LG Nitro smartphone AT&T will launch the LG Nitro HD smartphone over its LTE network on Dec. 4 in stores and online for $249.99 with a two-year contract.

The device will be AT&T's third LTE smartphone after the Samsung Galaxy S II Skyrocket and HTC's Vivid. AT&T's 4G LTE network is available in 15 cities, but the carrier is also upgrading its HSPA+ network for more widespread 4G service.

AT&T called the Nitro the "ultimate high-performance superphone," and the phone does indeed measure up to (and sometimes beats) the top smartphones on the market. One important feature is the 4.5-in. AH-IPS (Advanced High-Performance In-Plane Switching) touchscreen display with a 1280 x 720 pixel resolution that AT&T called "true HD."

Nitro's screen is slightly smaller than the coming Samsung Galaxy Nexus' 4.65-in. (1280-x 720) touchscreen featuring a Super Amoled display and curved glass.

The Galaxy Nexus is reported by bloggers to go on pre-order Tuesday from Verizon Wireless over its LTE network for $199.99, and a release date of Dec. 8. However, a Verizon official at mid-day Monday refused to comment on the official shipping or order date for the Nexus.

The Galaxy Nexus has won plenty of attention for being the first Android 4.0 smartphone , while the Nitro will run the currently available Android 2.3.

However, Nitro will have a dual-core 1.5 GHz processor, which outperforms the Galaxy Nexus' dual-core 1.2 GHz processor.

The Nitro will also have an 8-megapixel rear-facing camera, contrasted with the Galaxy Nexus' 5-megapixel continuous autofocus camera. Both have a 1.3-megapixel front-facing camera.

Nitro boasts 20GB of storage , with 4GB internally plus 16 GB from a microSD that comes with it. The Galaxy Nexus pegs its storage at 32GB.

AT&T said the Nitro's display offers "unrivaled" color accuracy, brightness, battery efficiency and performance. Clear viewing is possible in direct sunlight, with accurate colors, AT&T added.

Matt Hamblen covers mobile and wireless, smartphones and other handhelds, and wireless networking for Computerworld. Follow Matt on Twitter at @matthamblen or subscribe to Matt's RSS feed . His e-mail address is [email protected] .

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