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Cricket to Shake Up Prepaid Phone Sector with 4G, High-End Smartphones

Cricket says it has a big portfolio of 3G and 4G phones coming, as well as a growing LTE network.

When you think smartphones on prepaid contracts, you probably conjure up images of really outdated BlackBerry Curves and year-old Android phones with low-resolution displays.

Or, maybe you still think that only feature phones can be obtained without a two-year contract. Either way, Cricket wants to defy any preconceived notions that you can't get a good phone on prepaid. I sat down with Matthew Stoiber, senior vice president of devices for Cricket at the CTIA show in New Orleans, to find out what's up next for the prepaid carrier.

In March, Cricket announced that it will use Clearwire to rollout an LTE service to its customers in a five-year agreement. Clearwire's own LTE Advanced-ready network will provide 4G roaming for Cricket's customers. Currently, Cricket only has LTE in one test market: Tucson, Arizona. The carrier plans to deploy LTE across about two-thirds of its current network over the next two to three years.

Along with this LTE deployment, Cricket plans to make a move away from feature phones and launch a mix of 3G and 4G phones competitive to what you'll find in the Big Four carriers' rosters. According to Stoiber, Cricket will only have three feature phones for sale, while the rest will be a mix of 4G and 3G smartphones.

While the majority of these phones will be Android, Stoiber did confirm that the carrier is very interested in Windows 8 for mobile phones. There are currently no Windows Phone 7 devices on Cricket right now and very few available for prepaid in general.

"We've watched as they (Microsoft) have developed their platform and Windows 8 seems to us to be a very marketable version," Stoiber said.

Unfortunately, all of Cricket's next-generation phones are now tightly under wraps, but you can be sure that we'll get our hands on them for a review as soon as they're available.

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