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Most US smartphone owners do not understand the current state of 4G (fourth generation) mobile phone technology, according to research by Compete.

Users Incorrectly Think Smartphones Offer 4G
Although 4G smartphones are available in most global markets and Sprint recently announced it will introduce a 4G smartphone called HTC EVO in the US, currently no US smartphone provider offers 4G technology. The only 4G technology of any kind currently available in the US is the Sprint WiMax service for laptop and PC internet access, which is limited to certain cities.

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Nevertheless, 59% of US smartphone owners believe 4G is currently available on some smartphones, and 31% don’t know. Only 10% are aware 4G is currently unavailable on US smartphones. In addition, 16% of US smartphone owners think their carrier offers 4G, while 48% don’t know and 37% know this is false; and 14% think 4G smartphones are available nationwide, while 45% don’t know and 42% know this is false.

Smartphone Users Better Educated about 3G
US smartphone owners are much more aware of the facts about 3G (third generation) mobile phone technology, which is available from major carriers nationwide, than they are about 4G mobile phone technology. Eighty-two percent know their carrier offers 3G, 84% know that 3G is currently available on some smartphones, and 66% know that 3G is currently available nationwide.

Interestingly, 69% of US smartphone owners know that 4G allows for faster data downloads than 3G. Since a majority of US smartphone owners know this fact and also believe 4G smartphones are available, Compete analysts suggest it could indicate that people are not basing Smartphone purchase decisions on data service speeds.

iPhone 4G Search Frequency Jumps
Since dipping from 200% to 100% monthly online search growth between November and December 2009, the growth in search frequency for the term “iPhone 4G” dramatically rose to 400% in January 2010 and 500% in February 2010 before moderating to about 550% in March 2010. The iPhone 4G does not exist yet, but it’s clear that consumers are looking for one.

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It is also worth noting that in the first three days after Sprint announced the HTC EVO, which is expected to be a major competitor to the iPhone, product page saw about 82% of the volume of traffic that the iPhone 3G product page saw in its first three days.

Smartphones Projected to Overtake Feature Phones Next Year
Smartphone penetration of the US mobile phone market will overtake feature phone penetration by the end of 2011, according to projections from The Nielsen Company. Even without 4G capability, smartphones are rapidly growing in popularity among US mobile phone users, broadening 4G’s potential customer base.

Although only 21% of American wireless subscribers were using a smartphone as of Q4 2009, compared to 19% in Q3 2009 and 14% at the end of 2008, Nielsen expects smartphones to account for more than half of the US mobile phone market by 2011.

Nielsen predicts smartphones will account for 24% of the US mobile phone market in Q1 2010 and rise to about 33% market share by Q4 2010.Growth will then accelerate in 2011, hitting 40% in Q1 2011 and about 50% by Q3 2011. Based on this rapid increase, smartphones should pass the 50% mark during Q4 2011.

About the Data: Compete surveyed 933 US smartphone owners who are aware of 3G and 4G between January and February 2010. Search terms are indexed to their October 2009 search growth results.

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