Surveys: Smartphone Consumers Care About Price, Not 4G

A couple of new surveys show that price is first-and-foremost for mobile phone consumers while 4G is barely on the radar. 66 percent of smartphone owners surveyed by Morpace Market Research that do not currently have 4G are not willing to upgrade to get it before their contract expires. The survey queried 490 smartphone owners.

More important than network speeds was the cost of the the device and the data plan. 65 percent named cost as the single most important factor they considered when buying a new smartphone. Perhaps that's not surprising in today's economy. But 4G in particular was singled out as not being worth an extra penny. One-third of respondents named cost of the data plan as their highest priority when choosing a service provider. One-third named coverage areas of the network. A mere 4 percent said they were in it for the 4G speed. The analysts at Morpace quip that this low interest "may be surprising given the attention that some cell phone network providers have given to that feature in advertising campaigns." Fastest doesn't apparently mean most popular.

Sorry, Carly. No one cares how fast you are ...

Also interesting, despite the massive amount of advertising about the benefits of 4G speeds, nearly half of respondents said they had no idea what these benefits were. The other half seemed to understand that 4G meant faster Internet surfing, faster image resolution, better multi-tasking. These folks can probably also be divided into those who DVR their favorite TV shows and fast-forward through the commercials and those who don't.

While this group of smartphone owners didn't want to pay more for 4G service, they sure wanted their phones to be 4G capable. Some 72 percent say that 4G was an important factor when purchasing their current cell phone.

Meanwhile, another market research firm declared Sprint to be the winner of the dubiously-named 2011 North American Wireless Consumers' Choice Award for Customer Value Enhancement. Although "enhancement" is one of those words that often can't make it through the spam filter, Frost & Sullivan meant this as a compliment. In independent research which surveyed 1,003 U.S. consumers, Sprint came out on top for "customer value enhancement variables, such as overall quality and price," Frost & Sullivan says.

We would say that things like network quality and price aren't "customer value enhancements" but merely "customer value" or even "the stuff the customer expects to get when the customer pays the bill each month." But we admit, we may be quibbling.

This award, too, all comes down to cost. "Sprint edges out its major competitors on customer value enhancement, receiving an average rating of 5.33 on a seven-point scale from its customers, compared to the average ratings of 5.05 to 5.29 for its major competitors," says Frost & Sullivan Senior Research Analyst, Joerg Ditmer. "In particular, Sprint earns this award on the basis of its strong rating on price relative to its top competitors."

Sprint's talk-plus-data plans range from $70 for metered usage, to $100 per month for its "Simply Everything" plan. In comparison, AT&T no longer offers unlimited data plans.