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AT&T gets its first LTE tablet

AT&T may not have its LTE network officially up and running yet but that isn't stopping the carrier from selling its first-ever LTE-capable tablet computer.

Dubbed the HTC Jetstream, the new tablet not only features LTE connectivity but also runs on Google's Android 3.1 ("Honeycomb") operating system and has a Qualcomm Snapdragon 1.5GHz dual core processor, a 10.1-inch display screen and front-and-rear facing cameras. It also features HTC's new HTC Sense user interface that includes the Friend Stream application that integrates multiple social networks and the HTC Watch movie store. AT&T is also touting the tablet's compatibility with the HTC Scribe accessory that acts as a digital pen and lets you write on your tablet as though it were an actual slate.

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Android 3.1 is the most up-to-date version of Google's tablet-centric mobile operating system that contains several features intended to make Android tablets function more like PCs. Among other things, the newest version of Honeycomb allows for both USB and Bluetooth HID connectivity for keyboards, mice and other personal computing staples; an expanded list of recently used applications to provide users greater access to their favorite applications; and stronger Wi-Fi connectivity to allow Android tablets to remain connected to hotspots even when the device screen flips off.

The one obvious downside to the HTC Jetstream so far is its price, as AT&T is charging users $700 to buy the 32GB tablet with a two-year service contract. At a time when tablet geeks can pick up an HP Touchpad for $100 and when Amazon is rumored to be pricing its new Android-based tablet in the $300 range, this price seems very high. Motorola's Xoom quickly found itself outflanked by Apple's iPad this spring when it priced its tablet higher than Apple at $729 for a 32GB no-contract model. If AT&T is charging roughly the same amount for a Jetstream in addition to requiring a service contract, it could spell trouble for the tablet once cheaper models become available.

While AT&T still hasn't yet set any specific dates for when its LTE services will come online, a company spokesman says it plans to start offering LTE in Chicago, Atlanta, Dallas, Houston and San Antonio "very soon" and in 10 additional markets by year-end. In total, AT&T estimates that 70 million Americans will have access to its LTE network by the start of 2012. As far as pricing goes, AT&T says that LTE customers will be able to buy 5GB of monthly data for $50 while paying an additional $10 per additional gigabyte consumed.

LTE, which stands for Long Term Evolution, is essentially a bridge from 3G technologies such as HSPA+ and EV-DO Rev. A to the 4G IMT-Advanced technologies that the International Telecommunications Union (ITU) says will deliver consistent speeds in the 100Mbps range. Verizon became the first major U.S. carrier to deploy LTE last year when it launched the technology in 38 major markets covering roughly one-third of the U.S. population. The carrier plans to have its entire current 3G footprint upgraded to LTE by the end of 2013.

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