(WIRED) -- The Verizon Wireless 4G network has been lauded as lightning-fast. Now, the company is launching a second phone that will work with its speeds.
The Samsung-built Droid Charge launched on Verizon on Saturday, joining the Thunderbolt, HTC's flagship device. In our tests, the Thunderbolt delivered some of the highest data-transfer speeds we've seen.
But Verizon's 4G network recently went down across the country, which raises the question: Is the company ready for another 4G phone?
For a period of more than 30 hours from April 26 through 28, Verizon customers experienced nationwide downtime on the company's 4G LTE network.
Those using Thunderbolt smartphones were the first to spot the problem, as they were only able to receive 3G or even 2G connections. Since 4G only handles data transfer, voice and text messaging services were not affected.
The Droid Charge was originally slated for release the same weekend as the outage. Samsung's addition to the Droid brand is only the second phone to run on Verizon's 4G network, giving those that don't want to buy the Thunderbolt a bit of choice.
Aside from the manufacturer, however, the phones differ little in hardware specs. Both have 4.3-inch displays, front- and back-facing cameras with the same resolutions (1.3 and 8 megapixels, respectively), and the ability to act as a 4G mobile hotspot. But as the 4G network was still down the morning of April 28, the phone's release was pushed back.
Verizon acknowledged the downtime in a Twitter status update, claiming it was "working with engineers" to get 4G back up to speed. By the second day, Verizon restored 4G service in its areas of coverage.
Verizon has continually refused to explain the network outages. When Wired.com asked for specific reasons for why the network went down last month, a Verizon spokesperson declined to answer.
4G data-transfer capability and coverage are a relatively new phenomenon. Sprint launched the first 4G phone on its Wi-Max network in June 2010 with HTC's Evo 4G. Verizon's 4G network debuted in December of last year.
AT&T and T-Mobile both lay claim to the 4G moniker on their respective HSPA+ networks, though issues around what qualifies as "4G" still remain. As of early May, Verizon states 4G coverage is available in "45 markets" across the United States.
"Our philosophy has always been the same," said Verizon spokesperson Brenda Raney in an interview. "When phones are ready to deliver customers an excellent experience, we'll launch them."
But it looks like the hardware has been ready to go for a while. Out of the 10 San Francisco Bay Area Verizon retailers Wired.com contacted, six said they already had Droid Charge handsets in stock for some time, but were not able to sell them until today.
(Two stores did not answer, one hadn't received phones, and one received its first shipment yesterday.) One store claims it received its shipment "about two weeks ago," approximately the same time as Verizon's 4G network outage.
It's a similar case in other parts of the country as well. A store in the Boston suburban area also had phones in stock, but hasn't been able to sell them, according to a report from Computerworld.
Two Verizon employees from separate Bay Area stores told Wired.com the delay had to do with "4G network problems."
Speaking at a Sony Ericsson business forum in Palo Alto this week, executive director of LTE technologies Brian Higgins said the company had learned lessons from the experience, and that Verizon was going to "make some adjustments." Higgins wouldn't elaborate any further.
Whatever adjustments the company has to make, we'll have to wait and see how Verizon's 4G network handles the influx of new device activations.
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