Confusion and Skepticism May Impede 4G Adoption

    As Verizon continues to roll out its 4G LTE network across the country at an accelerated rate and AT&T also picks up speed in its 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 have become hesitant to move to 4G, at least in the near term. In a recent Retrevo Gadgetology study, 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.

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    Click through for reasons 4G adoption may be slower than originally anticipated, provided by Retrevo.

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    A third of iPhone owners mistakenly think their phones have 4G.

    Maybe the "4" in the iPhone 4 name gives iPhone owners (34 percent) 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 percent) 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.

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    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+, you can't blame consumers for their skepticism. However, long term, Retrevo is 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 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.

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    Will the lack of 4G hurt Apple iPhone sales?

    The answer to the question of whether the lack of 4G in the next iPhone will prevent consumers from buying one is probably not, at least among current iPhone owners. Sixty-one percent of current iPhone owners say they don't care if the new iPhone has 4G, 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 survey responses also show that Android owners are a loyal group, with only 20 percent 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 percent saying they'll buy or consider buying a new iPhone with or without 4G.

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    There's 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 introduced a bill titled the "Next Generation Wireless Disclosure Act," which may force broadband service providers to “tell it like it is” in their consumer ads and marketing materials.

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    As carriers deploy their 4G networks around the country, 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.

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