Even though Apple's next iPhone is widely expected to feature 4G LTE connectivity, a new survey finds that nearly half of U.S. consumers feel they don't need the speedier wireless networks.
Nearly 47 percent of those surveyed by market analyst Piper Jaffray don't feel they need access to a 4G LTE network, while another 26 percent said they thought all 4G LTE networks were largely the same. The purpose of the survey was to determine whether Sprint's smaller 4G LTE footprint would negatively affect the carrier's ability to sell the new iPhone, widely referred to as the iPhone 5.
"The answer was a somewhat surprising 'no,' Piper Jaffray Senior Analyst Christopher Larsen wrote in a research note. "We think this shows that despite all the 4G advertising, consumers aren't really focused on it. This is good for Sprint as the LTE coverage laggard of the three national iPhone carriers."
The survey also found an ambivalence about the networks, with 51 percent of respondents indicating that either they didn't know who had the best 4G network or that all 4G networks were the same. Of those who did have an opinion, Verizon Wireless was deemed by most to have the best 4G network, followed by AT&T, Sprint, and T-Mobile.
"While Verizon appears to be the winner here, the fact that most customers don't have an opinion about the best 4G network is also good news for the remaining carriers," Larsen wrote.
Less than half of those surveyed said they were not planning to buy the next iPhone, which is widely expected to be unveiled late next month. Of the 55 percent apparently contemplating an iPhone purchase, 44 percent indicated they would choose Verizon as their carrier, compared with 29 percent for AT&T, 14 percent for Sprint, and 13 percent for T-Mobile (which isn't expected to offer the new smartphone).
"Based on the survey results, we believe that Verizon will continue to win share, but we don't think the lack of a substantial 4G LTE network will materially hurt Sprint when the iPhone 5 is launched," Larsen wrote.
Earlier this month, Verizon added 34 new markets to its 4G LTE network and now serves more than three-quarters of the nation in a total of 371 markets.