Tuesday, July 12, 2011

Confusion and Skepticism May Impede 4G Adoption

By Andrew Eisner, Director of Community and Content at Retrevo.com

As Verizon continues to roll out their 4G LTE network across the country at an accelerated rate and AT&T also picking up speed in their 4G deployment it would seem that widespread 4G adoption is a foregone conclusion. Unfortunately, it looks like consumers may be so confused over 4G that they become hesitant to move to 4G, at least in the near term. In a recent Retrevo Gadgetology study only a little less than a quarter of the respondents say they're going for 4G. With so many potential 4G customers expressing concerns about cost and performance providers of 4G phones and services could be in for some disappointment.

- A Third of iPhone Owners Mistakenly Think Their Phones Have 4G
Maybe the "4" in the iPhone 4 name gives iPhone owners (34%) the false impression that they already own a 4G phone but the fact is Apple doesn't offer a 4G phone at the moment. Coincidentally, a suspiciously large percentage of Android and BlackBerry owners may be suffering from the same delusion. BlackBerry owners (24%) are almost as confused as iPhone owners since RIM doesn't currently offer a 4G phone. At least some Android owners could be answering correctly as Android 4G phones like the HTC Evo 4G or Samsung Infuse 4G have been available for some time. If nothing else this large number of misinformed phone owners serves to emphasize the fact that consumers are quite confused about 4G.

- Almost a Third Think 4G is Too Expensive
Not only are many consumers confused about 4G, another significant group is under the impression that the performance gains of 4G are not worth the cost. With early benchmarks showing mixed results in data speed improvements over 3G or even 3.5G like AT&T and T-Mobile's HSPA+ we can't help blame consumers for their skepticism however, long term, we're confident that 4G speeds will prevail over 3G and that carriers will ultimately provide a fair price for 4G service. In the meantime, it looks like the after the kinks are worked out, marketing departments will have their work cut out for them to change consumers perceptions about the value of 4G.

- Will the Lack of 4G Hurt Apple iPhone Sales?
The answer to the question of whether or not the lack of 4G in the next iPhone will prevent consumers from buying one is probably not at least among current iPhone owners as 61% of iPhone owners say they don't care if the new iPhone has 4G or not and will buy, or consider buying, the next iPhone regardless of 4G. That's good news for Apple as rumors say not to expect an Apple 4G iPhone until 2012. The responses to this question also show Android owners as a loyal group with only 18% saying they would buy or consider buying a new iPhone, 4G or no 4G. On the other hand, BlackBerry owners look like potential defectors with 41% saying they'll buy a new iPhone, or consider buying one with or without 4G.

- So Much Confusion, Government May Step in and Require Providers to Explain Their Fees and Services
With all the confusion among consumers it's no wonder that the federal government is considering legislation requiring carriers to clearly spell out the quality of services and fees associated with them. Congresswoman Anna Eshoo has introduce a bill titled the "Next Generation Wireless Disclosure Act" which may force broadband service providers to tell consumers like it is in their ads and marketing materials.

- Conclusion
As carriers deploy their 4G networks around the country which have the potential of increasing 3G 2 -3 Mbps to well over 10Mbps, it looks like there's enough confusion and skepticism among consumers to keep the pace of adoption at a moderate rate. With so many potential customers expressing concern about price and performance and confusion over what exactly 4G means, providers of phones and services will have their work cut out for them to convince customers to upgrade to 4G.

- About Retrevo's Gadgetology Report
The Retrevo Gadgetology Report is an ongoing study of people and electronics from the consumer electronics shopping and review site Retrevo.com. The data for this report came from a study of online individuals conducted exclusively for Retrevo in June of 2011, by an independent panel. The sample size was over 1,000 distributed across gender, age, income and location in the United States. Most responses have a confidence interval of 4% at a 95% confidence level.

- About Retrevo
Retrevo.com is one of the largest consumer electronics review and shopping sites in the world, helping people decide what to buy, when to buy, and where to buy. Retrevo uses artificial intelligence to analyze and graphically summarize more than 100 million real-time data points from across the web to give shoppers the most comprehensive, unbiased, up-to-date product information they need to make smart, confident purchasing decisions for electronics.

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