The launch of Apple iPhone in 2007 marked the beginning of the evolution of the modern smartphone. Since then the power of these wireless devices has advanced by leaps and bounds. Now wireless device manufacturers are offering new versions of phones packed with the game-changing 4G LTE technology.

The 4G Long Term Evolution (LTE) is the 4th generation of mobile communication standards. Internet speeds on the 4th generation LTE network are 5-10 times faster than on 3G networks (depending on the country and carrier). The average time taken to download a movie onto a 3G smartphone has been cut down from 13 minutes to about two-and-a-half minutes with the arrival of 4G networks.

According to a recent study by market research firm Strategy Analytics, global LTE smartphone shipments could surge tenfold to 67 million units in 2012. Only 6.8 million 4G LTE handsets were sold worldwide during 2011, mainly because of battery issues and connectivity breakdowns. Major carriers like AT&T and Verizon have worked rigorously on these issues and have come out with a plethora of useful data plans for the users.

Consequently, industry analysts are expecting 2012 to be a breakout year for LTE technology, as major wireless gadget manufacturers like Apple, Samsung and HTC are planning big launches of 4G LTE smartphones.

Neil Mawston, Executive Director, Strategy Analytics, said in a press release: The mobile industry is entering a breakout year for 4G LTE technology. Multiple operators and multiple phone vendors will be launching dozens of LTE models across numerous countries worldwide. LTE has quickly become a high-growth, high-value market that no operator, service developer, device vendor or component maker can afford to ignore.

Talking about the current network strength of major carriers in the industry, Verizon leads with its 4G LTE network in 196 cities and 122 major airports, while AT&T leads in 28 cities. AT&T also counts its HSPA+ network as 4G, a wireless protocol found on Apple's iPhone 4S and many other recent smartphones. At the same time, Sprint is currently in the middle of rolling out its 4G LTE infrastructure, with plans to have the faster wireless technology in 10 cities by the end of June.

Indeed, it is quite obvious that many names in the smartphone arena are planning to dish out their best offering. Here is a list of the top, super-fast smartphones that are going to debut this year and sizzle the market. 

Apple's iPhone 5

Apple included support for faster 4G LTE networks in its third generation new iPad 3, which was announced a couple of weeks ago. Now the technology giant is rumoured to include this faster data network support in its next iPhone too -- the much awaited iPhone 5. A recent report in DigiTimes cited unnamed sources within Taiwan-based smartphone manufacturers, who claimed that the next generation iPhone will very likely contain an embedded 4G LTE radio.

Also, according to CNET reports, Sprint's financial chief has given hints about the prospect of a 4G LTE iPhone, the latest indication that the next version will come packed with a superfast wireless connection.

As per the report, Sprint's chief financial officer, Joe Euteneuer, did not say such a device was coming, but he did say the company has an agreement with Apple, hinting that technology designed for those networks would come to Sprint as well.

The next iPhone is speculated to be launched around the second half of 2012 or at the Worldwide Developers Conference in June this year. Its rumored specifications include A6 chip clocked with a superfast 1.2 to 1.5 GHz processor, 1GB or more of RAM, an 8 megapixel camera with the 3D technology and a better battery. 

The newest rumor points that Apple has planned to stick with the current 3.5-inch screen size instead of the gigantic 4.6-inch screen. Further, iPhone 5 is rumored to come with a 1280 x720 pixel of resolution (367 ppi) with a Quantum Dot LED curved glass edge-to-edge display.

According to a recent report by Insane Planet, the NFC technology on the iPhone 5 is becoming a huge possibility. The report cited a Patently Apple post regarding an Apple patent application about iWallet and NFC, and said that Apple had granted a patent for iWallet to payments via NFC and diagrams passed from Apple to the Patent & Trademark Office in the US shows an iPhone which may possibly be the iPhone 5.

The idea of the iWallet is to let individuals buy things by merely using their iPhone 5 or any other device of Apple. This means that the user does not need to bring a credit card to a store with NFC support, the report added.

Samsung Galaxy S3

The media world is abuzz with the next generation Galaxy S3's rumored specs, features and unofficial pictures. The latest reports suggest that Samsung Galaxy S3 would be backed with 4G LTE connectivity. Recently, an unnamed Samsung executive confirmed that the upcoming device will be powered by a new quad-core Exynos processor and will also be capable for 4G LTE, the Korea Times reported.

It has been rumoured that the device could be launched on March 30 at Phones4u store on Oxford Street, London -- the store had put up a large poster showing the Samsung logo along with the caption 'Coming 30/3/2012.′ However, this speculation was soon proved false by officials at Pocket-lint. They confirmed that Phones4u poster actually has nothing to do with the release of the Samsung Galaxy S3.

Pocket-lint said the poster only meant that a Samsung store within the Phones4u store on Oxford Street is to be launched on the specified date.

It was also rumored last week that the device will be launched May 22. According to GSM Helpdesk, the date is correct. However, there is a chance that Samsung is likely to hold its own launch event, similar to how Apple debuts new hardware.

Meanwhile, a leaked image of the smartphone pointed to a London launch for the handset May 22.

Furthermore, the upcoming device is expected to have a 4.7-inch Super AMOLED Plus HD screen, with 1280 x 720 pixels of resolutions with a pixel density of 313 PPI. The new phone is also expected to be powered by Samsung's 1.5 GHz Exynos quad-core chip. According to GSM Helpdesk, S3 will definitely come with Android 4.0 Ice Cream Sandwich update and the device looks to have Samsung's latest version of TouchWiz software atop the user interface.

The camera upgrade is expected to be a big one with 12-megapixels with a 1080p video at 60 frames per second and video chatting with a front-facing 2 megapixel camera. It would feature 1 GB of internal memory and have an expandable memory option up to 32 GB and would measure 131 x 64 x 8 mm and weigh around 125grams.

Sprint's Galaxy Nexus

Samsung and Google launched a killer device under the name Galaxy Nexus last year. It was the first smartphone to feature the latest Android 4.0, Ice Cream Sandwich. And later, it was equipped with the 4G LTE capability on Verizon. 

However, the recent rumour mill has it that Galaxy Nexus is coming up with the Sprint support as well. An internal Sprint source that spoke with S4GRU.com revealed that the Galaxy Nexus will show up on Sprint shelves on April 15.

According to reports, Sprint is currently running a promotion for the Samsung Galaxy Nexus and its other WiMax devices which ends on April 14. This leads speculators to believe that April 15 will indeed be the date of choice to release its new offerings.

When the Galaxy Nexus is released, its LTE connectivity will be turned off because at this point Sprint still has limited 4G LTE coverage. Therefore all users will have to manually choose between Wi-Fi, 3G or 4G LTE when their handset starts up. When Sprint expands its network coverage in June, Samsung Galaxy Nexus automatically switches to LTE Self Discovery mode. Its eHRPD support feature allows the device to switch between 3G EVDO and 4G LTE depending on service availability.

Galaxy Nexus runs on Android 4.0 and is powered by 1.2GHz dual-core processor. It has a 4.65-inches HD Super AMOLED Contour display and features a 1080p HD video capture and single-motion panoramic camera. It includes a 5-megapixel rear facing camera and a 1.3-megapixel front facing camera.

The Nexus phone has a battery life of standard Lithium Ion (Li-Ion) (None mAH), which can afford a talk time of 12 hours and standby time of around 150 hours.

HTC One X

Recent reports and image leaks suggest that 4G LTE will speed up with the AT&T version of the most anticipated HTC Android smartphone - called the HTC One X (although it may have a different name on AT&T). The images of AT&T's HTC One X surfaced on the web quite recently, which were reportedly posted by an AT&T tester.

The Android smartphone which was showcased back in Barcelona during the Mobile World Congress 2012 boasts of a Tegra 3 quad-core processor. However, given that the AT&T variant will feature 4G LTE connectivity, which is incompatible with the Tegra 3 processor, it would feature a dual-core Snapdragon S4 processor instead. Recent tests have shown though that dual-core processors are as capable as the Tegra 3 quad-core chip so it would not be such a major trade-off.

Expected to hit AT&T in just a few weeks, the smartphone will be rebranded once it hits the US market, and will be called HTC One XL.

HTC One X runs Android 4.0 Ice Cream Sandwich OS with HTC Sense 4.0 UI on top of it, sporting a 4.7-inch second generation Super LCD HD display with 1280 x 720pixels of resolution. It is equipped with an 8-megapixel rear facing camera with LED flash, 1080p HD video recording capability, an additional front-facing camera. It has an internal storage of 32GB , 1GB RAM to keep things running smoothly.

Nokia Lumia 900

In a recent announcement, AT&T confirmed the official availability of the most-awaited Windows smartphone, the Nokia Lumia 900. According to a Bloomberg report, the leading telecommunication services provider in wireless technology would be launching 4G LTE capable Windows phone on April 8. 

Powered by Windows Mango, Lumia 900 is the second Lumia phone to be released in the US after Lumia 710. AT&T has confirmed that the phone will be available at a retail price of $99.99. AT&T will charge a full price of $449.99 for the 4G LTE capable Nokia Lumia 900.  AT&T has also confirmed that the new high-gloss white-colored version of the Nokia Lumia 900 handset will start hitting shelves on April 22.

With the 4G LTE offering, Lumia 900 will also feature the AT&T U-verse Mobile service, which would allow subscribed users to access over 100 TV series and 700 shows along with program guide, a schedule and the ability to manage their DVR recording and watch content from almost anywhere.

The Lumia 900 sports rounded edges and flat top and bottom look and has a vivid display of 4.3-inches Clear Black AMOLED with 480 x 800 pixels of resolution and is backed by strong, scratch-resistant Corning Gorilla Glass. It has 8-megapixel primary camera with a Carl Zeiss lens at 3264 x 2448 pixels of resolution including features like autofocus, geo-tagging, dual LED flash and 720p video capture. Lumia 900 features the addition of a 1-megapixel rear facing camera too. 

Powering the handset is a 1.4GHz Qualcomm Snapdragon processor and 512MB RAM backed by a 1830mAh battery. Nokia's Lumia 900 has the same memory setup as its predecessor, which means 16GB of internal storage and but no card slot.

But it runs on Windows Phone 7.5 Mango, which boasts of features like dynamic Live Tile Information, Twitter and LinkedIn integration in the People hub, Facebook-events integrated calendar, threaded e-mail conversations support, visual voicemail, Outlook tasks support and much more.