Microsoft appears to be finally preparing to "face the future" and flip the switch on fourth generation wireless technology. Faced with a "no-LTE-no-Windows Phones" ultimatum from America's largest carrier -- Verizon Wireless, a joint venture between Verizon and Vodafone -- Microsoft appears to finally have became serious about LTE, with the first 4G Windows Phones spotted in the wild.
Windows Phone fans have long defended the platform's lack of LTE with platitudes such as "4G kills battery life; "the technology is ready for the market"; "LTE speeds aren't as good as promised"; or "the coverage isn't ready yet". These criticisms certainly single out legitimate weaknesses of current LTE deployments, but they glaringly miss the fact that rudimentary 4G -- while a work in progress -- is the state of the art, today. And technology sells phones; without cutting edge hardware (even if it's just a little better), a phone is less likely to succeed in the fickle consumer market.
But the drought and defensive responses may at last be near an end. The Verge cites a source cites a source close to Samsung as describing an upcoming "early 2012" Windows Phone, which packs both a larger screen that the previous Samsung Focus S Windows Phone (so likely Samsung's 4.52-inch display found in the Galaxy S II HD) and a LTE modem.
Likewise a source reveals an HTC Windows Phone handset named "Radiant", which will also feature an LTE modem. WPCentral, a top Windows Phone rumors site, has spotted the handset in the wild. The handset was running a post-Mango build -- Windows Phone 7.10.8004.
Nokia is also reportedly cooking up an LTE-enabled variant of its slick Lumia 800 handsets, which bears a bit of a resemblance to the sleek colored metal-body iPod Nanos.
Some of the details clash with the previously leaked Windows Phone roadmap (also revealed on WPCentral). Reportedly "Tango", the next build of Windows Phone would be aimed at budget handsets, and the late 2012 "Apollo" would be aimed at higher end (i.e. LTE, HD screen) smartphones.
It now appears both the HD screens and LTE will be launching in early 2012. It's possible that Apollo will launch aside Tango, or it's possible that the improvements have been merged into Tango as a single super-release, similar to Mango.
Samsung is the world's largest maker of smartphones and second largest maker of feature phones. Nokia is the top smartphone seller in China, the world's new largest smartphone market. And HTC was on top of the American smartphone market -- the world's second largest market -- at last count.