Apple 2.0

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J.D. Power: iPhone beats BlackBerry

November 6, 2008: 4:57 PM ET

J.D. Powers surveySo much for the physical keyboard -- the lack of which on the iPhone was supposed to be a deal breaker for hardcore smartphone users in the business world.

Despite its much-maligned touchscreen, the iPhone ranks highest in customer satisfaction among business types, according to J.D. Power and Associates' second annual survey of smartphone users. Apple's (AAPL) device easily outscored phones with physical keys made by RIM (RIMM), Samsung, HTC (HTC) and Motorola (MOT).

Apple racked up 778 points on a scale of 1,000, according to a press release issued Thursday, "performing particularly well in the ease of operation, physical design and handset feature factors."

The BlackBerry scored highest in J.D. Power's 2007 survey with 702 points; this year it came in second with 703 points.

The iPhone didn't even make the cut last year.

"With the introduction of the iPhone in 2007, Apple has clearly differentiated itself from the competition in areas that are most important to business smartphone users," said Kirk Parsons, J.D. Power senior director of wireless services. "By making basic applications and features easy to use and providing functionality in a thin, lightweight device, Apple has performed well in exceeding customer expectations." (link)

Keyboards are an important factor when choosing smartphones, but not the most important factor. According to the survey, the top five reasons given for picking a particular model are Internet capability (45%), ability to use e-mail account (41%), overall design/style (39%), Bluetooth capabilities (37%) and keyboard style (37%).

Among the survey's other findings:

  • Smartphones are buggy. 44% of respondents reported having to reboot their device at least once a week during the past 12 months, while 34% experienced either an application malfunction or application freeze one or more times per week.
  • Prices are falling. The average purchase price of a smartphone device was $216, compared with $261 in 2007. Apple owners report the highest average purchase price at $337, while Motorola owners report the lowest at $169.
  • Games are popular. 34% of business smartphone owners say they download third-party software, including games (49%), business applications such as Microsoft Word and Excel (43%) and travel-related programs (36%).

The study was based on responses from 1,388 business wireless customers who currently own a smartphone. It was fielded between August and September 2008. Overall satisfaction was measured across five factors: ease of operation (27%); operating system (24%); physical design (21%); handset features (18%); and battery aspects (10%).

See also Smackdown: BlackBerry Bold 9000 vs. Apple iPhone 3G, iPhone vs. BlackBerry 9000: The keyboard wars, round 2 and iPhone vs. BlackBerry: A battle for hearts and minds of developers

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About This Author
Philip Elmer-Dewitt
Philip Elmer-DeWitt
Editor, Apple 2.0, Fortune

Philip Elmer-DeWitt has been following Apple since 1982, first for Time Magazine, and now on the Web for Fortune.com.

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