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Smartphone Option Overload Confuses Consumers

Vendors have bombarded consumers with conflicting information about smartphone costs, network data speeds, and features, slowing adoption and upgrade rates.
The smartphone market has been growing at an astonishing rate, a trend that was kicked off when the first iPhone launched in 2007. For people familiar with technology, smartphones are a no-brainer. For others though, making such a significant investment requires research to get comfortable making the leap. The relatively high cost as well as confusing information on what exactly 4G is has kept the growth rate for smartphones below where it could be.

Analysys Mason has surveyed 7,485 consumers regarding smartphone purchases. About 46% that don't currently own a smartphone cited the high price of ownership as well as not seeing advantages of the functionality the devices provide. Buying an iPhone at Verizon will cost $200 for a 16-GB 4S, plus at least $70 per month for 450 minutes and 2 GB of data, and that ignores taxes. That will be more $2,000 during the next two years when all fees are factored in. People expect to know exactly what they are getting when committing to such a bill.

The term "4G" hasn't helped matters though. In fact, simply having a "4" in the device name causes confusion as nearly half of iPhone 4/4S owners think their device supports 4G. When you throw in the various technologies that T-Mobile, AT&T, and Verizon call 4G, it is enough to confuse even the tech savvy.

Cellular service providers need to invest in programs that educate the consumer about what their network offers. That would also let users know what phones today will work on their 4G networks in the future. Instead, money is spent on commercials full of computer graphics showing phones flying through the air while the voice-over claims its network is the fastest while disparaging the competition.

Information on service provider sites is no more useful in clearing the air. According to the author of the report, if carriers could lay out this information in a clear and concise matter, it would "have a significant impact on take-up of these technologies."

It is a risky move though. It means being honest about what they can deliver, which includes highlighting where the competition has some features and services that are better.