Research downplays user interest in LTE 4G mobile broadband, one of iPhone 5's selling points. The catch: Most people don't know what real 4G is -- and that's the fault of U.S. network operators.
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One of the most important new features of the iPhone 5, which is expected to make its debut on September 12 and reach stores as early as September 21, will be Long Term Evolution 4G. Despite the significance of this feature, nearly half of Americans won't give a hoot, according to analyst firm Piper Jaffray.
The company polled some 3,000 Americans on their views about 4G, and the results, published by AppleInsider, are somewhat surprising.
Piper Jaffray discovered that 47% of consumers don't think they need LTE 4G at all. Only 15% of respondents said that LTE 4G is the best network technology to have, but 26% of respondents indicated that they think all 4G technologies are the same.
That sound you just heard is technologists' jaws hitting the floor, while wireless network operators' marketing teams cheer. There are a couple of things going on here that are worth discussing.
Most consumers simply don't know what real 4G is -- and that's the fault of U.S. network operators. All of them are guilty to some degree of muddying the 4G marketing waters by advertising speed more than technology. Technically, none of the U.S. "4G" networks are 4G as defined by the International Telecommunications Union. This is why you'll see of lot of technologists call America's 4G networks "faux G."
For example, Verizon uses LTE for its 4G technology. T-Mobile has marketed its HSPA+ as 4G for nearly two years, as has AT&T. But both T-Mobile and AT&T are working on LTE networks of their own, which they will also market as 4G. Do you see why people are getting confused?
It also appears that wireless network operators have not done a good job educating the general public about the benefits of LTE 4G. It's about more than speed. Latency and throughput are also significantly better. Given the night-and-day difference in speed capabilities compared to 3G, I'm surprised every consumer in the country isn't clamoring for LTE 4G.
Circling back to Piper Jaffray's poll, it asked people if they want the iPhone 5. More than half of respondents (55%) said they're considering it. From which carrier will the purchase their shiny new toy? Potential iPhone buyers broke down thus: 44% said they'd buy a Verizon iPhone 5, 29% said they'd pick AT&T, 14% said they'd pick Sprint, and 13% said they'd pick T-Mobile (which doesn't even sell the iPhone).
"With these results in hand, we expect Verizon to continue to gain market share of high-value smartphone (subscribers)," wrote analyst Christopher M. Larsen. "Keep in mind, the iPhone carries a high subsidy, and therefore high initial sales have a short-term negative impact on margins."
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