Metrico today released its quarterly Mobile Device Roundup, an exclusive to Wireless Week, which draws on data from the company's "Performance Analytics" program.  The company evaluated 20 smartphones launched by the four major U.S. carriers in the quarter and for the first time that selection of devices included more 4G devices (11) than 3G.

While Android took a commanding lead over other operating systems in smartphone introductions, the older version Froyo (2.2) was the installed OS on nearly twice as many devices as its successor, Gingerbread (2.3).

Consistent with the fast pace of innovation in the marketplace today, the performance of core device functions, including faster processors and radios that support next-generation network, shows marked improvement over time.

Web page load times were down to a mean of 3.2 seconds for the devices included in the third quarter 2011 roundup, or 21 percent less than the mean recorded in the second quarter of the year, and less than half of mean page load time in the fourth quarter of 2010. Call failure rates are down to a mean of 1.4 percent from 1.8 percent in the second quarter, and 2.4 percent in the fourth quarter of 2010.

Although the expansion of carriers' next-generation networks is a significant factor in the improvement of the subscriber experience, Metrico says the enhancements introduced by device ecosystems —manufacturers, software developers and component suppliers — also come into play. 

And while more muscular processors, specifically of the dual-core, 1+ GHz variety and more efficient resource management do have their upside, Metrico says the industry continues to grapple with the increasing complexity of the subscriber experience, with battery life being a key issue affecting customer satisfaction.

The company says that as core functions reach threshold levels where subscribers become indifferent to performance, carriers will need to find other criteria, such as quality of video experience, on which to compete.