ABI: Led by LTE, 61 million '4G' handsets to ship in 2012

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Led by LTE products, 87 million of what ABI Research categorizes as "4G devices" are expected to ship in 2012, representing a year-on-year increase of 294 percent.

ABI's 4G devices category includes LTE and WiMAX products and runs the gamut across USB dongles, smartphones, tablets, 4G portable hotspots and wireless broadband CPE modems. The firm projects that 61 million 4G handsets will ship in 2012 as well as 26 million 4G non-handset products.

Rival research firm Strategy Analytics last month predicted LTE handsets sales will reach 67 million units this year.

"The lion's share of the market is now backing LTE as service provider and vendor support has fallen away from WiMAX," said Jake Saunders, ABI's vice president of forecasting.

ABI noted that premium prices often charged for LTE handsets and services are keeping customers, particularly in Western Europe, from moving beyond 3G. High-definition video streaming and more interactive social networking and gaming experiences are expected to lure 3G customers to newer networks, however. "Furthermore, mobile device vendors are experiencing intense competitive pressure, which is expected to bring down LTE handset prices, estimated at 10 to 20 percent over the next two years," said ABI.

Philip Solis, ABI research director, mobile devices, said the large number of LTE spectrum bands will hamper initial pricing and product roll-out.

Related research from Canadian company Ipsos Reid recently revealed that during the six-month period between August 2011 and January 2012, Canadian ownership of smartphones grew by 13 percent, while tablet ownership leaped by 66 percent and e-reader ownership jumped by 43 percent.

"In absolute terms, market penetration of smartphones grew from 24 percent of Canadians stating they owned one in August 2011 to 34 percent in January 2012. For tablets, 3 percent of Canadians said they owned such a device in August 2011, and 10 percent said they owned one in January 2012. In the e-reader segment, 4 percent of Canadians said they owned one in August 2011 with 10 percent making that claim five months later," according to the January 2012 wave of Ipsos Reid's Mobil-ology report.

For smartphone users, Research In Motion's (NASDAQ:RIMM) BlackBerry and Apple (NASDAQ:AAPL) iPhone remain the leading brands. Despite being a Canadian brand BlackBerry's year-on-year market penetration in its home market shrank from 41 percent to 33 percent, while the iPhone grew from 23 percent to 28 percent, and brands using Google's (NASDAQ:GOOG) Android platform grew from approximately 26 percent to 31 percent.

"Based on the brands under consideration by those in the market to buy or replace their Smartphone in the next year, we anticipate that these shifts in brand penetration will continue," said Mary Beth Barbour, senior vice president with Ipsos Reid. "Intentions to acquire a BlackBerry have declined by nearly one-third when compared to this time last year. Interest in Apple continues on a slight incline, while Android handsets are poised to pick up the lions-share of RIM's losses, thanks in no small part to Samsung for which purchase intent has increased by 50 percent over the past 12-month period."

In the tablet segment, competition from the Samsung Galaxy and BlackBerry PlayBook meant Apple saw its iPad market share in Canada slip to 47 percent in January 2012 from 78 percent a year earlier.

For more:
- see this ABI release
- see this Network World article
- see this Ipsos Reid release

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Report: LTE handset sales will soar to 67M in 2012