iPhone 7 Plus beats the Galaxy S8 and iPhone X in customer satisfaction

Smartphone sales may have plateaued, but customer satisfaction is still high.

While the latest data and phone manufacturer earnings reports show the impact of longer replacement cycles and fewer leaps ahead in technology, phone manufacturers’ ACSI scores have held steady.

Whether that’s good news or bad news for the industry depends on what comes next.

Apple and Samsung hold steady out in front

It should be no surprise that Apple and Samsung are neck and neck in the lead for customer satisfaction, as they have been since 2014.

Samsung has the higher market share, with 21.9 percent to Apple’s 15.2 percent, but when it comes to customer satisfaction, Apple remains on top with a score of 81, ahead of Samsung’s score of 80, according to the 2018 ACSI Telecommunications Report. Those scores have held steady since 2016.

This year Motorola took third with a 79, rising 3.9 percent year over year, while LG rose 4.1 percent to 77 and HTC sat still at 76.

Cellular telephones as a whole stood at 79 for the third straight year, a sign that we’ve reached a point where new phones aren’t impressing customers the way they once did with leaps in features and capabilities.

Which phones are customers most satisfied with?

Among individual phones, the iPhone 7 Plus came out on top with an ACSI score of 85, beating out the Galaxy S8 Plus at 84, and the Galaxy S8, iPhone 8, and iPhone 8 Plus, which all tied at 83.

Despite being the best-selling smartphone in the first quarter of 2018, the iPhone X landed in the middle of the pack, scoring an 80 – the same as the iPhone 7, iPhone 5S, iPhone SE, and Moto G, among others.

Perhaps the iPhone X’s cost affected its score—criticism that it wasn’t much different from the iPhone 8, just more expensive, could have dampened enthusiasm for the flagship model.

At the bottom of the list are the iPhone 6 and LG G Stylo tied at 78, followed by the Galaxy S5 at 76, and the iPhone 5 in last place at 75.

The age of these phones is likely a factor in their scores, as the iPhone 5 was originally released in 2012, the Galaxy S5 and iPhone 6 in 2014, and the G Stylo in early 2015.

Different phones excel at different tasks

The customer satisfaction ratings for particular features show how different phones succeed in different areas.

For example, the Galaxy S8 Plus ranked first for the quality of its video, while the iPhone 8 and Galaxy Note 5 tied for top marks for quality of audio.

The G Stylo, which overall ranked near the bottom of the list, ties the iPhone 7 Plus for first place in the ease of navigating menus and settings, and takes a close second, behind the Galaxy S8 Plus, in its design—which includes overall size, weight, and size of the screen.

While the G Stylo is more than three years old, it beat out the Galaxy S8, the iPhone X, 8, and 8 Plus in quality of design.

Among the many features measured for the different phones, battery life was among the lowest-ranked. The Galaxy S8 Plus came out on top in battery life, with the iPhone 8 Plus close behind, and the iPhone 7 Plus and Galaxy S8 tied for a distant third.

Why customer satisfaction with phones has held steady for years

Pretty much any phone you buy today is going to offer an outstanding experience. Of course there are varying degrees of outstanding, but the differences are around the edges – a slightly larger screen here, a slightly better camera there, and so on.

The iPhone X, despite improving upon existing iPhones, didn’t revolutionize the market the way the first iPhone did back in 2007.

The iPhone 7 Plus had higher customer satisfaction ratings than newer phones because it’s not that much different than the new phones, but it’s more affordable than recent models. Many don’t feel the need to upgrade as often as they once did, both because of the lack of attractive new features and because changes in phone contracts make getting a new phone more expensive.

We’re all waiting for the product that comes along and makes us want to chuck our smartphones in the trash because the new one is everything we never realized we needed.

It’s getting hard to imagine what that next big thing will be, but eventually it will arrive and shake up this space’s ever-steady customer satisfaction ratings.

Video streaming services compared: Which ones have the highest customer satisfaction?

At one point, “streaming video service” was just a synonym for Netflix. But Hulu and Amazon Prime Video were close on its heels, and now dozens of streaming providers are wading into the waters.

But not all streaming providers are created equal. Some, like Netflix, Hulu, and Amazon Prime, are investing billions of dollars in original programming. Some have a better and broader selection of movies and TV than others.

It’s clear that streaming services are trouncing subscription TV in terms of customer satisfaction—streaming has an ACSI score of 75, while subscription TV declined this year to a 62.

But in this highly competitive space, measured for the first time in the 2018 ACSI Telecommunications Report, some streaming services set themselves apart, while others fare no better in customers’ eyes than subscription TV.

Here’s who came out on top, who still has work to do, and the aspects of video streaming that customers are most – and least – happy with, from their bill to the quality of original programming.

Netflix, Vue, and Twitch on top

Tied for first place in customer satisfaction, Netflix, Sony PlayStation Vue, and Amazon’s Twitch scored 78, the highest score in the telecommunications segment.

Netflix is the undisputed leader among streaming services, having paved the way for others in the industry, and it continues to dominate. It added a record 7.41 million customers in the first quarter of 2018.

While its subscriber numbers are nowhere near Netflix’s, PlayStation Vue’s customization and flexibility aid its ranking; users don’t mind paying more for what they perceive to be a strong value. Vue sits in a good position with cord cutters disgruntled with cable TV service.

Amazon’s Twitch has taken a different path, capitalizing on the growing popularity of streaming video games, including e-sports, a popular category especially with younger viewers—61 percent of e-sports viewers are between 18 and 34.

Tied for second place are à la carte streaming services Apple iTunes and the Microsoft Store, both with scores of 77.

Amazon Prime, Hulu, YouTube Red in the middle

Google’s YouTube Red comes in at 76, ahead of Amazon Prime Video, Google Play, Walmart’s Vudu, and Hulu, which all tied at 75.

While YouTube Red is rebranding to YouTube Premium, it has had success recently with Cobra Kai, an original series based on the Karate Kid franchise that recently beat out original shows from Hulu and Netflix to top the streaming charts.

Hulu has few ways to differentiate from its competitors in terms of subscriber satisfaction, but with Disney set to assume majority ownership, the service may offer more content and original programming in the future.

Amazon Prime Video has joined rival Netflix with Oscar nominations – and wins – in the last couple years, and has about 26 million viewers.

Network channel subscriptions bring up the back of the pack

Limited by the content they can provide, network channel subscriptions rank below average. CBS All Access (74) comes in ahead of HBO Now and Starz (both 72) and Showtime Anytime (70). DISH Network’s Sling TV (71) has a narrow lead over AT&T’s DIRECTV NOW (70).

At the bottom, Sony’s Crackle takes last place with 68. Even with the lowest score in the video streaming category, Crackle rates higher than all but two pay TV providers.

What viewers like and don’t like about streaming video

The top-rated aspect of video streaming is the ease of understanding the bill, which streaming customers find much more straightforward than subscription TV customers (ACSI score of 80 for streaming, 73 for subscription TV).

Website satisfaction is high (80) among video streaming customers, as is overall performance reliability (78). Call center service was rated 75, head and shoulders above subscription TV, whose call centers were rated 63 after a 3 percent decline from last year.

Streaming video services face an ongoing battle for content, which is often outside of their control. While viewers rate the quality of original programming at 74, they say the most room for improvement is in the availability of current season’s TV shows (71) and new movie titles (69).

The future of video streaming services

While video streaming handily beat subscription TV, that isn’t exactly difficult considering that subscription TV, along with internet service providers, is one of the lowest-rated industries the ACSI tracks.

Many aspects of video streaming services, from ease of understanding the bill to call center experience, outstrip those of subscription TV, but within the streaming space itself, it’s getting harder for some services to differentiate themselves in a crowded market with a few entrenched household names.

By more closely examining how consumers rated their services, however, video streaming providers can better meet viewers’ preferences and redefine perceptions – as well as improve their ACSI score – moving forward.