Apple surrenders top tablet satisfaction spot to Amazon

Amazon surges from fourth to first, thanks to Fire HDX, lower prices and Mayday button, says J.D. Power

Fire HDX 8.9 horizontal

Just five months after Apple took J.D. Power's tablet satisfaction award away from Samsung, it lost it today to up-and-coming Amazon.

Apple's iPad finished in second place in the latest satisfaction survey conducted by J.D. Power and Associates, with a score of 824 out of a possible 1,000. For the first time, Amazon took first place, scoring 827.

Samsung came in at 821 for third, while Asus and Acer filled out the first five, but those stragglers' scores were under the category average.

J.D. Power's satisfaction score included five separate measurements for performance, ease of operation, features, styling and design, and cost, with each accounting for different percentages of the final number. Performance, for example, counted as 28% of the total; cost for 11%.

Apple received high scores in performance and styling and design, while Amazon performed best in ease of operation and cost, said Kirk Parsons, senior director of telecommunications services at J.D. Power.

"Within the tablet segment, there's a balance of cost and value, and for this period, Amazon was at the equilibrium," said Parsons. "For the money, [Amazon tablets] do what buyers need them to do. And the Mayday feature really helped them in ease of operation."

Mayday is a feature on Amazon's higher-end tablets that lets customers video chat with support representatives using the device.

Parsons called out Amazon's Fire HDX, which launched in October 2013 in a 7-in. size and a month later in an 8.9-in. format, for driving the brand's scores. Amazon now sells the 7-in. Fire HDX for $179; the 8.9-in. model starts at $379. "The new Fire HDX did really, really well" in the survey, Parsons noted.

J.D. Power polled nearly 2,700 U.S. tablet owners who had had their current devices for less than a year. The survey period ran from March to August.

The last time J.D. Power published tablet customer satisfaction scores, Amazon placed fourth. Its jump to first was a small surprise, said Parsons. "I figured [Amazon's] scores would improve, but I didn't think they'd take the top spot," he admitted.

Price is increasingly important to satisfaction, said Parson, as costs fall and capabilities climb across the board, making it more difficult for premium-priced tablets like Apple's iPad, to retain their polled positions. On average, tablet customers now spend $345 on their tablets, $48 less than in April 2013, a decline of 12%.

"But part of the rankings is due to the device cycle," Parsons pointed out. "At the end of a cycle, the tablets get to feel old, and during the field period [of polling from March to August] Apple only had those older models."

Apple did not refresh its iPad line until this month, when it unveiled the iPad Air 2 and iPad Mini 3 to mixed reviews. Apple also dropped prices of its 2013 devices -- the iPad Air and first-generation Retina-equipped Mini -- by $100, and pushed the price of 2012's original iPad Mini down to $249, an all-time low for the company's tablets.

J.D. Power table satisfaction scores J.D. Power and Associates

Apple gave up the top spot in J.D. Power's latest tablet satisfaction survey to Amazon.

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