For 8th Time, Apple Is No. 1 in Smartphone Customer Satisfaction

Apple ranked highest among smartphone manufactures in customer satisfaction for the eighth consecutive time, according to the J.D. Power and Associates 2012 U.S. Wireless Smartphone Customer Satisfaction Study Volume 2. The study evaluated the satisfaction and experiences of 8,736 smartphone owners between January and June of 2012.

J.D. Power and Associates Smartphone Satisfaction Ratings 2012Chart via J.D. Power and Associates.

The study measured customer satisfaction among smartphone owners who had used their current phone for less than one year and evaluated customer satisfaction on several key factors, weighted accordingly: performance (33%); physical design (23%); features (22%); and ease of operation (22%).

Apple scored top marks in all categories for an overall score of 849 out of 1,000. HTC, which makes Android- and Windows Phone-based devices, scored second with 790 points, just ahead of primary Apple rival Samsung, with 782 points.

J.D. Power and Associates 2012 Smartphone Satisfaction StudyImage via J.D. Power and Associates.

HP, owner of the now defunct Palm brand, scored the lowest, at 707, while beleaguered RIM was second-to-last with 740 points.

The study found that a smartphone’s features played a smaller role in customer selection this year, with 47 percent choosing a phone based on features, compared to 57 percent in 2011. J.D. Power and Associates accounted for this decline by noting that once exclusive features are now found on “an influx of competitive offerings from newer manufactures.”

Not surprisingly, smartphone reliability also plays a key role in customer satisfaction: 20 percent of smartphone owners reported experiencing a software or hardware malfunction. Satisfaction among those who experienced problems was 90 points lower than those that did not. For those who experienced frequent problems — crashes at least once per week — satisfaction was 136 points lower.

The key for both customer satisfaction and manufacturer profits is in greater integration with social media, the study concluded. According to the study, customers who regularly use their smartphones for social networking and social gaming were not only more satisfied with their device, but they spent more money per month, as well.

"As the capabilities of wireless phones and their applications continue to expand, allowing customers to more often use their device, handset manufacturers have an opportunity to shape the customer experience and impact satisfaction with better application integration and social networking options," said Uma Jha, senior director of mobile devices at J.D. Power and Associates.

Recent versions of Apple’s iOS allow users to integrate their Twitter accounts, and the company’s forthcoming iOS 6, expected to be released later this month, is bringing Facebook integration as well. iOS also offers Game Center, a platform for users to access multiplayer games and share game related information.

Other smartphone operating systems, such as Microsoft’s Windows Phone OS, have also made built-in integration with online services a major selling point.

Apple’s next iPhone, expected to be called the “iPhone 5,” will be announced on September 12 for release later this month.