Sales of 4G smartphones grew to 35 percent in Q4 2011, study shows

Alex Wagner
Editorial Director of News and Content from Omaha, NE
Published: March 13, 2012

HTC ThunderBolt rear Verizon

Today we heard both T-Mobile and Verizon touch on their 4G networks and how they are now and how they'll be growing. Now a report from the NPD Group has covered the devices accessing those networks, offering up details on the popularity of 4G-enabled products at the end of last year. According to the NPD Group, 35 percent of smartphones sold in Q4 2011 included 4G connectivity, which NPD categorizes as a handset with HSPA+, LTE or WiMAX connectivity. That's a jump from Q4 2010, when 4G smartphones made up just 6 percent of the market.

Phones with HSPA+ support made up the majority of the 4G smartphone sales with a 22 percent share of all smartphones sold in Q4 2011, a figure that includes sales of Apple's iPhone 4S, which NPD says was the most popular HSPA+ handset of 2011. Next up is LTE-enabled phones, which made up 7 percent of smartphone sales in the final quarter of 2011. The NPD Group notes that the best selling LTE handset of 2011 was Verizon's HTC ThunderBolt. Rounding out the pack of three is WiMAX, which was present on 6 percent of phones sold in Q4 2011. The most popular WiMAX phone of 2011? Sprint's HTC EVO 4G.

So that's how sales of 4G smartphones looked at the end of last year. With all four major U.S. carriers either in the process of rolling out LTE networks or committing to doing so in the future, I'm sure we'll see sales of LTE devices continue to grow going forward, especially considering that Verizon has said that it won't be releasing any non-LTE smartphones for the rest of 2012. How many of you currently own an HSPA+, LTE or WiMAX-capable smartphone?

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


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.

Via The Verge