Young consumers help 4G adoption quadruple

3G? It's old news, say an increasing number of users.

According to new data from Nielsen, adoption of 4G mobile phones has nearly quadrupled since last year. As for the first quarter of the year, 7.6 per cent of US consumers were using a 4G phone, up from 1.4 per cent during the fourth quarter of 2011.

As could be expected, younger users are the demographic most enamoured with 4G. Specifically, 63 per cent of teens are likely to consider switching to 4G within the next year, and consumers under the age of 34 are most likely to have already adopted 4G technology, Nielsen said.

But while awareness and adoption of 4G is growing, many consumers aren't exactly sure what 4G is, according to the research firm. More than half of consumers are unable to identify any forms of 4G technology.

The lack of understanding is not surprising. PCMag's lead analyst for mobile Sascha Segan says that 4G has unfortunately become a "meaningless, catch-all term" that includes a wide range of speeds, much like the equally ambiguous term "home broadband."

Despite the lack of clarity, an overwhelming 86 per cent of 4G smartphone owners are satisfied with their device, Nielsen said. Most, however, have gripes with their phone's battery life. To deal with this issue, a portion of 4G smartphone owners manually toggle between 3G and 4G to conserve battery life.

Also, while 4G is a nice feature to have, it's not the most essential one for most consumers, the study found.

"Although 39 per cent of 4G smartphone owners indicate that 4G was a factor influencing their purchasing decision, only eight per cent identify 4G as the most important factor," Nielsen wrote. "The research found that 4G capability is considerably more important for those purchasing a data card or mobile hotspot than either a smartphone or tablet."

Do you use a 4G phone? If not, would you consider switching to one this year? Tell us in the comments below.