The Search is on for the Best"¦EVO?

HTC certainly seems to be making its mark in the wireless world.  In March, T-Mobile began selling the HTC HD2, VZW began a prelaunch of the HTC Incredible, and perhaps most interesting of all Sprint officially announced the release of the HTC EVO, the first 4G device in America.  All these android devices are major launches for their respective carriers, but the HTC EVO appears to be the device making the biggest splash.  Though the other devices are certainly interesting in their own right, this blog will focus on the first 4G device the wireless world will know.

While the device has not yet been launched, we have already seen strong interest in it.  The $10 Million question seems to be: Do consumers understand and crave the features associated with 4G or will a lack thereof keep the EVO from being the "next iPhone."  To help answer this question, I took a look at interest in the device on Sprint.com.  As seen below, traffic to the HTC EVO page on Sprint nearly doubled from March to April. Furthermore, nearly 1 in 10 Sprint Prospects (a visitor to the site who did NOT exhibit Customer behavior) visited the page.

  • Sprint saw a 33% M-O-M increase in Prospect traffic from February to March 2010.  This was the largest M-O-M increase seen in March among the Big-4 carriers
  • This Prospect increase also led to an increase in Sprint’s Prospect Share among the Big-4 carriers from 21% to 24%

So, clearly consumers are curious and expressing interest in the new EVO, but let’s look at the other part of that $10 Million question: What part does 4G play? Recalling a colleague’s blog on awareness of 4G, we know that nearly half of all current smartphone owners aren’t even sure if 4G is currently being offered or not (Source: Compete’s Smartphone Intelligence Survey, Jan-Feb 2010).

Thus, I would assume that search is a major indicator of EVO interest, as shoppers may not be sure where to go to find information on the phone.  To test this, I took a look at search referrals to Sprint.com.  First, I looked at overall search referrals to the site:

Clearly, Sprint saw quite a spike in search referrals from February to March, but then an even greater jump from March to April, increasing 44% from about 1.75M to over 2.5M in the 2 month period.  To get a better understanding of the drivers, I also looked at the specific search terms driving traffic to the site.

  • 25% of the top 20 search terms from March 10 to May 30 2010 were related to 4G or the EVO.  The EVO was the only specific phone to crack the top 20 in terms of referrals to Sprint.com, and it did so 3 separate times
  • In addition, 3 of those 5 terms included the term "4g", supporting the idea consumers are associating the EVO and Sprint with the term 4G, even if they still aren’t completely clear on what 4G is

Search is clearly playing a role in driving traffic to Sprint.com and EVO content.  With the phone now available nationwide as of today, I don’t think there’s any doubt that Sprint will continue to use all channels to drive interest in the EVO. However, as consumers continue to struggle with what 4G is, who has it and if they need it, search will likely continue to be one of the most important avenues shoppers use to get information.

One never knows how a device will perform in this crowded market, but I would put money on the EVO as a major player in the smartphone arena, and on an overall successful launch for Sprint.

About BeckyBitzenhofer:
Becky Bitzenhofer is a Senior Associate at Compete. Becky spends her time at Compete managing a data team and delivering competitive analysis to wireless clients. Before Becky joined the Compete team she was a student at the University of Vermont. Becky hopes to continue to use and improve her analysis skills, and develop new and better ways use data to improve website performance. You can find and follow Becky on Twitter under the name Beckybitz.