Samsung Stratosphere: Verizon’s next LTE phone?

Verizon (s vz) subscribers may have their first handset with both LTE and a slide-out keyboard to choose from this week. The Samsung Stratosphere is reportedly about to launch on the largest carrier in the U.S., according to PocketNow, which has images of the handset. To the disappointment of many, Verizon chose not to carry the most popular Samsung phone, the Galaxy S II.

The Stratosphere’s support for LTE should appeal to those wanting a smartphone with a mobile broadband connection that averages around 12 Mbps, faster than many home broadband connections. The five-row hardware keyboard will separate Verizon customers into two camps, however. Some will want the keyboard feature while others won’t want the added bulk and weight it brings.

Few other Stratosphere specifications are known, although back in July, some details began to appear. The handset was seen running Android 2.3.4 at that time, and an Android Central tipster described the screen as “awesome” after taking a hands-on look. I’d say that means Samsung’s Super AMOLED Plus technology is on board, but we’ll have to see, since the phone looks much like last year’s Sprint (s s) Epic 4G.

If the handset has a 5 megapixel camera, as noted in July, the phone may be part of Samsung’s new Galaxy R line, introduced last month and touted as a premium category model with a combination of power, performance and productivity. I’d equate that to one step below the Galaxy S line, or between the mid- and high-end smartphone range, which could still appeal to some who had hoped for a Galaxy S II on Verizon.

When Verizon announced last month that it would forgo the Galaxy S II, I suggested it was due to the phone’s lack of support for Verizon’s new LTE network. There are few other logical reasons not to offer the phone, given that it has received stellar reviews and arguably has the highest specification combo in any single smartphone to date. A new Stratosphere may not replace a Galaxy S II, but it would show that Verizon would prefer to push handsets with LTE, even in the mid-range line.