Sprint Admits Palm Pre Failure, Pins Hopes on New 4G Phone

Sprint, admitting that the Palm Pre was a major failure, is now looking to fourth-generation, or 4G, technology and prepaid service to spearhead its turnaround efforts.

“The Pre didn’t work out as well as we hoped,” said Robert Brust, Sprint’s chief financial officer. He added that the company learned from its mistakes a year ago, when it launched the device as its flagship smartphone.

Meanwhile, the Overland Park, Kan.-based company is looking to its Evo phone, the first 4G device in the U.S., as a driver for growth. The smartphone is planned for release in early June, days before the anticipated launch of Apple’s new iPhone 4 device.

“We’d love to have the iPhone,” Brust said, but he noted the possibility was unlikely.

The carrier is racing to build out its fourth-generation, or 4G, network. Brust said Boston could see 4G service by the fall, although the city would get it as late as the end of the year.

Despite a high rate of subscriber defections, Sprint’s strong presence in prepaid, which includes multiple brands like Virgin Mobile and Boost Mobile, has offset declines in its sluggish postpaid unit.

The company has managed to narrow losses and show steady progress over the last several quarters, including better handset selection, cheaper plans and improved customer service.

Last week, Sprint added new plans to Virgin Mobile and announced Common Cents Mobile, a new prepaid service that rounds down calls to the nearest minute, to be sold in Wal-Mart stores.

PC maker Hewlett-Packard acquired Palm last month for $1.2 billion, a move to bring the handset maker’s WebOS software to its tablet computers.

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