Is RIM finally ready to deliver its promised 4G PlayBook?

Last year at CES, Research in Motion(s RIMM) promised it would release a 4G version of its PlayBook tablet for Sprint’s(s s) WiMAX network. That failed to materialize. A few months later at Mobile World Congress, RIM promised HSPA+ and LTE versions for the rest of the world’s carriers. More than a year later, it’s delivered squat on those 4G promises. But new photos have popped up on CrackBerry forums that appear to show the mythical device.

Lots of other recent evidence points to RIM finally delivering a 4G PlayBook. In February, Mobile Syrup cited Bell Mobility(s bce) sources saying an LTE version of the PlayBook would be available in early April. In March, Engadget dug up FCC documents showing BlackBerry is preparing LTE versions of the tablet that would work on AT&T(s t), Verizon Wireless(s vz)(s vod) and the Canadian operators’ 4G frequency bands. The WiMAX version may never show, but it looks like RIM is finally ready to enter the mobile broadband age.

The question is whether connectivity enhancements are enough to change the PlayBook’s current status as a stinker. In the last several months, RIM has done plenty to make the tablet much more attractive to its core fan base and potential new customers, but arguably all the new features PlayBook OS 2.0 – such as support for enterprise e-mail – should have been ready when it launched. As for 4G, RIM let Apple(s aapl) beat it to the punch with an LTE tablet, which could have been a key differentiator for RIM’s suffering slate platform.

As my colleague Kevin Tofel has pointed out, RIM hasn’t so much improved the PlayBook as it’s caught up to the competition, which is hardly a compelling reason for customers to invest in the tablet.

Photo Courtesy of CrackBerry user fakedeadmau5