Verizon Wireless plans to have 10 new devices, including four smartphones, and new tablets on store shelves by mid year for its high-speed wireless data service, strengthening its position in a race to convince consumers to use more expensive services such as mobile Web.
The venture of Verizon Communications Inc and Vodafone Group Plc said the new phones would come from vendors including HTC Corp, LG Electronics and Samsung Electronics.
Verizon Wireless showed off the gadgets, the first of which will start selling in March, at an event at the Consumer Electronics Show but declined comment on prices for the devices or accompanying services.
The new gadgets could hurt Sprint Nextel more than other competitors. So far Sprint Nextel has been alone in offering phones supporting the latest, fastest wireless data technologies.
Verizon's biggest rival, AT&T Inc, is more than a year behind in delivering a service based on the same technology and is instead upgrading its existing network to offer higher-speed services.
While analysts were impressed with the number of devices Verizon introduced, they said its success would depend on competitive pricing of both the hardware and the service.
Current Analysis analyst Avi Greengart said that Verizon Wireless should not price the new smartphones above the benchmark price of $200 for an advanced phone.
We suspect there's a premium on the data service side, Greengart said. The model is, you subsidize the device and make the money back on the data service.
NEW APPS FOR 4G
Verizon Wireless highlighted new applications such as mobile video chat from Skype and multi-player video games such as Rock Band from Electronic Arts, which are expected to take advantage of the new network's higher speeds.
The new phones are all based on Google Inc Android software, the phone system Verizon has leaned heavily on to fight off competition from AT&T in the last year.
Verizon Wireless is widely expected to start selling a version of Apple Inc's iPhone this quarter, finally wrestling exclusive U.S. rights to the phone from its biggest rival AT&T after four years.
Samsung is providing three of the devices in the new line-up, including a tablet computer and a large 4.3-inch phone and a gadget that can connect five different devices to the network via Wi-Fi. HTC and LG will both provide phones.
Late last year, Verizon Wireless launched a new high-speed wireless network in markets covering 110 million people with a new technology known as Long Term Evolution (LTE).
On January 5, Verizon Wireless said it would sell a phone from Motorola Mobility for the 4G network, and plans to offer a Motorola tablet computer that will initially work on its older network but will be upgradeable to the faster network.
(Reporting by Sinead Carew; editing by Carol Bishopric)