For Americans, this is the year of LTE. Granted, MetroPCS and Verizon actually launched their first LTE markets and devices last year, but next-gen data has really hit the mainstream in 2011. Virtually all members of Verizon's high-end smartphone line (the iPhone notably excluded) are now LTE-capable, and the network is now in the process of lighting up smaller, secondary markets. If you're a fan of high-speed data — and who isn't? — it's a good time to be alive.

AT&T is about a year behind Verizon in the LTE deployment cycle, but it's catching up in at least one regard: it has now shipped its first LTE phones less than two months after launching the 4G network itself — Verizon took over three months to reach that milestone. To be fair, AT&T has the benefit of an additional year's worth of experience and maturity on the hardware side — Verizon and HTC were blazing trails back when they released the ThunderBolt — but if nothing else, it's a sign that AT&T is going full-bore to get on a level playing field with its nearest competitor. Customers understand the need for fast data better than ever, and on some level, all the major carriers appear to recognize that.

That brings us to the HTC Vivid, one of AT&T's first two LTE handsets to hit store shelves (the other being the Samsung Skyrocket, a reworked version of the Galaxy S II). Leaked over the last several weeks as the "Holiday," the Vivid comes to market with a good bit of pent-up anticipation behind it — not only is the LTE support a big deal, but this marks the first time HTC has brought a qHD display to an AT&T device. Furthermore, it's the first 4.5-inch qHD display in AT&T's lineup, period.

In other words, the hype meter is pegged and the pressure's on. Is the Vivid the right showcase for AT&T's LTE network?