Did Samsung Really Beat Apple in Smartphone Satisfaction?
Samsung clearly hit a home run with its Galaxy S III and Note II. Now, news headlines are proclaiming what Samsung wants to hear -- that it beat out Apple in the customer satisfaction realm. But is the survey accurate? And even if it's not, does it send a message to Apple?
According to the American Customer Satisfaction Index (ACSI), Samsung's flagship model for 2012, the S III, received a benchmark of 84 on a 0 to 100 scale. That beats Apple's iPhone 5 at 82. Meanwhile, another Samsung model, the Note II, shares the top of the list at 84. Galaxy S IV is not included because the ACSI study was fielded just prior to its launch.
The iPhone 4S matches its successor -- iPhone 5 -- with an ACSI score of 82. Apple's iPhone 4 is just a point below at 81. On the other hand, at a score of 78, customer satisfaction with the Galaxy S II, precursor to the S III, is lower.
A Wake Up Call for Apple
"Not only does Samsung edge ahead of all iPhones, Apple customers themselves don't see much difference between the iPhone 4, 4S or 5," said ACSI Director David VanAmburg. "The latest earnings report from Apple was better than expected, but the name of the game for Apple has always been innovation. Samsung, on the other hand, shows a strong upward ACSI trend from the Galaxy S II to the Galaxy S III. If the S IV performs as well -- or even better -- in the eyes of customers, Samsung could threaten Apple's dominance in overall customer satisfaction."
But Roger Entner, senior analyst at Recon Analytics, has some questions about the survey. He told us if ACSI asked 1,000 people then the margin of error is 3 percent and it would be a statistical tie between Apple and Samsung. The former Nielsen analyst said ACSI would have to ask more than 5,000 people if there is a meaningful difference.
"It worked out nicely for the headline, but what is interesting is that historically the iPhone was head above shoulders compared to the rest. What this shows us is that the relative gap between the iPhone and a lot of the Samsung devices has diminished over time and Apple as a premium provider needs to up its game when the iPhone 5S or 6 comes out," Entner said. "It's a wake-up call for Apple."
As Entner sees it, these statistics are less about dissatisfaction with the iPhone and more about improvements on the Android operating system and with Samsung handsets.
"Apple's iOS and the iPhone device were really that much better and Google caught up a lot and the Samsung devices offer a lot larger screen. Screen size is usually a big driver and the Samsung smartphones are very thin and light," he said. "The slightly larger screen on the 5 leaves you wanting when you see the Galaxy S III or IV. Size matters."
South Korea Goes for Apple
While U.S. customers give Samsung's smartphones the top scores, Korean consumers prefer Apple. According to the National Customer Satisfaction Index (NCSI) in South Korea, which uses the same technology as the ACSI, the iPhone 5 has higher customer satisfaction than Galaxy S III.
Unlike Apple, which has a smartphone-only lineup, Samsung offers both feature phones and smartphones. At 76, Samsung continues to lag Apple for overall customer satisfaction. Nevertheless, the company's 7 percent gain in 2013 is a clear reflection of the strength of Galaxy S III.
Motorola Mobility's Droid Razr Maxx HD comes in at 80, while the Droid Razr scores 77. The low end belongs to BlackBerry, far below competition, with 67 and 64, respectively, for its Curve and Bold smartphones.
"Like Apple, BlackBerry offers smart devices only, yet the company stays firmly entrenched at the bottom of the industry in customer satisfaction," says Fornell. "This does not bode well for BlackBerry considering that smart typically outperforms feature when it comes to cell phones."