Apple debuted in the top spot among mobile phone makers in a national customer-satisfaction survey, receiving a record-high score for the category.
"Apple is head and shoulders above everyone else," said David VanAmburg, director of the American Customer Satisfaction Index (ACSI), in an interview Tuesday. "There's a pretty big gap between [Apple] and the others."
ACSI's latest report, based on interviews with approximately 70,000 American consumers throughout the last year, assigned Apple a satisfaction score of 83 out of a possible 100, tops among all monitored phone makers.
Apple makes and sells the popular iPhone: The current model is the iPhone 4S, which debuted in October 2011.
A trio of other mobile phone makers -- HTC, LG Electronics and Nokia -- tied at second with a score of 75. Samsung, which became the world's biggest seller of smartphones last quarter, managed a 71, while problem-plagued Research In Motion, creator of the BlackBerry line, came in last with a score of 69.
This was the first time that ACSI produced scores for Apple, HTC, LG or RIM.
Samsung's score was off three points from 2011, representing a decline of 4%. Motorola Mobility, which Google is in the process of acquiring, was down 5% since last year.
VanAmburg called Apple and its iPhone a "game changer" in satisfaction, and noted that its rating was the first time any phone manufacturer had broken the 80-point barrier.
ACSI's satisfaction ratings were in line with similar surveys, including ones done regularly by ChangeWave Research. In December 2011, for example, ChangeWave said 54% of all iPhone owners reported that they were "very satisfied" with the smartphone.
The closest competitors -- Samsung and HTC -- tied for second place with 47% of their owners answering with the same "very satisfied."
But Samsung's lower satisfaction numbers haven't stopped millions from choosing a smartphone from the Korean company. According to Gartner today, Samsung captured over 26% of the world's smartphone sales in the first quarter, leading all rivals, including Apple, which accounted for 23% of all sales.
Earlier this month, rival research company IDC also pegged Samsung as the smartphone share leader for the first three months of 2012.
The ACSI survey scores and commentary can be found on the organization's Web site.
Gregg Keizer covers Microsoft, security issues, Apple, Web browsers and general technology breaking news for Computerworld. Follow Gregg on Twitter at @gkeizer, on Google+ or subscribe to Gregg's RSS feed . His email address is firstname.lastname@example.org.