Apple iPhone 4: What Do Users Really Think?

A ChangeWave survey of Apple iPhone 4 owners found satisfaction levels to be high, though still lower than those that greeted the iPhone 3GS. Major dislikes, additionally, shifted the onus from Apple to AT&T.

First came the news that Apple's iPhone 4 was the company's most successful launch ever, with customers scooping up more than 1.7 million handsets in just three days. "Antennagate" followed, with customers complaining that when held in a certain way - the "death grip," as it quickly became known - the iPhone 4 lost a good deal of reception. And then came the July 16 press conference during which CEO Steve Jobs described the situation as blown out of proportion by the media.

So how do iPhone 4 owners really feel?

They like their phones - just not with the same enthusiasm with which they embraced the iPhone 3GS, ChangeWave reported Aug. 4, citing the findings of a July survey that polled 213 iPhone 4 owners and served as a complement to an August 2009 survey of iPhone 3GS owners.

In the current survey, 72 percent of iPhone 4 owners reported being "very satisfied" with the iPhone 4, while 21 percent were "somewhat satisfied." "Despite these good scores," states the ChangeWave report, "the initial iPhone 4 ratings aren't quite as extraordinary as the early iPhone 3GS satisfaction numbers seen in our August 2009 survey."

In the latter, 82 percent of iPhone 3GS owners described themselves as "very satisfied," while 17 percent reported feeling "somewhat satisfied." Additionally, 50 percent of iPhone 4 owners reported that the device exceeds their expectations, while another 50 percent said it meets their expectations - ratings that were again shy of user responses toward the iPhone 3GS.

When iPhone 4 owners were asked what they liked most and least, however, Apple scored a win - at the expense of partner AT&T. In the 2009 survey, 41 percent of iPhone 3GS owners cited short battery life as their top dislike; in the 2010 study, however, No. 1 dislike, cited by 27 percent of users, was the requirement to use AT&T's network. Just behind that, 24 percent cited the coverage, speed and quality of AT&T's 3G network. The third top dislike was the antenna issues.

(Apple officials have done their part to suggest that more blame lies elsewhere than with their company. When the antenna issue first emerged, Apple told users that its smartphone wasn't losing reception, but mistakenly reporting overly good reception. "Their big drop in bars is because their high bars were never real in the first place," Apple said in a July 2 statement.)

What did users like? Forty-nine percent cited the iPhone 4's screen resolution, 31 percent were big on its upgraded 5-megapixel camera with flash, and 30 percent named the iPhone 4's touch-screen interface.

"The emerging pattern is that while the iPhone 4 has been very well received by new owners, the survey findings aren't quite at the nosebleed levels seen at a similar point in time for the 3GS launch," wrote ChangeWave.

The firm suggests this may be partly due to the "firestorm of controversy" that greeted the iPhone 4, as it additionally found that, despite all the controversy, iPhone 4 owners are currently experiencing (6.3 percent vs. 5.2 percent) fewer dropped than iPhone 3GS owners - a point Jobs also insisted on during his press conference.

"While one-in-five iPhone 4 owners do say the antenna has caused them problems, by an overwhelming margin they are satisfied with Apple's solution," ChangeWave reported. The firm added that the antenna controversy appears to be settling down for good, and that with time, iPhone 4 satisfaction levels could very well wind up equaling or surpassing those of the 3GS. Which, really, stated the report, is "the happy ending [Apple] should hope for."