According to The NPD Group (, a leading market research company, the fourth-generation (4G) smartphone market grew from 6% in the fourth quarter (Q4) of 2010 to 35% in Q4 2011.

The most popular 4G network technology in smartphones was HSPA+, at 22% of smartphone sales. The only 4G network technology offered by AT&T until 2011 and still the only 4G technology offered by T-Mobile, HSPA+ received a tremendous boost in Q4, because it was the only 4G technology supported by the popular iPhone 4S, says The NPD Group.

One year after Verizon’s launch of the first commercially deployed LTE network, LTE-enabled handsets accounted for 7% of the smartphone market; however, consumers are exhibiting a strong association between LTE and 4G. More than a quarter (26%) of consumers who purchased LTE phones were specifically seeking 4G technology in 2011, compared to just 9% of all smartphone buyers.

“HSPA+, which has combined high throughput with practical power efficiency, has been a compelling evolutionary 4G upgrade option for carriers upgrading GSM networks,” says Ross Rubin, executive director, Connected Intelligence for The NPD Group. “With all major U.S. carriers committing to LTE as their 4G future, it is clearly the cellular network technology that will determine the baseline for the next generation of advanced smartphones.”

The percentage of smartphones supporting WiMax, the LTE alternative launched by Sprint in the summer of 2009, ended the year at 6%of the market after hitting a high of 10% in the third quarter of 2011. Based on The NPD Group’s monthly Mobile Phone Track service, the top-selling mobile phones for each 4G technology in 2011 were as follows:
° HSPA+: Apple iPhone 4S;

° LTE: HTC Thunderbolt;

° WiMax: HTC EVO.