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BACKGROUND: Breaking down carriers' "4G" wireless spin
We should note that Localytics uses the expansive definition of "4G" services that not only includes LTE and WiMAX but also HSPA+ networks. However, Verizon's LTE Android devices and Sprint's WiMAX Android devices accounted for the top four 4G smartphones on the list, with T-Mobile's HSPA+-based HTC myTouch 4G finishing fifth. The HSPA+-based Motorola Atrix was the only AT&T device to crack the top 10, ranking sixth among 4G Android smartphones. Localytics says the top four 4G Android smartphones used in the third quarter of 2011 were, in order, Verizon's HTC Thunderbolt, Sprint's HTC Evo 4G, Verizon's Samsung Droid Charge and Sprint's Epic 4G.
Localytics typically collects data by analyzing what devices and carriers mobile users employ to access the estimated 1,500 mobile applications that use Localytics as their analytics software. Localytics has several big-name clients that use its software to monitor traffic on their applications, including Skype, Newscorp and Turner Broadcasting, so its data does capture trends within some high-traffic applications.
Localytics says the percentage of Android-based devices utilizing 4G technologies has risen significantly this year, as 4G Android phones accounted for 22.6% of all Android phones in the first quarter of the year but now account for 36.6%. Because AT&T will continue to accelerate its LTE deployments and since Apple will eventually add 4G capabilities to its ever-popular iPhone, Localytics only sees 4G data networks becoming more ubiquitous. The firm also says this increase in 4G networks will be good for mobile app developers.
"For app developers, this should be a very welcome piece of news: the wider the technology referred to as 4G spreads, the bigger the bandwidth app developers have to play with," the firm writes on its blog. "With the growth in 4G-capable handsets Android has seen, it appears that smartphone users are buying into the value of speed."
Although WiMAX, HSPA+ and LTE are all commonly referred to as 4G, it's been widely acknowledged that LTE offers the fastest average data speeds of the three. LTE, which stands for Long Term Evolution, is essentially a bridge from 3G technologies such as HSPA+ and EV-DO Rev. A to the 4G IMT-Advanced technologies that the International Telecommunications Union (ITU) says will deliver consistent speeds in the 100Mbps range. Verizon became the first major U.S. carrier to deploy LTE last year when it launched the technology in 38 major markets covering roughly one-third of the U.S. population. AT&T deployed LTE commercially for the first time in the United States in five cities this month, with plans to expand to more markets by the end of the year.
Read more about wireless & mobile in Network World's Wireless & Mobile section.