Verizon Gives Away Thunderbolt, Clears Way for Faster Phones

Verizon Gives Away Thunderbolt, Clears Way for Faster Phones

Verizon is offering the HTC Thunderbolt for free with a two-year contract through January 26, as the carrier makes way for newer, faster models to ensure its lead in the 4G race.

The Thunderbolt offers a one-gigahertz Snapdragon chip instead of the dual-core processors found in current and upcoming high-end Android handsets, making it slightly slower than the latest smartphones. However, it is still fully equipped with many desirable features, and Verizon’s bargain offer will appeal to budget-minded consumers looking to get their first 4G phone.

The Thunderbolt, launched last March, was Verizon’s first-ever 4G LTE handset, and the top-of-the-line Android model proved a popular seller at $250. By making the Thunderbolt free for a limited time, Verizon indicates a larger strategy to stay ahead in the carrier race for 4G speeds.

The Basking Ridge, N.J.-based carrier aims to make all its smartphones LTE devices this year, as it creates a lineup of fast, full-featured phones to take advantage of its next-generation network. Verizon recently released several 4G LTE phones in its 2012 catalog, including Google’s latest flagship device, the Samsung Galaxy Nexus, as well as the Motorola Droid Razr.

Verizon’s 4G LTE network continues to expand ahead of schedule, and has both the fastest speeds and the widest coverage, with nearly 180 markets nationwide.

However, the number-one carrier faces serious competition in the 4G race this year from second-place AT&T, which launched high-speed LTE service in several cities last fall, and number-three Sprint, which is rolling out its 4G LTE network in coming months.

By unloading its inventory of HTC Thunderbolts, Verizon will both gain potential new subscribers for its 4G LTE services and make way for more new Android models to appeal to current subscribers’ needs for a speedier phone.

As Verizon makes more room on its shelves for 4G LTE phones, handset manufacturers will likely step up to fill them. Microsoft is one likely contender for a spot in the 2012 Verizon catalog. The PC giant will develop new line of Windows phones to strengthen its mobile strategy this year, and two recently announced LTE models could find their way into the hands of Verizon subscribers soon.

One in five phones sold in the U.S. is a 4G model, as smartphone consumers seek ever-faster devices to meet burgeoning data needs. By offloading old inventory to usher in faster devices that use its widespread 4G LTE network, Verizon hopes to hold its place at the head of the pack.

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