iPhone Owners Most Satisfied of Smartphone Users - But Not With Their Network

iPhone users have probably the most conflicted customer satisfaction rates of all smartphone customers. When it comes to the device itself, they are far and away the most satisfied, according to a new survey. But when it comes to their service provider? Not so much.

The CFI Group Smartphone Satisfaction Survey, in which more than 1,000 smartphone users were questioned, scored the iPhone at 83 on a 100-point scale, eight full points above the Google Android and Palm Pre, which scored next best, at 77 out of 100. Research In Motion's BlackBerry scored 73 and the Palm Treo scored 66; "others," which include Symbian and Windows Mobile, only pulled in 66 points.

Unlike the original users of smartphones, more and more people are purchasing the phones for personal use. Early adopters tended to use them for work and business, the survey showed. Interestingly, the newer, personal users, are placing far more demands on the cellular and data networks than the original business users. "Personal users, in contrast, are more likely to engage in data-intensive activities that strain the performance of the provider network," the survey said.

The newer smartphones scored so well on customer satisfaction in large part because they provide a "better web browsing experience, easier multi-media playback, and a wealth of applications." The more generic "other" smartphones "aren't even a part of the conversation," the survey showed because they're not as consumer-oriented and because the customer got them as part of a discount or plan from their service provider.

Peer pressure of a sort seems to figure into the equation, as 43 percent of iPhone users and 22 percent of non iPhone users got their phones because a friend or colleague recommended it. A full 92 percent of iPhone owners reported they had their ideal smartphone and were satisfied with available applications. Android users came in second in app satisfaction, scoring at 83. Not surprisingly, iPhone, Android and Pre owners download more applications than other smartphone users.

But this is where the iPhone satisfaction comes to a screeching halt.

While the users seem to, overall, be quite pleased with their phones, they are far less satisfied with AT&T, the sole provider of cellular and data service for the device.

T-Mobile scores the highest on provider satisfaction, with 79 percent giving them high marks.

Verizon came next, but its customers were the most loyal, with 86 percent of them saying it was their ideal provider. The survey noted that Verizon was the most attractive alternative provider for any smartphone customer who doesn't already use the network - if they were to switch, Verizon is where they'd jump ship to, because the coverage is perceived to be the strongest. They aren't very satisfied with their phones, however - only 38 percent said they were happy with them.

Oh, and AT&T? Scored 69 on customer satisfaction. Scores were higher among AT&T customers who did not switch to the network because of the iPhone. Those who'd made the switch from another carrier rated AT&T a 64 while longer-term users gave the provider a 72. And 40 percent of iPhone users made the jump to AT&T for the phone alone.

CFI did suggest that if Verizon's network were to be inundated with a flood of new customers - as happened to AT&T with iPhone users - then perhaps its coverage would suffer as well.

"The iPhone is the best thing to happen to the smartphone industry because it captured the imagination of a whole new set of consumers that might not have made the smartphone jump," said Doug Helmreich, program director with CFI Group. "The iPhone raised the bar not only for other smartphones, but for the networks as well. The new breed of smartphone consumers expect more from their phones, and the iPhone may represent only the tip of a data-intensive iceberg."