Last week, Sprint quietly released an update to its online coverage map, allowing users to view device-specific coverage, depending on what flavor of 4G one’s phone or tablet prefers. Therefore, users with WiMAX-capable devices like the original HTC EVO 4G or the EVO 3D will see WiMAX coverage in yellow (see above), while users of LTE devices like the EVO 4G LTE will see LTE coverage in orange (see below). Other data coverage, like 3G or roaming, are shown in varying shades of purple.

Being able to differentiate between different 4G technologies based on one’s device will be very helpful, and certainly help alleviate the inevitable customer confusion that is sure to come. However, until Sprint’s LTE network is up and running, this also has one very large – and very negative – side effect. Basically, it now becomes extremely clear how far behind the curve Sprint is compared to Verizon, or even AT&T. Heck, even T-Mobile has quasi-4G in the form of HSPA+ in a lot more places than Sprint has WiMAX.

I might even say that these maps are somewhat painful.

Luckily, Sprint says its still on track to meet its end-of-2013 goals of blanketing most of its network in 4G, even if it hasn’t officially launched in any markets yet. And releasing a tool like this certainly makes it seem like Sprint is getting ready to finally announce LTE in its initial markets. So here’s to hoping that Sprint can stay on track!

[Sprint]