Earlier this week Sprint (S) launched the new EVO 4G smartphone, and in many respects, it was no surprise. Sure, the dual cameras with up to 8 megapixels of resolution and the HD capable camcorder are best of breed. And the HDMI connection that will let the phone display content on your HD TV is another bonus. Oh, and the Android 2.1 OS and the nice big 4.3 inch display are state of the art.
So what makes it a killer product? That would be the built-in mobile hotspot -- supporting up to 8 WiFi links over Sprint's 3G or high speed 4G (powered by Clearwire) networks -- which no other carrier can match.
You may ask, what can I do with a WiFi router embedded on my phone? Deliver mobile broadband to your new iPAD, for starters.
According to a new forecast from GigaOM, shipments of web tablets like the iPad (AAPL) will grow from 8 million units in 2010 to 43.1 million units in 2015. The vast majority of these will be WiFi enabled, as even incumbent wireless carriers agree that most consumers aren't going to purchase a dedicated wireless subscription for all those new tablets. Some carriers like Verizon (VZ) are marketing pocket WiFi/3G hot spots to deliver mobile wireless to iPADs. But instead of having to buy and carry a separate device, wouldn't it be nice to have that functionality embedded in your phone? Even better, a phone that delivers the fastest data speeds?
To put this in perspective, according to the CTIA at the end of 2009 there were 286 million wireless subscriptions in the U.S. (that's 91% of the population.) So, the EVO opportunity is to capture the 10-15% of U.S. wireless subscriptions that will need to also deliver mobile broadband to web tablets -- on top of servicing all the WiFi enabled laptops already in the installed base.
We all feel the need for speed, but just wait until web tablets hit the jets. All those bandwidth-sucking mobile video applications that Cisco has been warning us about for years are due soon, at a theater right on your tablet. Now that the FCC and the major wireless incumbents all agree that spectrum is in short supply, perhaps the debate over the relative merits of WiMAX vs. LTE will shift to which carrier actually has the runway to meet looming mobile broadband demand. With device access to a standardized WiFi port embedded on the phone, all consumers will care about is the speed of the service.
Sure, the EVO is a great smartphone. But what makes the EVO a killer product is all the other devices that consumers are going to be able to piggyback on it.
Disclosure: Author holds a long position in CLWR