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.