July 13, 2011 at 1:36 PM ET
About a third of iPhone owners think they already have 4G phones, according to a survey which shows that naming, as well as timing, can be everything.
The survey, by electronic shopping website Retrevo, found that 34 percent of iPhone owners "mistakenly" think their phones are 4G-enabled with the faster, fourth-generation (hence "4G") service. But while AT&T and Verizon, which sell Apple's iPhone in the United States, are working on 4G networks, they're not fully in place yet. Nor does the iPhone have high-speed 4G connectivity. And the next may not, either.
"Maybe the '4' in the iPhone 4 name gives iPhone owners the false impression that they already own a 4G phone," said Andrew Eisner, Retrevo's director of community and content, says in a report, "Confusion and Skepticism May Impede 4G Adoption."
And it's not just iPhone owners who aren't clear.
"Coincidentally, a suspiciously large percentage of Android and BlackBerry owners may be suffering from the same delusion," Eisner wrote. "BlackBerry owners (24 percent) are almost as confused as iPhone owners since RIM doesn't currently offer a 4G phone. At least some Android owners could be answering correctly as Android 4G phones like the HTC Evo 4G or Samsung Infuse 4G have been available for some time. If nothing else this large number of misinformed phone owners serves to emphasize the fact that consumers are quite confused about 4G."
AT&T and Verizon are both putting 4G networks into place around the country; Sprint has its own 4G network, using a different technology than AT&T and Verizon; T-Mobile says it has one, although technically it's really a "3G" network on steroids.
As msnbc.com's Wilson Rothman noted previously, the " '4G' term doesn't denote any particular technology or performance level. All will have different performance — it's really just a marketing push."
So much so that a California congresswoman has introduced legislation to require wireless carriers to explain how fast 4G really is to help consumers make informed decisions. The bill, H.R. 2281, also known as the " Next Generation Wireless Disclosure Act," was referred to the House Committee on Energy and Commerce June 22.
Among Retrevo's other findings, from its 1,081 responses: 22 percent of people don't think 4G performance — largely benefiting data, not voice — is worth the cost, and 30 percent believe 4G data plans cost too much.
But iPhone fans remain strong; 40 percent say they will buy the next iPhone, "even if doesn't have 4G," Retrevo said. And at this point, it may not; so far, word is the phone, due in September, may be called the iPhone 4S — but not be 4G.