iPhone Ranks Highest in Smartphone Customer Satisfaction

The right blend of design and technology is critical to creating an exceptional user experience with both smartphones and traditional mobile handsets, and the iPhone occupies the top of the heap. So finds the J.D. Power and Associates 2011 U.S. Wireless Smartphone Customer Satisfaction StudySMVolume 2 and the J.D. Power and Associates 2011 U.S. Wireless Traditional Mobile Phone Satisfaction StudySMVolume 2, both released Thursday.

The surveys note that overall satisfaction with smartphones and traditional mobile phones is considerably higher for devices that are a specific size and weight and are equipped with the latest technological advancements. The latter would include features like high-quality, high-resolution display screens, faster processing speeds, longer battery life and touch screen capabilities.

J.D. Power’s researchers found that satisfaction with both smartphones and traditional or feature phones is greatly impacted by the physical design and dimensions of the device. For example, satisfaction ratings are highest (8.1 on a 10-point scale) when the weight of the smartphone device does not exceed 5 ounces, while by comparison, they drop to an average of 7.6 for smartphone devices that are 5 ounces or heavier. This is something I expect Apple has kept in mind when determining what size display will be used with the iPhone 5. The same scenario holds true for ordinary cellphones, for which satisfaction with the weight of the device peaks between 3 and 3.5 ounces, and drops considerably when the feature phone weighs 4 ounces or more.

The researchers found that width and thickness of the smartphone device are also critical in maximizing the ownership experience, and concur with Apple’s philosophy that thinner is better. Overall physical design satisfaction measured highest (852 on a 1,000-point scale) for smartphones that are less than 0.45 inches thick, dropping to an average of 783 for smartphones 0.65 inches thick or thicker.

For the record, the current iPhone 4′s dimensions and weight are well within the ideal parameters at:

4.5 inches (115.2 mm)

2.31 inches (58.6 mm)

Thickness Depth:
0.37 inch (9.3 mm)

4.8 ounces (137 grams)

The J.D. Power surveys also found that technology advancements impact the experience of mobile devices in a number of areas. For example, touch screen-only smartphones like the iPhone generate considerably higher satisfaction with ease of operation (817 points) than either QWERTY-only based devices or, interestingly, those that have both a touchscreen and QWERTY functions (785 and 782 points, respectively).

In addition, faster processing speeds, higher computer chip bit rates and the most advanced display screens (such as Super AMOLED vs. older LCD-based screens) all add significantly to user satisfaction. Once again, it appears that Apple will be on the right track in going with dual-core A5 processor chips and sticking with its Retina displays, even if the latters’ physical size is smaller than some of its Android competitors.

The J.D. Power surveys found the number of camera megapixels influence the ownership experience, noting that in general, the higher the number of megapixels, the higher the satisfaction with camera picture and video quality. However, devices with at least 5 megapixels like the iPhone 4 achieve nearly as high a satisfaction score as smartphones with 8 megapixels or more (which the iPhone 5 is expected to have, so Apple has this based well-covered as well.

“It’s not unexpected that satisfaction is higher for devices that have new technological advances or features,” says Kirk Parsons, senior director of wireless services at J.D. Power and Associates, in a release. “Having the right combination of physical dimensions and operating functions and features for both smartphones and traditionally equipped devices is key to creating an exceptional ownership experience with each type of wireless device.”

The two studies have been updated to measure customer satisfaction with traditional wireless handsets and smartphones among owners who have used their current mobile phone for less than one year by examining several key factors. In order of importance, the key factors of overall satisfaction with traditional wireless handsets are: performance (31%); ease of operation (24%); physical design (24%); and features (20%). For smartphones, the key factors are: performance (35%); ease of operation (24%); features (21%); and physical design (20%).

Unsurprisingly, for a sixth consecutive time, Apple ranks highest among manufacturers of smartphones in customer satisfaction, achieving a score of 838 and performing well in all factors, particularly in ease of operation and features. HTC, with a score of 801, trails Apple in the smartphone rankings.

Samsung ranked highest in overall customer satisfaction with traditional handsets with a score of 718, and performing particularly well in three factors: performance, ease of operation and features.

The studies also find the following key wireless handset usage patterns:

• The price of a traditional wireless mobile phone continues to decline and has averaged $ 71 in 2011, compared with an average of $ 81 at the beginning of 2009. The decline is primarily due to discounts provided by handset providers and wireless service carriers to incentivize sales. Currently, 42 percent of owners report having received a free mobile phone when subscribing to a wireless service.

• Mobile applications continue to enhance the smartphone user experience. More than two-thirds of owners say they have downloaded games and social networking applications to their device. More than one-half (54%) say they have downloaded entertainment-oriented applications, while 52 percent indicate having downloaded travel software, such as maps and weather applications. This indicates that smartphone owners are continuing to integrate their device usage into both their business and personal lives.

• Customers are highly satisfied with 4G-capable devices. Satisfaction among customers using 4G-capable phones averages 819, compared with 786 among customers using phones with 3G capability. Owners of 4G devices are also more active in terms of calling, texting and browsing the Internet. Obviously, given its top-ranking, Apple has been able to transcend its limitation thus far of being 3G-only thanks to its many other strengths, but users might reasonably be expected to become increasingly restless for 4G support as the faster protocol becomes more mainstream, if they stick with 3G for the iPhone 5 as anticipated, at least initially, although that would leave the door open for a 4G iPhone 5 upgrade down the road.

The J.D. Power 2011 U.S. Wireless Smartphone Customer Satisfaction StudyVolume 2 and the 2011 U.S. Wireless Traditional Mobile Phone Satisfaction StudyVolume 2 are based on experiences reported by 6,898 smartphone owners and 8,775 traditional mobile phone owners. Both studies were fielded between January and June 2011.

For more information on customer satisfaction with wireless service, wireless retail sales, cell phone handsets, customer care, prepaid wireless service and business wireless service, visit:



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