Sprint Builds On 4G Momentum With First WiMax Phone

Sprint (NYSE: S) is in third place when it comes to the number of subscribers it has on its network, but it wants everyone to know that it is the first to roll out a 4G network in the U.S.

To add to that momentum, Sprint unveiled the first WiMax-based phone, HTC Evo 4G, at CTIA today. Although the phone won’t be available until summer, Sprint still may beat all other carriers to market with a 4G phone by a year or more. Verizon Wireless, which is rolling out a competing LTE network, said phones won’t be ready until 2011. Sprint is live with 4G in 27 markets and expects to quadruple its footprint this year.

The HTC Evo 4G runs Google’s Android operating system and has a 4.3 inch screen and a 1 Ghz processor. Sprint’s CEO Dan Hesse said the phone will also allow users to connect eight other devices using WiFi to gain mobile broadband access — that’s three more than the company’s previously announced Overdrive modem that allows five.

Sprint had no problem coming up with applications to demonstrate 4G. Here are just some highlighted during today’s press conference:

YouTube high quality: Google (NSDQ: GOOG) has worked with Sprint and HTC to automatically launch high quality content when 4G is detected. The browser has not been released. In a side-by-side demonstration, the video is much more crisp than the 3G streaming version.

Kick-stand: Video is obviously a big feature on the device. It comes with a kickstand to watch hands-free.

TV connectivity: The phone easily connects to a plasma TV so that you can watch a HD movie on a big screen.

Cameras: There are two on the device. The one on the back is 8 megapixels, and the one on the front is 1.3 megapixels. Photos taken with the one on the back can easily be uploaded over 4G, and the one on the front can be used for video conferencing that can be streamed to your Facebook page using Qik.

Adobe (NSDQ: ADBE) Flash: The Evo supports full Flash capabilities.

Modem: Users will be able to connect eight different devices to the Evo using WiFi to gain internet access to the 4G network. In a humorous demo it connected Verizon’s Droid device.

Sprint said it’s withholding some details about the phone until closer to the launch.