Sprint CEO Dan Hesse said the company is facing some shortages of its new 3G/4G smartphone, the HTC Evo.
At a conference in New York City on Tuesday, Hesse said the device is more popular than Sprint or HTC, the manufacturer, had foreseen. When asked whether the shortfall was due to a lack of components, he deferred to HTC but said that he thought the issue had more to with stronger-than-expected demand, according to Reuters.
Sprint launched the HTC Evo 4G, the only phone so far that works over a 4G wireless network, in early June. The device, which sports a large high-resolution touch screen, 8-megapixel camera, and the ability to turn itself into a Wi-Fi hot spot, is a compelling competitor to the iPhone even for customers not living in 4G territory. The Android-based Evo is also designed specifically for a super-fast 4G network, which means applications and video viewing is much faster than on an iPhone when the Evo is used in a 4G network.
Sprint is using Clearwire's 4G wireless network, which it's still building across the country. Currently about 44 million people can access the 4G network. And by the end of the year, Clearwire and Sprint say they'll reach 120 million potential customers.
The Evo is one of many new phones that Sprint hopes will help it compete more aggressively with larger competitors AT&T and Verizon Wireless, which have their own flagship smartphones. AT&T is still the exclusive carrier for the popular Apple iPhone, and Verizon Wireless will soon launch the Motorola Droid X.
But phones alone aren't what Hesse and his team at Sprint are counting on to beat AT&T and Verizon. The company, which has struggled for years as it loses high-value post-paid subscribers, has been focused on rebuilding its brand through improving customer service.
During a presentation at the Forrester Research conference on Tuesday, Hesse said that the company is not looking to be the biggest wireless provider in the market, but instead wants to be the best.
"I very much want Sprint to be in the clear No. 1 position," he said. "AT&T and Verizon are twice our size. If you think of what Apple has done with their brand you see you don't have to be the biggest. They weren't nearly the largest computer company. And they aren't in the top five cell phone makers. But shareholders are doing pretty well. If we can build a great customer experience, we don't have to be the biggest."
Of course, making sure that customers can get their hands on the hottest device is key to keeping customers happy. And Sprint and HTC will likely have to move quickly to satisfy the demand for these devices if the carrier wants to keep customers happy.
An HTC spokesman told Reuters the company is doing all it can to satisfy demand for the Evo. "We're seeing greater demand for our products than we ever have in the past," HTC spokesman Keith Nowak told the news service.
HTC is also seeing shortages of its Droid Incredible phone sold by Verizon Wireless. Verizon has blamed the HTC Incredible shortage on a lack of components, namely screens from Samsung Electronics. Nowak told Reuters that HTC is adding Sony as a second supplier to Samsung for its screens sold in Europe and Asia. But he wouldn't say whether Sony would also be the second supplier for devices such as the HTC Incredible or the HTC Evo, Reuters reported.