all of its forms, on 1700/2100, and maybe on 700MHz too. It probably doesn't support voice on UMTS at all. It may well be standard enough to work on Sprint PCS's LTE too, though as it doesn't support cdma2000/cdmaOne, it's wouldn't be marketed towards Sprint customers as it would suck being limited to being a data phone only, and then only in the few places Sprint has LTE.

      It's probably very boring in practice.

  • According to Google’s Andy Rubin, the reason Google didn't include LTE support on the Nexus 4 was because “A lot of the networks that have deployed LTE haven’t scaled completely yet — they’re hybrid networks [...] which means the devices need both radios built into them [] When we did the Galaxy Nexus with LTE we had to do just that, and it just wasn’t a great user experience.” Whatever the reasons, after getting skewered for the decision, Google is backtracking and
    • I wonder if that would include patching in support for the existing LTE radio on the Nexus 4? It has a four band LTE radio IIRC (in addition to its existing pentaband UMTS radio) and it does actually work with t-mobile LTE and I'm fairly certain AT&T LTE as well.

      In that respect, it already does what TFA is making a big deal about, only unofficially.

      • Apple has already been selling an LTE phone that sidesteps AT&T since last year, so this article is making a big deal about nothing.
  • Best phone for 2013 (Score:2, Informative)

    by ta_gueule (2795275)
    The best phone in 2013 is from 2009. The N900 is still unmatched. In 2013, the N900 screen is crap, the CPU is a joke, it doesn't do LTE and it is still more useful than any other phone. I'm still waiting for a replacement with better spec but I don't see that coming in the near future. This phone is the Amiga of the 21th century. They can up all the specs in their phone, they won't match the N900 until a decade or more.
    • by Xest (935314)

      What is so magical about it that you N900 fanboys keep going on about it exactly. I mean, what does it do that no other phone can?

      • by bfandreas (603438)
        It's got a nice keyboard and is very Linuxy. I had also considered to replace my E61 with a N900.
        Do not underestimate a hackable phone with a decentish keyboard. In a pinch I have quite often used my E61 to take down notes for a meeting and writing lengthy Emails. The N900 was a lot nicer.

        I'd buy an updated N900(with a proper battery, an easily unlocked bootloader, HDMI out, SDXC support and a nice display) in a heartbeat. Touchscreen typing is inferior to a keyboard no matter how limited.
        • by Xest (935314) on Wednesday April 24, 2013 @07:29AM (#43534951)

          "Touchscreen typing is inferior to a keyboard no matter how limited."

          I think this depends, if you're typing command line commands or code with lots of switches, brackets, braces and so forth then I think you're absolutely right.

          In fact, I used to agree with you in general, but now I use swype on my Android phone I actually think it's far faster and far superior to typing on a phone sized keyboard if you're typing general text such as SMS messages, e-mails, Slashdot posts...

          I'm certainly a convert in this respect to touchscreen keyboards, Swype is the only input device I've ever encountered that allows me to reach near full-sized keyboard input speeds when typing plain English text. I certainly used to think touchscreens would always be shit, but Swype and Swype like keyboards are genius and completely changed the touchscreen input game.

          • by h4rr4r (612664)

            Swype totally sucks for CLI interaction.
            I wish I could find a keyboard case for the Galaxy Nexus.

      • It runs Maemo/Meego, which is based on Debian, and can therefore run lots of standard Linux programs. It's also fully open and not locked down at all, unlike iOS/Android. The things that it can do that other phones can't do are very niche hacker things though, hence the popularity on Slashdot. I do have one, and it's fun to play around with, and certainly better than anything else for using a terminal and SSHing into servers, but for anything else I much prefer Android, since it's much easier to use and has
        • by Xest (935314)

          I guess it's the physical keyboard that gives it the edge over Android for things like terminal and SSH access given that Android does also allow these things? How would an unlocked and rooted Android device with a similar physical keyboard compare?

    • Re: (Score:2, Interesting)

      by nametaken (610866)

      I'm genuinely curious, since that was about the worst sales pitch ever, what makes a wholly inferior smartphone from '09 the best phone in '13.

      • You're thinking of the HTC One Series (V, S, X, EVO 4G etc). This is the successor, and more capable than those.

        Graphics cards makers did it a while ago; "OMG we've run out of numbers! Quick, switch them around and make lower numbers better!" So, now we have 8800 GTX GTX 670, and HTC One XL HTC One.
    • by PRMan (959735)
      Yeah, I feel so stupid for buying a Galaxy S3 now. Not!
    • by h4rr4r (612664)

      Define more useful.
      What exactly is a Nexus4 missing?
      You do know you can run a linux chroot on any android phone right?

  • Whoop de flippity do (Score:4, Interesting)

    by FuzzNugget (2840687) on Wednesday April 24, 2013 @06:36AM (#43534705)

    What is it, exactly, that Google didn't do? Offer 32/64GB capacities? LTE?

    Oh, wait: https://www.google.com/search?q=Nexus+4+lte [google.com]

    I'm going with: whoopdedoo. Is it even possible to actually take advantage of LTE with SoC mobile hardware or typical network congestion? Even it is, what's the point if you hit your data cap after 5 minutes and get wallet-raped by your carrier?

    I'm aware of exactly one regional carrier in all of Canada, and maybe one in the US that actually offer unlimited data in only specific areas, not nation wide (subject to arbitrary "excessive use policies" of course ... so it's not really unlimited so much as it's "unlimited"). Everyone else makes a big fucking deal about one whole gigabyte and it's absolutely hilarious how anyone thinks that is any real amount of data in 2013.

    No, it most certainly was Google who started upsetting the status quo. The Nexus line has always been available unlocked straight from Google, and for an extremely palatable price. Pop in your SIM card, no plan restrictions*, no contract, it just goes.

    I will admit that HTC's One is proportionately well priced. They also get kudos for a big fuck-you plainly directed at AT&T.

    * I have my Nexus 4 on a voice & text plan (no data) because I can wait until the next available wifi signal or until I get home to check this or that and I don't need to post every damn meal I eat on shitsagram. Yes, I'm aware that some carriers will automatically tack on charges to your bill for features you never even used when they detect your phone model from the IEMI. Fortunately, the government here still seems to give a modicum of shit about us, as we have specific laws disallowing any carrier from adding adding features or changing plans without a customer's explicit consent.

    • by PRMan (959735)
      Sprint offers unlimited data that is pretty much truly unlimited. At least, my family has never run into any issues and my kids will watch YouTube videos on their phones for hours sometimes. No problem.
  • I'd rather see someone side-step Verizon. They seem to have the LTE network to beat. Good for HTC though, every little bit to weaken carrier grip is welcome, be it from HTC, Apple, Google, or whoever.

  • by ze_jua (910531) <jailh.free@fr> on Wednesday April 24, 2013 @07:01AM (#43534807)

    Subsidizes phones is a business model from the past.

    It's so heavily broken that I can't even understant :
    - Why (we) the people accepted this ? (Okay, GSM phones were VERY expensive in 1996...)
    - Why did the banksters allowed the carriers to steal their favourite business (small consumer credits with huge interests) !?

    Since past year, here in France, one carrier (and then... every other) bagan to sell "low cost" subscription. It's in fact the same service, without the cost of the "subsidized" phone. Minus 30€ a month (or more).

    24 months later, you have 24*30=720€ to buy the unlocked phone of your choice.

    For people who prefer to pay 25-30€ a month to pay their handset, banks are back in the dance, with credit offers to buy your unkocked phone on a 24 months credit.

  • This is why I like HTC. Their hardware is comparable, if not better, than most others on the market. They don't take c@rp from other companies. Add this to the mix, and it's why I have them at the top of my list when looking at phones. I'll take "not quite as sparkly" as phones from Apple and Samsung. I want durable, solid, functioning equipment, and HTC continues to deliver on that.
    • by Lumpy (12016)

      And all their phones are at least 2 years out of date on the OS. HTC has the WORST track record for pushing out OS updates.

      • by indre1 (1422435)

        And all their phones are at least 2 years out of date on the OS. HTC has the WORST track record for pushing out OS updates.

        Wrong, Sony took the title in 2012 with it's new models. Don't even mention new Android versions - they even stopped giving out bug fix releases after 6 months of Xperia Sola release date.

  • by FlatEric521 (1164027) on Wednesday April 24, 2013 @08:10AM (#43535185)

    Even though they mention T-Mobile support for LTE, if you look closer at the frequency support on the phone's specs [htc.com] at HTC's site, there is something important to note.

    HSPA/WCDMA: 850/1900/2100 MHz

    This will not support T-Mobile 3G in a number of areas where they haven't converted AWS from HSPA+ use to LTE use. For people considering this phone for T-Mobile, you may get stuck on 2G depending on where you live.

  • by 140Mandak262Jamuna (970587) on Wednesday April 24, 2013 @08:27AM (#43535265) Journal
    The latest policy shift in T-mobile is: no contracts, transparent installment sales of phones, no nickel and diming on data. 500 MB high speed included. 10$ for another 2GB, another 10$ for "unlimited". At the end of quota, no over use fees, but just throttling of speed. Allows 500 MB of tethering. This should shake things up in a regular free market.

    But I am not so sure. Verizon has a huge cash cow, in the form of FiOS. It can use that revenue stream to undercut t-mobile and try to kill it instead of competing with it on a level ground. AT&T has inertia and corporate support helping it. I just hope T-Mobile succeeds just to bring sanity to this market.

    T-mobile got the best deal in the failed merger with AT&T. Apparently that contract gave T-mobile 2 billion dollars if the deal was rejected by the Govt, and more importantly bandwidth in the edge network for T-mobile in some 50 markets. If it plays this hand of cards well, things should shake up in the mobile market in USA.

    • by steelfood (895457)

      Verizon is too entrenched to need to undercut T-Mobile. It's Bell South errm, I mean AT&T who might have to do this, and they don't have other revenue streams.

      Not that they need to right now. Verizon and AT&T currently offer far better coverage than T-Mobile. Verizon is still tons better than AT&T, mostly because they're on CDMA instead of GSM, so that should tell you where T-Mobile is in comparison with Verizon.

      The other thing is, FiOS is not as big of a revenue maker as you might think. The co

  • Do any other carriers offer LTE? If not you are still stuck with taking what AT&T will give you as a package. All you have done is saved the trouble of their preinstalled software

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