Sprint has unveiled the industry’s first WiMAX smartphone, manufactured by HTC and dubbed EVO. Pricing details have not been released, and the US operator has only given a launch date of “this summer.” The device features Android’s 2.1 operating system, dual cameras (an 8 MP camera with HD-capable video camcorder and a forward-facing 1.3 MP camera), HDMI output, WiFi capability and runs Qualcomm’s 1GHz Snapdragon processor and HTC’s Sense user interface. Sprint also claims the device’s touchscreen display – at 4.3 inches – is one of the market’s largest. The device will be available exclusively from Sprint (suggesting fellow WiMAX service provider, and Sprint subsidiary, Clearwire will not be offering the device) via all Sprint channels and through national retail partners RadioShack, Best Buy and Walmart. Pre-registration has already begun.

The processing power of the device, large touchscreen and HD capability suggest that Sprint is keen to play up the multimedia functionality of EVO, enabled by WiMAX technology. “HTC EVO 4G delivers a multimedia experience at 4G speeds that is second to none, making it possible to download music, pictures, files, or videos in seconds – not minutes – and watch streaming video on the go with one of the largest pinch-to-zoom displays, at 4.3 inches, in the wireless industry,” notes a Sprint statement. The operator is also attempting to attract more developers to its WiMAX community, releasing a ‘4G developer guide’ available from the Sprint ADP website. Certainly, the device is key to Sprint’s ambitions to make WiMAX a mass market, nationwide success and a true rival to forthcoming LTE networks from AT&T and Verizon (although its reference to WiMAX as a ‘4G’ technology is not technically accurate). In its statement yesterday, Sprint talked up the performance of its WiMAX network – which it claims is up to ten times faster than 3G technologies and gives average download rates of 3-6Mb/s – and said this gives EVO “the fastest data speeds of any US wireless device available today.” Sprint has launched WiMAX in 27 US markets so far and also yesterday announced plans to extend this in 2010. When the device is out of reach of WiMAX networks, it will fall back onto Sprint’s EV-DO 3G networks.