Ina Fried

Recent Posts by Ina Fried

No Matter How You Define 4G, Most U.S. Smartphones Still Aren’t Running on It

Flickr/Gawen947

There may be all kinds of new high-speed wireless networks out there, but the fact is most new phones being sold don’t support them.

According to NPD, 35 percent of the smartphones sold last year run on a 4G network, even under the loosest definition of 4G. While that’s up from 6 percent a year ago, it still means nearly two out of three new phones are 3G-only.

One big factor in that is the iPhone. Of all of Apple’s devices, only the iPhone 4S on AT&T’s network runs at a speed higher than 3G, and that one just barely fits the bill.

The fastest of the new networks are the LTE networks being rolled out by Verizon and, more recently, by AT&T. But most of the 4G smartphones out there are the ones that run on HSPA+, a more evolutionary technology. That technology is in use at T-Mobile and also at AT&T, and accounted for 22 percent of smartphone sales.

Phones supporting LTE accounted for 7 percent of smartphone sales, with 6 percent of smartphones using WiMax, the 4G technology adopted by Sprint.

What started out as an alphabet-soup marketing war, though, is now converging. Sprint plans to start rolling out its LTE network later this year, while T-Mobile has said it will start offering such a network next year, though it hasn’t said how it will do so. (Update: T-Mobile says it has been clear, maintaining it will be able to launch an LTE network through re-use of existing spectrum and the spectrum the it acquired from AT&T as part of the failed merger.)

“With all major U.S. carriers committing to LTE as their 4G future, it is clearly the cellular network technology that will determine the baseline for the next generation of advanced smartphones,” NPD Group analyst Ross Rubin said in a statement.

(Image courtesy of Flickr/Gawen947)


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I think the NSA has a job to do and we need the NSA. But as (physicist) Robert Oppenheimer said, “When you see something that is technically sweet, you go ahead and do it and argue about what to do about it only after you’ve had your technical success. That is the way it was with the atomic bomb.”

— Phil Zimmerman, PGP inventor and Silent Circle co-founder, in an interview with Om Malik