NPD: One third of all smartphones sold in Q4 had 4G connectivity

Smartphones with 4G connectivity grew from 6% in the fourth quarter of 2010 to 35% in the fourth quarter of 2011, according to a report from The NPD Group. HSPA+ “4G” accounted for 22% sales, however, leaving LTE and WiMAX technologies with a much less impressive share of the smartphone market. Older HSPA+ technology was the only 4G offered by AT&T up until recently, and it is still the only 4G technology offered by T-Mobile. The firm also counts AT&T’s iPhone 4S among the 4G phones sold last quarter, giving the category a significant boost. LTE-enabled handsets, on the other hand, accounted for just 7% of the smartphone market, while WiMAX made up only 6%, dropping from its third-quarter high of 10%. Verizon’s HTC Thunderbolt was the most popular LTE handset in the fourth quarter last year, while Sprint’s HTC EVO was the most popular WiMAX device. Read on for NPD’s press release.

The NPD Group: 4G Handsets Grew to Encompass over One-Third of the Smartphone Market in 2011

LTE poised to gain share of 4G smartphone offerings in 2012.
PORT WASHINGTON, NEW YORK, March 13, 2012 – According to The NPD Group, a leading market research company, the fourth-generation (4G) smartphone market grew from 6 percent in the fourth quarter (Q4) of 2010 to 35 percent in Q4 2011. The most popular 4G network technology in smartphones was HSPA+, at 22 percent of smartphone sales. The only 4G network technology offered by AT&T until 2011 and still the only 4G technology offered by T-Mobile, HSPA+ received a tremendous boost in Q4, because it was the only 4G technology supported by the popular iPhone 4S.

One year after Verizon’s launch of the first commercially deployed LTE network, LTE-enabled handsets accounted for 7 percent of the smartphone market; however, consumers are exhibiting a strong association between LTE and 4G. More than a quarter (26 percent) of consumers who purchased LTE phones were specifically seeking 4G technology in 2011, compared to just 9 percent of all smartphone buyers.

“HSPA+, which has combined high throughput with practical power efficiency, has been a compelling evolutionary 4G upgrade option for carriers upgrading GSM networks,” said Ross Rubin, executive director, Connected Intelligence for The NPD Group. “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.”

The percentage of smartphones supporting WiMax, the LTE alternative launched by Sprint in the summer of 2009, ended the year at 6 percent of the market after hitting a high of 10 percent in the third quarter of 2011. Based on The NPD Group’s monthly Mobile Phone Track service, the top-selling mobile phones for each 4G technology in 2011 were as follows:

LTE: HTC Thunderbolt
WiMax: HTC EVO
HSPA+: Apple iPhone 4S

Information this press release is from Mobile Phone Track and Smartphone Track, both of which report on the activities of U.S. consumers, age 18 and older, who reported purchasing a mobile phone or smartphone. NPD does not track corporate/enterprise mobile phone purchases.

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