AT&T’s First 4G LTE Phones Are a Week Away

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If you like humongous screens and fast data, AT&T will soon have a couple of smartphones for you. On November 6, AT&T will launch its first two 4G LTE phones, the HTC Vivid and the Samsung Galaxy S II Skyrocket.

On paper, AT&T’s first LTE phones are similar. They’ve both got 4.5-inch displays, but HTC’s Vivid has a higher resolution of 540-by-960, compared to 480-by-800 in the Galaxy S II. They’ve both got dual-core processors, but Samsung’s is a bit faster at 1.5 GHz, compared to 1.2 GHz in the Vivid. Both phones also have 8-megapixel cameras with 1080p video capture, 16GB of built-in storage and microSD slots that can hold 32GB memory cards.

(MORE: Meet DROID RAZR, the ‘World’s Thinnest’ 4G LTE Phone)

The big differences are in price—the HTC Vivid costs $200, while the Samsung Galaxy S II Skyrocket costs $250—and software. Although both phones use Android 2.3, Samsung and HTC modify the phones with their TouchWiz and Sense user interfaces, respectively. In general I prefer Samsung’s interface because it’s smoother and lets you dock apps to the bottom of the screen, but I recommend playing around with both to see which one you prefer.

Compared to the “4G” that AT&T currently offers, which was technically known as HSPA+, 4G LTE is about three times faster. But for now, AT&T’s LTE network is only available in nine U.S. markets (Athens, Atlanta, Baltimore, Boston, Chicago, Dallas-Fort Worth, Houston, San Antonio and Washington, D.C.), with six more markets coming online later this year. When LTE is off or unavailable, the new phones will drop back to AT&T’s HSPA+ network. LTE also tends to kill battery life—or at least that’s been the case on Verizon Wireless—so being an early LTE adopter means using those fast speeds only when you need them most.

AT&T’s data plans are staying the same with the switch to LTE. For $15, you get 200 MB of data and overage charges of $15 per additional 200 MB. For $25, you get 2 GB of data, and $10 per additional GB. Another $20 per month gets you tethering and mobile hotspot use, plus an extra 2 GB of data per month.

Both the Vivid and the Galaxy S II Skyrocket will go on sale in AT&T retail stores and online on November 6.

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