iPhone satisfaction rating 'on a different planet,' says survey

99% of iPhone owners happy with their smartphones, says ChangeWave Research

Apple iPhone users are almost twice as likely to say that they're "very satisfied" with their smartphone than second-place RIM and its BlackBerry, a research firm said today.

According to ChangeWave Research, which polled more then 4,200 American consumers last month, 74% of those who own an iPhone said they were very satisfied with the device. Only 43% of the people who own a BlackBerry said the same.

"Apple's most impressive accomplishment is its customer satisfaction rating," said Paul Carton, ChangeWave's research director. "People buy smartphones because they want to be very satisfied. If they didn't, they would have bought a regular phone."

Calling Apple's numbers "on a different planet," Carton pointed out that Apple's overall satisfaction rating among consumers -- those who said they were "satisfied" or "very satisfied" -- was 99%. "It doesn't get much better than that," Carton said. "There are few things in life where you can say you're 99% satisfied."

The satisfaction number is the critical determiner of success in the smartphone market, said Carton, so it's no surprise that Apple's numbers have fueled a momentum that now puts it within striking distance of RIM and that company's BlackBerry in the consumer market.

Apple now accounts for 30% of the smartphone market, a jump of five percentage points since ChangeWave's June 2009 survey, said Carton. RIM's share is at 40%, down one percentage point since that last poll. A year ago, the iPhone's share was only 17%.

"Apple's share keeps skyrocketing," said Carton. "Their last earnings report points that out. But these numbers show that their momentum is continuing. They're firing on all cylinders."

Last week, Apple said it had sold a record 7.4 million iPhones worldwide in the quarter ending Sept. 30. The company's iPhone sales, along with record Mac sales, prompted one analyst to say at the time, "It's as if the recession never happened to Apple."

To prove the point about momentum, ChangeWave's poll showed that of those people who plan to buy a smartphone in the next 90 days, 36% said in September they would buy an iPhone, making it the top choice. RIM's BlackBerry came in second with 27%, while 8% said they would purchase a Palm device.

That 36% share of planned purchases was down from 44% in June, but that's as expected, said Carton. "Things calm down for any maker after a new release, that's normal," he said, referring to the mid-June iPhone 3GS launch. "But even so, Apple's now has the most momentum of any smartphone in the consumer market. It's quite extraordinary."

Smartphone sales overall continue to climb, Carton said. ChangeWave's September poll showed that 39% of those surveyed now own a smartphone of some kind, up seven percentage points in the last year and up 16 points in the last two.

While Carton declined to comment on smartphones' long-range prospects -- ChangeWave keeps its nose to a shorter-term grindstone -- he called the category's ability to grow in the face of a serious economic downturn "astounding."

"They've sucked up market share from a whole bunch of devices, including PCs, phones and game consoles," Carton said. "No other consumer electronics item did anything like this during the recession."

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