Apple Ranks Highest in J.D. Power Smartphone Survey, Nokia Last

For the fourth consecutive time, Apple ranks highest on J.D. Power and Associates Wireless Smartphone Customer Satisfaction Study, the consumer rating company announced yesterday.

The study ranks wireless handsets based on several criteria (listed in order of importance): operation (30%); physical design (30%); features (20%); and battery function (20%). For smartphones, the key factors are: ease of operation (26%); operating system (24%); physical design (23%); features (19%); and battery function (8%).

With a score of 800 out of 1,000, Apple led the pack. But Motorola was only nine points behind, and HTC scored a respectable 781. All three manufacturers topped the industry average of 764. With a score of 711, Nokia ranked dead last, beaten out by Palm, Samsung, and Research In Motion.

The study is based on surveys of more than 6,800 smartphone users conducted between January and June of this year.

The study also examined OS performance. Among those measured, Google’s Android OS, Apple’s iOS, and Palm’s WebOS all performed “particularly well.” Factors used in this calculation and tests administered were not announced, so its hard to say what “particularly well” actually means.

J.D. Power also released the results of the Traditional Mobile Phone Satisfaction Survey, which measured more than 11,800 consumers. LG topped that ranking, with a score of 731. Nokia avoided the last slot this time, beating out Kyocera by merely a single point.

The study found that the average wireless bill has also increased, to $78 per month, compared to $69 just three years ago. The increase is attributed to added data services, increase in usage of services like text messaging, and additional taxes and fees.

Because both studies are based on a similar 1,000-point scale, it’s interesting to note that the overall satisfaction numbers are higher with smartphones. The mean score of the seven smartphone manufacturers is a little bit higher than 754, while the mean score of the seven traditional mobile manufacturers is just under 700. So, despite paying more, it appears that smartphone users are more satisfied with their devices. Perhaps this, from J.D. Power’s press release, can help explain:

Mobile applications continue to enhance the smartphone user experience. More than two-thirds of users say they download third-party games, while 54 percent say they download travel software, such as maps and weather applications. Forty-one percent say they download utility applications, while 36 percent say they download business-specific programs. This indicates that smartphone owners are continuing to integrate their device usage into both their business and personal lives.

It will be interesting to see how satisfaction will be affected by changes in the wireless industry, like Verizon’s rollout of LTE and adoption of tiered data plans. Would Apple’s satisfaction score increase even more if the iPhone were to make its way to Verizon?

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