If there is one lesson to be learnt from the growth in 3G and 3.5G services, it is that widespread service adoption is contingent on the availability of attractive ‘blockbuster’, ‘must have’, handsets. This was true of 3G services, which only really gained the massive data-hungry popularity they now enjoy thanks to the remarkable success of the iPhone and its clones. What this did, was provide services and applications that gave compelling reasons for users to adopt 3G data plans. For network operators looking to sell their 4G services to the public, they must look to selling the ‘experience’, not the speed.
In that context, Mobile WiMAX’s quest to be the 4G service of choice received a fillip this week with the introduction of the HTC EVO 4G. The handset’s weekend sales will, according to estimates, range from 150,000-200,000 units; and will in the short matter of three days eclipse sales of all other WiMAX capable handsets this year.
The popularity of the handset does not stem solely from the availability of 4G data services. Clearwire’s WiMAX network does not yet cover much of the United States-yet the handset is reportedly sold out both online and in many stores countrywide. Customers are attracted to the power and usefulness of what is one of the top-end android handsets-with or without WiMAX. Its large screen and included video recording and editing make it an ideal device for portable content consumption.
The lesson is that, if WiMAX or LTE wish to gain quick market acceptance, it will be essential that the major handset manufacturers be prepared to offer compelling smart phones that include 4G. At the end of the day, consumers are interested in the user-experience, not the included technology.