There’s no 5G-capable iPhone available yet (although one is expected to be announced as early as next week). But a recent consumer survey conducted by Global Wireless Solutions found that nearly half—49%—of U.S. consumers with iPhone believe the device in their hands is capable of accessing 5G.
Could this be attributed at all to AT&T’s notorious “5Ge” icon and marketing?
“I don’t think that’s the case,” said Dr. Paul Carter, CEO of GWS. He noted that the level of belief was consistent across all the national carriers, not just AT&T. “I think it’s just a confounding time,” he went on. “The media and the operators themselves are talking so much about 5G and about what’s coming and great expectations, that people have felt, ‘I must have it already.’” Particularly for device users who bought their iPhones within the past year, he added, it has probably been easy for them to assume that because Apple is associated with the latest and greatest technology, their shiny new iPhone must have 5G—even though it doesn’t.
While those iPhone users thought they already had 5G when they couldn’t possibly, other participants in the survey were simply unsure. Nearly 30% of all smartphone users didn’t know for certain whether their phone was 5G-capable, and even among smartphone users who upgraded this year — and whom it might be easy to assume were upgrading at least in part to get 5G — fully 24% didn’t know whether they actually had a 5G-capable device.
In what might be a broader metaphor for 5G—high levels of interest, but a bit fuzzy on the exact value of it—GWS found that 76% of consumers were either “somewhat” or “very” interested in 5G, but 74% didn’t expect to see any meaningful benefits this year from the new technology. A significant portion of those people bought a new phone this year in part because they wanted 5G, Carter said, even though they don’t necessarily expect to see a lot of benefit from it immediately.
“It’s almost like people are investing in the future, not really knowing why,” he added.
GWS’ survey polled 5,000 U.S. smartphone users between June and July of this year. Given the high levels of confusion around 5G, the company said, “this should also serve as an opportunity to better educate consumers on 5G plans and benefits and help drive broader awareness and enthusiasm.”
The confusion is contributing to consumers reporting that they are not willing to pay more for 5G, GWS also found. Almost 40% of respondents said that they shouldn’t be charged more for better network and device performance, while another 28% said that they wouldn’t pay more for 5G because current networks and devices meet their needs. Urban and younger consumers were the most likely to indicate that they would pony up additional money to get 5G services—not, Carter pointed out, the rural users who could most benefit from the higher speeds of 5G networks.
And speed is primarily what these users say they’re expecting from 5G: 54% said they were excited about the prospect of higher data speeds, while 16% anticipated better HD video calling/conferencing, 13% were most intrigued by better video streaming quality and just 8% were looking forward to a better mobile gaming experience.
“Wireless carriers and mobile device manufacturers have made important 5G investments, but our survey demonstrates that market education is still required to help consumers better understand how 5G can impact their lives in a positive and meaningful way,” said Carter. “But given the fact that 64% of consumers plan to buy a smartphone between now and the end of 2021, there is clearly an opportunity for 5G to drive enthusiasm for new products and services – assuming consumers better understand the benefits of the next generation wireless technology.”
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