Prior to the network, Sprint outs the LG Viper, its first LTE phone

Following up on last week’s news that Sprint’s LTE field testing is nearly complete, the carrier announced pre-orders will start on April 12 for its first LTE handset. The LG Viper gains the distinction as the first LTE device for Sprint’s LTE network, even though the network itself isn’t expected to launch until mid-year as Sprint transitions from WiMAX to LTE. Sprint(s s) says the Viper will cost $99 on contract and has the UL Environment (ULE) Platinum Certification as an eco-friendly phone.

The relatively low price is somewhat surprising as rival Verizon’s(s vz) LTE phones have typically been priced between $199 and $299 at launch. However, these were usually high-end devices with cutting edge hardware. The LG Viper isn’t what I’d call a low-end smartphone, but based on these specifications isn’t a flagship device either:

  • 1.2 GHz dual core chip
  • 4-inch, 800 x 480 display
  • Android 2.3 (s goog)
  • NFC with support for Google Wallet
  • 50 GB of free storage from Box
  • 5 megapixel rear camera and VGA front facing camera
  • 4 GB of storage, additional 4 GB microSD card included
  • 1 GB of RAM
  • Hotspot capability for up to 5 devices (for an additional fee)

LTE is the big story here as Sprint has spent nearly four years touting WiMAX only to give in to LTE; the same mobile broadband technology chosen by the other major U.S. carriers. But the “green” crowd should be happy too. Sprint says the phone casing is made from 50 percent recycled plastic, the charger has a no-load consumption rating of .03 Watts and the glue-less packaging is printed with soy ink and contains up to 87 percent of post-consumer waste.