4G - the next generation of cellular data connection - is the future of mobile connectivity, and Android handset makers have been extremely aggressive in their adoption of the various new high-speed protocols. As Q3 2011 comes to an end, an impressive 37% of US Android devices are 4G enabled (defined for this study as HSPA+, LTE, or WiMAX).
What's more, this number is increasing rapidly - since the beginning of the year, the percentage of Android devices that are 4G-capable has grown by over 50%, culminating at a full third of the Android ecosystem.
Driving this growth has been the HTC Thunderbolt (Verizon), the HTC Evo 4G (Sprint), the Samsung Epic 4G (Sprint), and the Samsung Droid Charge (Verizon), the most popular 4G phones in order. T-Mobile's biggest 4G phone is the myTouch 4G, and the most popular AT&T 4G Android phone is the Motorola Atrix, the 8th-most-popular 4G Android device overall.
|Most popular US 4G Android devices|
|2||HTC Evo 4G|
|3||Samsung Droid Charge|
|4||Sprint Epic 4G|
|5||HTC myTouch 4G|
|7||EVO Shift 4G|
|8||Samsung Galaxy S 4G|
|9||HTC EVO 3D|
For app developers, this should be a very welcome piece of news: the wider the technology referred to as 4G spreads, the bigger the bandwidth app developers have to play with. Of course, each US carrier has a different 4G service with a different level of bandwidth - Verizon uses LTE, AT&T and T-Mobile run HSPA+, and Sprint uses WiMAX - but each one represents a significant bump from the more widely-available 3G speeds.
It will be interesting to see whether the iPhone 5 supports any type of 4G network. The drawbacks - bulkier antenna and a much shorter battery life - may outweigh the benefits in speed. Regardless, with the growth in 4G-capable handsets Android has seen, it appears that smartphone users are buying into the value of speed. We'll see how this continues.