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Surprise! iPhone Users Love Their Phones, Hate Their Network

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iphones1Bring a magnifying glass if you’re looking for surprises in a new study from CFI Group. The market research firm has just released the findings of a survey of more than 1,000 U.S. smartphone users that holds true to form: iPhone users love their devices but hate AT&T’s (s t) network; Verizon Wireless operates a rock-solid network but lacks high-end handsets; and consumers — not business users — are driving growth in the space.

Apple’s (s aapl) ubiquitous phone fared well in CFI’s study, with 92 percent of iPhone users claiming they own “their ideal smartphone,” and the device scored highest in terms of user satisfaction with applications. Android-based handsets and the Palm (s palm) Pre also scored fairly well, with each rating a 77 on a 100-point scale, outperforming the BlackBerry (73) and Palm Treo (70). The dreaded “other” category — which included Symbian- and Windows Mobile-based handsets — rated a 66.

Unsurprisingly, the survey demonstrated a clear trend in why users choose certain types of handsets:

There is clear differentiation between the newer smartphones (iPhone, Android, and Pre) and the older smartphones. Older phones offer prospective buyers the nuts and bolts — e-mail, calendar, and perhaps web browsing — but little else. Applications, mostly an afterthought for older smartphones, are critical for customers of newer smartphones….The interface/operating system and looks/design of the phone are also more important for purchasers of newer smartphones. In short, customers expect more from these newer smartphones. These higher expectations raise the stakes for customer satisfaction — do things well, and customers will be delighted; do them poorly and customers will punish the failures.

The thing I found particularly interesting about the study, though, is that — unlike Om — most consumers won’t give up their iPhones despite AT&T’s network woes. AT&T scored lowest in customer-satisfaction ratings, and 50 percent of iPhone users said they’d like to switch service providers. But few iPhone owners seem willing to sacrifice the device to make that move. Given the stellar reputation of Verizon’s network, the nation’s largest operator has a huge opportunity to build on its lead if it can offer an intuitive, high-tech gadget that — like the iPhone — encourages subscribers to consume mobile data. And it’s looking more and more like the Palm Pre might just be that device.

27 Responses to “Surprise! iPhone Users Love Their Phones, Hate Their Network”

  1. I think too much focus is on the service providers and not the phones. My single observation is that I switched from Blackberry – on ATT to iPHone – on ATT. On my way to work I constantly talk to employees, partners etc (on an ear piece of course). I used to drop only two times with my BB Curve. Now with my Iphone I drop 4 to 5 times – so much so that I cannot make calls on my way to work – very very lame
    So – same carrier – different phones – IPhone is a worse phone (but much better for everything else) than BB Curve.

  2. Disappointed iphone guy

    I for one, love my iPhone, and am a committed use of Apple products (2 macs, 3 ipods, Aperature, Airport…) You get the picture, I drank the cool aid.

    The service from AT&T has been, since June, has been horrible. I have contacted them several times regarding the service, and the complete lack of regard, or effort to keep an 8 year customer, has been amazing. I have no problem paying the bill, which averages $140.00 monthly, providing I get what I pay for. Sadly, I used to get service that was twice as good, when I paid half the price!

    If they wanted to leave my plan as is, and get me out the door for $80-$100 a month, I’d likely stay. I would even recommit for another year at this price, and afford them the time to fix the system, and add towers (I was told this is the single biggest problem, a system operating at or above capacity). Would they hear anything of it…. No. As a matter of fact, they offered nothing as of yet, aside from the “get a new iphone, and we’ll charge $10 MORE a month for the same sub standard service”…. Seriously?

    I have been shopping the other providers, and will be switching service within the next 10 days. I don’t expect AT&T to resolve the problem, and they are obviously not interested in trying to retain existing customers until they work out there own self admitted challenges.

    I like the Palm Pre, as it is quite user friendly (Though not an iphone), and the Android’s seem capable, if but a bit flimsy feeling. I really really like the iphone, great piece of hardware. It is sadly saddled by the network it operates on, plain and simple. It’s like having a Porsche 911….. with no gas. Upside is my iphone was replaced by apple before warranty expired, and it will make a good replacement for my older ipod.

  3. Another thing with Verizon – I can tether my phone but can’t do voice & data at the same time. Get a call and it disrupts the data or even severs the data connection (depends somewhat on the length of the call)

  4. VZW is too pricey in addition to their “Bell-head” mentality of dumbing down hw & services. Sure, any carrier will make steep profits if they have ultra deep pockets, limit user activity, & charge 2-5x what others do. I’m sticking with T-Mobile b/c they offer value & take care of my needs.

  5. Colin Gibbs

    One of the things I think we need to remember is that the iPhone was the first smartphone to appeal to mainstream consumers, who presumably have much lower expectations than tech-savvy early adopters and high-end users. Those who bought Android devices or the Palm Pre (which haven’t enjoyed the mainstream-targeted marketing blitz the iPhone leverages) are probably savvier consumers with higher expectations — which might explain some of the differences in customer-approval ratings.

    @ PXLated — You’re right that VZW’s network has yet to be tested by a device like the iPhone, so there’s no way to be sure that it operates a superior data network. Based on my experience, though, I believe it does.

    @ Paul — I absolutely agree that Verizon is overly restrictive, and I’ve written at length about what I believe is their short-sighted strategy. But I don’t think many users care much about that… yet.

  6. The problem with Verizon is that while it may have a better network (possibly), it simply does not allow device manufacturers to add the features they would like to offer.

    Reviewers often complain that Apple is controlling, but Verizon is much worse and many reviewers simply disregard this.

    Apple should stay with AT&T and if AT&T were smart it would pay to prevent Apple from going elsewhere either exclusively or otherwise. AT&T should make their network more robust especially since ARPU of the iPhone user is significantly higher.

  7. VZ use dead end CDMA technology which has two pipes, one for data and the other for voice hence there is no drop call not because it has a rock solid network. Besides they killed features in the phones will have the slightest hint of using more than necessary bandwidth that will tax the network.

    On a level playing field it is no better than ATT.

  8. Everyone lauds Verizon but has it ever been tested with a high-volume data device like the iPhone? I’m on Verizon and get a lot of data disconnects (goes in cycles) and there are many dead zones in my state so it makes me chuckle when they get mentioned as robust.

    • maybe dead zones where you live but AT&T is terrible here, and drops many more calls, not to mention super slow data connections.

      Some of the iphone users i’ve spoken with still prefer to connect to their wifi networks as it is much faster than the data network. Also one guy I talked to has a Verizon mobile card plugged into a router which then he uses the iphone to hook up to that wifi.

  9. “And it’s looking more and more like the Palm Pre might just be that device.” YOU MUST BE JOKING.
    You just said yourself that “the Palm Pre … scored *fairly* well, with a rating 77 on a 100-point scale” 77% is nowhere close to 92% of the iPhone.

    • Kendall Weaver

      I actually see where the Pre is a very worthy alternative to the iPhone. The webOS operating system has a slight learning curve, but is very intuitive. The ability to run multiple apps at the same time greatly enhances a lot of things, such as the ability to run Pandora while surfing the web.

      It seems most of the Pre hate is coming from people who haven’t spent a lot of time with the device. It has a lot of strengths that most iPhone users I’ve encountered don’t look for. Probably the biggest strength is the openness of the OS, and the growing community that’s not only developing apps for it, but developing the OS itself.

      I think the iPhone will be the yardstick against which all other smartphones will be measures, at least for the immediate future, and rightly so. It’s a fantastic device. But looking at things from a less biased point of view, the Pre already has easily installable homebrew apps for things like tethering and Google Voice, as well as bunches of OS tweaks, not just a centralized (and locked down) app store.

  10. Don;t know how your school decided on grades but in the school I went to, 92 is an A while 77 is a C or at best a C+ … so the Palm Pre and Android is that but a C is ‘pretty good’ to you? – guess your standards are not very high. In the real world a C grade of any kind is mediocre.

    Blackberry & TReo – C or C- and of course, Symbiam and MS – a D … which I think is a pretty accurate overall and accurate as long as they’re not graded on your standards that anyone who shows up for class deserves a ‘pretty good’ effort mark.

    • Evidently, you are too caught up in your ABCs. If 77 per cent of Palm Pre and Android users are satisfied with their phones, that is a healthy/good percentage. It is NOT school. Don’t confuse school grades with surveys of users of products.

      And no survey included me, so is it valid? I like my Android’s features. Does that mean I believe it cannot be improved? For every feature I believe should be included/improved, the score of 100 would be reduced.

  11. ATT sucks and always has. More bars, if I was looking to drink I’d do it at home. If I didn’t own a Iphone I’d be back at a reliable provider with Verizon. Screw ATT. Oh and thanks for SMS about 3 years too late.

  12. Anonymous

    I swore I would never get back on Cingular/AT&T or any GSM based technology operated in the US. But then there was the iPhone. They pracically wouldn’t let go of my arm! Anyway, believe me, the minute the iPhone moves to CDMA (hopefully w/ Verizon) I am switching.

    AT&T has proven itself to be worse than T-Mobile, which btw is much cheaper. Dropped calls heaven, 3G is quite slow, $20 for unlt’d text messaging :), last ones to implement MMS on the iPhone, after Mexico probably …

    I remember when AT&T used to charge $5 for unlimited text messaging, when no one used it. They couldn’t sell it to people. Can you imagine how much it costs to send 124 characters as opposed to a digitized voice conversation? Not only should txt msging be cheaper it should be included in the plan. Its should ubiquitous.. like email. Argh .. I could on forever with these AT&T fellas`.