Supported by 22% of U.S. smartphone sales, HSPA+ captured the most 4G users in the States in the last three months of 2011. During that period, AT&T had not yet launched its LTE network, and like T-Mobile, had to rely on the HSPA+ technology to offer 4G service. HSPA+ use also surged thanks to sales of the AT&T branded Apple iPhone 4S. While the latter is not officially marketed as a 4G device, it does offer users up to 14.4Mbps download speed Some of the carrier's other handsets running at that speed have been labeled as 4G devices.
7% of U.S. smartphones purchased during the quarter. According to NPD, 26% of those buying an LTE model in the period were looking for a 4G enabled device, compared to the 9% of smartphone buyers during the same time period who were seeking such a model.
Ross Rubin, executive director, Connected Intelligence for The NPD Group, said that HSPA+ is "a compelling evolutionary 4G upgrade option for carriers upgrading GSM networks." Rubin sees HSPA+ becoming the baseline technology for U.S. carriers as the major mobile operators have committed to LTE for 4G service.
After peaking at 11% of the U.S smartphone market in the third quarter of 2011, Sprint's 4G WiMAX alternative finished the year with a 6% market share of new smartphones purchased in Q4. NPD's Mobile Phone Track took a look at all U.S. smartphones purchased by buyers 18 or older and found that the top selling model for 2011 that supported WiMAX was the HTC EVO 4G. Last year's top selling HSPA+ model was the Apple iPhone 4S and the LTE enabled handset with the most sales was the HTC ThunderBolt.