Apple iPhone, Motorola, HTC Lead Mobile Phone Satisfaction Survey

A J.D. Power and Associates study finds high consumer satisfaction among Apple iPhone and Google Android users.

For a fourth consecutive time, Apple ranked highest in customer satisfaction among manufacturers of smartphones with a score of 800 on a 1,000-point scale, performing particularly well in ease of operation, operating system, features and physical design, according to J.D. Power and Associates' 2010 U.S. Wireless Smartphone Customer Satisfaction Study-Volume 2 and 2010 U.S. Wireless Traditional Mobile Phone Satisfaction Study-Volume 2. Motorola, with 791 points, and HTC with 781 points, follow Apple in the rankings.

LG ranked highest in overall wireless customer satisfaction with traditional handsets for a fourth consecutive time with a score of 731. The report noted LG performs well in all four factors, particularly physical design, features and operation. Sanyo, with 712 points, landed in second place, while Samsung followed close behind with 709 points.

The average reported length of time customers keep their traditional wireless cell phone has increased by 17 percent from 2009, according to the study: Customers are keeping their traditional mobile devices for an average of 20.5 months, which marks the longest period of time since the study's inception in 1999, when the average was 17.3 months. The current level of ownership tenure does differ by manufacturer brand, with the highest reported ownership tenure at an average of 27.8 months, and the lowest at 17.5 months, the report found.

"One possible reason for the significant increase in the length of mobile phone ownership is that more customers are delaying an upgrade purchase due to the general economic downturn, in which the expense of purchasing a new device could outweigh the added benefit of owning it," said Kirk Parsons, senior director of wireless services at J.D. Power and Associates. "Typically, when upgrading to a new cell phone, there's the added expense of either subscribing to a more expensive service plan and/or incurring termination fees when switching service providers. Today, consumers are really watching their wallets, and any added discretionary expenses are being considered more thoughtfully than in the past."

Contributing to this economic sensitivity, Parsons said, are higher customer-reported monthly bill amounts, which have increased steadily during the past several years. The study found the average reported monthly wireless bill is $78 in 2010, including federal and industry service taxes and fees, compared with $69 just three years ago. The report concluded the increase is mainly due to the addition of data-related services, increases in usage activity such as text messaging, and added fees and taxes.

"It's clear that there has been an increase in new service offerings during the past several years and that customers are using these services with greater regularity," said Parsons. "The fact remains that in today's economic climate, wireless providers and device manufacturers need to be sensitive to the mindsets of customers and provide added value where possible in order to drive future business and loyalty."

The study also examined operating systems commonly used in wireless smartphones. Among operating systems measured, the Android operating platform (supported by Google), the Apple operating system used in iPhone devices and Palm's WebOS platform performed rated particularly well, the report noted.

Mobile applications continue to enhance the smartphone user experience, according to the study, with more than two-thirds of users saying they download third-party games. Fifty-four percent said they download travel software, such as maps and weather applications, and 41 percent said 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," the report said.