Quick Connection: 22% of Smartphones Bought Are 4G

EVO 4GThe proportion of mobile devices touting 4G connection speeds has shot up in the last year as more and more people seek faster service. More than one in five (22%) of the smartphones purchased in the second quarter were 4G-enabled, up from only 3% a year ago, according to new data released Wednesday by market research firm NPD Group.

Among wireless operators, Sprint notched the highest percentage of 4G phone sales, and is the only carrier for which 4G handsets made up the bulk of its smartphone sales. Sprint kicked things off last year with the launch of the EVO 4G from HTC, which it marketed widely as “America’s First 4G Phone” in an aggressive ad campaign.

The EVO has also helped Taiwan-based HTC become the dominant 4G smartphone manufacturer, accounting for 62% of second-quarter sales. HTC also makes Verizon Wireless’ popular ThunderBolt, and AT&T’s Inspire 4G, among others. Samsung was a distant second, with 22% of 4G device sales, followed by Motorola (11%) and LG (4%).

“In the year since the debut of the EVO 4G, the number of 4G smartphone models has exploded,” said Ross Rubin, executive director of industry analysis at NPD. In an interview, he explained that the increasing availability of 4G devices as well as 4G-capable networks from Sprint, Verizon, T-Mobile, and now AT&T, have helped boost consumer uptake. Verizon, for instance, earlier this year promised to expand 4G services to 175 U.S. cities by the end of 2011.

Of course, the definition of “4G” has led to much confusion because of promotional efforts to slap the moniker on high-speed service offerings using different standards. Clearwire and Sprint labeled their WiMax network as "4G" although no network would meet International Telecommunications Union (ITU)-defined speeds of 100 Mpbs connection for several years. Now, all four major wireless carriers boast their own versions of 4G. 

For the purpose of its research, NPD considers smartphones to be 4G if they support LTE (Long-Term Evolution), WiMAX or HSPA+ technologies with downlink speeds of 14 Mbps/s or greater. That means the latest iPhone model will qualify as a 4G phone on AT&T’s network using HSPA+. AT&T expects to roll out its faster LTE network in 15 cities by year’s end, and fully nationwide by 2013.

Apple’s record-setting iPhone 4S pre-order sales of 1 million units in the first 24 hours suggest it will further swell the the ranks of 4G phone buyers in the third quarter. NPD’s findings are drawn from its Mobile Phone Track report focused on consumers 18 and over who have reported buying a mobile phone. It does not include corporate purchases.

1 comment about "Quick Connection: 22% of Smartphones Bought Are 4G".
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  1. Samson Adepoju from DGC, October 13, 2011 at 11:57 a.m.

    Now if only I had a 4G signal 22% of the time. Sometimes, it's not worth jumping on new tech until it reaches a certain amount of penetration and becomes mainstream.

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