There’s been a bit of skepticism, and understandably so, from the GottaBeMobile staff over the status and functionality of 4G smartphones. Hopefully, you can see why with the constant delays of the Thunderbolt and continuing delay behind the Droid Charge, rumored and missed release dates for the Droid Bionic and the LG Revolution, a day of network outages with little explanation as to what the cause is or was, and poor battery life. I had a chance to sit down with a few Verizon Wireless representatives at a roundtable discussion, and unfortunately, Verizon is still not being as transparent as I would have liked in answering some of these questions. To be fair though, these issues are growing pains–the 4G LTE network is new and Verizon is among the first in the world with a large scale commercial deployment; the devices are first-generation devices that are still being tested, tweaked, and refined; and the carrier is still learning and optimizing its networks to meet real world constraints.
Regarding the ‘delays‘ of the 4G devices, like the Droid Charge, which we had reviewed, Verizon says that at CES it had committed to launching by mid-year. And to be fair, it still has a few more weeks to go. Additionally, since the devices aren’t technically officially announced, they aren’t ‘delayed’ as consumers and the media are saying.
I had probed Verizon about the release of the Skype application for video calling, and the company’s PR rep says that it is working on it and has nothing to announce at this time. The PR rep says that release dates may could potentially slip down the road and so it cannot offer any timeline for a release. It did say that it wants to ensure the best possible consumer experience.
When we, the media, probed the carrier about battery life issues, especially the extremely short battery life on the Thunderbolt, and inquired if the short battery life has anything to do with the network, Verizon says that it’s a combination of things that affects battery life. Screen size and technology, processor, GPU, memory, software, apps, UIs, and a variety of different factors all contribute to the overall battery life. The carrier did say that these are theoretically first-generation devices for a new, next-generation network and there will be issues and things that have yet to be learned. Once those issues are discovered, the carrier promises that it will go back and work with the manufacturer to rectify problems through a software update.
When asked about the 4G network outage, Verizon offered little explanation. The carrier only said that there was a problem, it had looked into it and fixed it, and it is a great network that offers high throughput with little latency.
While Verizon Wireless should be commended for creating a fast, robust, and widely deployed 4G network, I think that more transparency will go a long way with eager, excited consumers who are just wanting to know more and ready to experience upwards of 10-15 Mbps of download speeds. The carrier already has the next-generation network to beat in terms of speed and robustness, and there’s already enough confusion over technical standards and the definition of 4G, consumers would appreciate being kept in the loop and understanding this technological shift and be part of the 4G revolution. Hopefully, as these issues are resolved, Verizon will bless us with answers that aren’t canned PR answers in the future.