Does WiMax Matter in a Phone?

Illustration for article titled Does WiMax Matter in a Phone?

We already know 4G data is going to be good in getting massloads of data to your laptops on the go, but how good is it for phones? For example, is Sprint's upcoming HTC WiMax phone going to be useful?


Yes and no. Mostly yes. Here are some reason why (and why not) WiMax will matter in the next year or so.

No thanks, I'll keep 4G to my laptop

• Nothing uses that much data right now. Streaming music in Pandora works just fine in 3G, and you're not going to be pulling down full-length movies to your phone, even if your connection supports it. Clip sites like YouTube work fairly decently over 3G, even if the quality needs to be downgraded a bit
• Latency is the problem for mobile games, not bandwidth. And having a faster connection isn't going to change the fact that your packets are limited by the time it takes to travel over the air to your phone, no matter whether you're using 3G or 4G. So real-time gaming is difficult
• Battery life is going to suffer. Having 3G on and pulling down data kills cellphone life already, so imagine having a pipe that sucks down even more, faster
• Coverage sucks right now. If you're not in one of the major cities (and not even all major cities are currently covered), you have no WiMax coverage.

Yes, more speed is always good

• Not having to wait for browsing. If 4G deployment rolls out well, it's going to be comparable to a Wi-Fi connection running over DSL. Actual broadband as most people know it, as opposed to 3G, which isn't quite there yet.
• A unifying standard across multiple carriers. Although WiMax might not be that standard, LTE might be, because Verizon and AT&T, the two larger cell providers, have picked it. T-Mobile has expressed interest as well, so theoretically an LTE 4G phone could work on three of the four carriers. That's pretty good portability.
• Hotspot! You can use 3G phones as hotspots now, like the Palm Pre Plus on Verizon, but to have a pipe that's fat enough to sustain multiple devices with decent speeds on each is great. This definitely will drain your battery fast, but to have your laptop, your iPad, your Zune HD/iPod Touch all sucking off the same 4G-to-Wi-Fi connection will be so great
• You'll be able to have your gadgets under one subscription plan. If you hotspot everything over your 4G phone, which will be on you at all times, you'll always have connectivity for everything you need.
• Cloud services means data usage is getting even more important. Just because we don't have the types of streaming video or cloud-based services for your phone now doesn't mean it's not going to happen in a year or two. Having the right data connection to support that is only going to get more important, not less


The "yes" points outweigh the "no", especially when you're talking more than just in the next year. So does WiMax matter in a phone? It's like being in 2004 and asking if 3G matters in a phone. The equipment is just now rolling out, and people are just starting to figure out what you can do with a fast connection. In a few years we'll all realize how silly of a question this really was.

And if you're interested in this particular rumored WiMax phone, coming to Sprint, it's the HTC Supersonic Android phone.




I think you hit the key point to me, and that is the latency. Supposedly WiMax latency is twice as fast as 3G - but I have nothing concrete to back this up other than claims by Sprint. That said, latency times cut in half is important enough to want 4G phones. The speed on typical 3G connections is barely passable for remote desktop control systems like Terminal Services / Citrix / VNC. If it can cut that problem in half, it is important.