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Sprint's Galaxy Nexus Makes An Early Debut In Pre-CES Ads

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Sprint’s preparing an ad campaign for its own version of the Galaxy Nexus, which is probably set to launch over the course of the next week at the Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas. Ads featuring Samsung’s Android 4.0 phone on Sprint’s brand-new LTE network appeared on CNET Thursday ahead of the mammoth show.

The Galaxy Nexus just launched in the U.S. on Verizon’s LTE network after making its debut in the U.K. this past November, but it is apparently gearing up for an appearance on Sprint’s flavor of LTE. The ads appeared on CNET’s special CES pages, and presumably were designed to appear after Sprint (NYSE: S) announced the device: CNET published a story confirming the ads had appeared on its site but Sprint declined to comment on any potential launch. (Disclosure: I’m conflicted when it comes to CNET in like 12,000 different ways, but primarily because of the fact that I worked there for five years and my wife currently works there.)

It’s an interesting development for a few reasons: one, because Verizon’s period of exclusivity with the Galaxy Nexus was so short; two, because part of the reason the phone was delayed is believed to have centered on Verizon’s reluctance to embrace Google (NSDQ: GOOG) Wallet, which Sprint promoted as a Google Wallet launch partner; and three, because Sprint has now over the last six months cut deals to make sure the two best handsets on the market–the iPhone 4S and the Galaxy Nexus–will be available to its customers.

It might be a while before the phone actually becomes available, however. Sprint just announced Thursday morning the first cities–Atlanta, Dallas, Houston, and San Antonio–that will be able to access its 4G LTE network, and that still won’t happen until “mid-2012,” according to Sprint’s official Twitter feed. Sprint is adding LTE coverage to its already existing 4G WiMax network, but the standards are incompatible: 4G WiMax phones won’t run on 4G LTE networks.