Last week there was an interesting discussion about 3G penetration in the US on the mobiledesign yahoo group. I put a bit of thought in to my response and defense that the 3G market here is further along than we’re given credit for. I thought I’d cross-post it here because I think it’s interesting.
I don’t have any numbers to back this up, but my gut tells me that 3G has more penetration in the US than this, but not in the smartphone market.
In the US the featurephone rules, and I wouldn’t expect any different in terms of 3G sales and availability. Right now AT&T has about 8 different models (some with color/configuration variations) that are 3G capable. I’m guessing that’s a mix of UMTS and HSDPA but I haven’t checked too closely.
In-store they seem to be pushing the RAZR (4 colors with 3G), Sync (4 colors with 3G), and other featurephones such as the Samsung A717, A727, and the LG Trax. Also in the lineup are a few smartphones: the N75, HTC 8528, and Samsung Blackjack. All of these devices support 3G data.
The bottom of the line is still dominated by EDGE devices, but there are several 3G options at the free to $100 price range on contract. All of the in-store RAZRs are now 3G, and I have a feeling that they’re still selling quite briskly.
I’m personally holding out for the US N95 and my wife just picked up an N75 at the store with a contract renewal, but from what I’ve observed most US customers are concerned with which color RAZR they want or what their favorite phone in the free to $100 range on contract is.
I haven’t spent a significant amount of time in Verizon or Sprint stores lately, but I believe that you would find a similar selection of EVDO-capable devices in those stores. Their branding gets in the way a bit, but for Sprint I believe that you are looking for “PowerVision” and for Verizon you’re looking for “BroadbandAccess.” Again, I’m guessing that you’ll see a handful of featurephones and a few smartphones.
As Gautam mentioned, T-Mobile are still rolling out their 3G network but the top 3 carriers all have 3G networks in many (most?) areas and at least in AT&T’s case a solid selection of devices that take advantage of them.