According to a survey conducted by market research company NPD Group, the US 4G smartphone market has grown almost sixfold during the Q4 2010 – Q4 2011 interval. Accounting for 35% of all smartphones sold in the US during the last quarter of 2011, the market was fairly quick to grow out of the 6% it hold in the same period of 2010. Confusingly enough, the most popular 4G network in the US was reported to be HSPA+, standing at 22%. As HSPA + is actually a 3G-based standard, and not actually 4G per-se, many will interpret the real 4G smartphone market share as standing at only 13%.
The fastest 4G network in the United States is LTE, as Verizon pointed out when they first rolled out the HTC Thunderbolt — the first smartphone to ever run on a US LTE network – back in March 2011. Currently offered by AT&T and Verizon, only 7% of the smartphones purchased in the last quarter of 2011 run on LTE. However, the LTE smartphone market is likely to continue its growth over the following quarters, as Verizon and AT&T continue to increase their LTE coverage. In addition, both of the remaining major carriers, Sprint and T-Mobile are also planning LTE network rollouts over the following year. Wi-Max, Sprint’s failed attempt of providing an LTE alternative (although LTE is faster) holds a Q4 2011 market share of 6%, down 4 percentage points, quarter-to-quarter.
The main reason why HSPA+ is at 22% and “real” 4G at only 13% (when the latter is obviously a better choice), is the fact that Apple’s iPhone 4s – the best selling smartphone in the US — runs on HSPA+, and not LTE. The best selling LTE smartphone is reported to be the HTC Thunderbolt, while the most popular Wi-Max smartphone was the HTC EVO.
Where will we go from LTE? Well, the next evolutionary step is the LTE Advanced standard, expected to reach the consumer market sometime around 2015.
The same report from NPD Group suggests that only 26% of the customers who purchased an LTE smartphone were explicitly looking for 4G technology, compared to only 9% of all smartphone buyers. Is LTE important for you guys? Let us know in the comment section below!