They said it wouldn't last. And they -- pundits, analysts, bloggers, GSM fanatics -- were right. WiMAX, that flavor of 4G found in the 2500MHz band, has proven to be more of a hindrance then help during Sprint's transition from underdog to reinvigorated titan. Then there are the kerfuffles it's endured standing on the sidelines -- namely, watching one-time LTE partner LightSquared squander its regulatory good graces. Beleaguered would be putting it mildly; Sprint faces a treacherous climb uphill to the mobile Olympus where Verizon, AT&T and now-spectrum-rich T-Mobile sit -- after all, it's hard to change the tide of public perception, overcome the limitations of a dreadful 3G CDMA network and move away from weak third-party 4G signals. Yet, with all of those negatives working against it, a planned rollover to LTE technology might just be the panacea Sprint has so badly needed.
Right now, at least, a wish and a hope are all Sprint can dole out to existing subscribers toying with the idea of switching carriers. Its nascent LTE network, currently in testing across six US cities, hasn't been cleared for launch, which makes its first 4G handset, the Viper 4G LTE, a dress rehearsal of sorts. And what a low-key affair it is: no cutting-edge aesthetics or kickstand here, just mid-range specs and a humble design made from recycled materials. But for anyone itching to surf those faster waves, LG's dual-core, NFC-enabled workhorse could be a tempting buy when it goes on sale Sunday for $100 (with a two-year contract). So will the dangling carrot of faster 4G persuade consumers to choose this over all those other mid-tier Android phones? Let's find out.