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Summary:

A new study published Nov. 8 by independent warranty provider SquareTrade has shown that over the course of the first year of ownership, the iPhone is more reliable than both BlackBerry and Palm handsets. The study dealt with failure rates for a sample pool of over […]

A new study published Nov. 8 by independent warranty provider SquareTrade has shown that over the course of the first year of ownership, the iPhone is more reliable than both BlackBerry and Palm handsets.

The study dealt with failure rates for a sample pool of over 15,000 new phones covered by SquareTrade warranties, which are after-market additional coverage packages. By the numbers, the iPhone had a 5.6 percent rate of malfunction, compared to BlackBerry’s 11.9 percent and the Palm Treo at 16.2 percent. Problems which counted as malfunctions according to the study included lockups and freezing, battery issues, Bluetooth/camera problems, antenna/case defects, screen/input method failures, call quality and power issues.

SquareTrade also projects failure rates up to the two-year mark. The two-year numbers are projections and not measured data because the iPhone had only been available for 15 months at the time the study was conducted. Projected totals see the gap between the iPhone and BlackBerry handsets decrease somewhat, but Apple’s device still comes away with the best score at 11.3 percent. BlackBerry is predicted at 14.3 percent and Palm comes in last at a fairly high 21.0 percent.

The iPhone’s second year numbers are much higher than both the BlackBerry and Palm devices, and this is where the study becomes questionable. SquareTrade is, after all, in the business of selling warranties for handsets, and it is in their best interest to predict a sharp increase in failures during the second year of ownership of a device which many people are just about to begin their second year of owning.

That said, the study’s findings that are based on firm, measurable data are interesting. The iPhone bosts a significant advantage in call quality, for instance, which is somewhat contrary to the persistent complaints of dropped calls over 3G.

Another area where the iPhone wins big is in battery problems, where both the BlackBerry and the Palm have more than double the number of complaints. Despite burning through a charge so quickly, Apple’s battery is apparently consistent and dependable.

All three companies posted high numbers in touchpad/screen/keypad problems, although Apple still came out lowest of all. Of problems reported, the vast majority of the iPhone’s were related to the touchscreen, which does not bode well for the durability of the relatively new interface tech over the life of the device.

The full study is available here (PDF) from SquareTrade.

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