iPhone satisfaction rating hits the roof … almost

Apple iPhone users are almost twice as likely to say they are “very satisfied” with their smartphone than second-place RIM and its BlackBerry, a recent survey shows.

According to ChangeWave Research, which polled more then 4,200 American consumers last month, 74 per cent of those who own an iPhone said they were very satisfied with the device.

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Only 43 per cent 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 per cent.

“It doesn’t get much better than that,” Carton said. “There are few things in life where you can say you’re 99 per cent 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 per cent of the smartphone market, a jump of five percentage points since ChangeWave’s June 2009 survey, said Carton. RIM’s share is at 40 per cent, down one percentage point since that last poll.

A year ago, the iPhone’s share was only 17 per cent.

“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 firm reported that it sold more Macs and iPhones last quarter than in any other three-month period in the company’s history, with executives using words like “phenomenal” to describe its performance.

“It was a spectacular quarter,” said Ezra Gottheil, an analyst with Technology Business Research. “It’s as if the recession never happened to Apple.”

In the quarter that ended Sept. 30, Apple sold 3.05 million Macs worldwide, an increase of 442,000 over the next-best quarter, which was the same calendar quarter in 2008, said Peter Oppenheimer, Apple’s chief financial officer.

“This was Apple’s most profitable quarter ever, and Apple had more sales of Macs and iPhones than any quarter ever,” Oppenheimer said during a conference call with Wall Street analysts.

Apple’s sales have outpaced the industry average for 19 out of the last 20 quarters, Oppenheimer added. The one exception: This year’s first quarter, when Apple failed for the first time since 2003 to grow Mac sales year-over-year.

Oppenheimer also said that Apple was “thrilled” to set an iPhone sales record, moving nearly 7.4 million units of the smartphone in the last three months. Apple will also start selling the iPhone in China, the world’s largest mobile phone market, later this month, said Oppenheimer.

Globally, Mac sales were up 17 per cent compared with the same period a year ago. Although Apple didn’t break out U.S. sales separately, numbers generated in the Americas and at retail — most of its retail stores are in the U.S. — totaled 1.92 million Macs, up 11.6 per cent from the 1.72 million it sold in those same categories last year.

“It’s as if the recession never happened to Apple,” said ChangeWave’s Carton.

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 per cent said in September they would buy an iPhone, making it the top choice. RIM’s BlackBerry came in second with 27 per cent, while 8 per cent said they would purchase a Palm device.

That 36 per cent share of planned purchases was down from 44 per cent 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 per cent 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.”

Desktop demise

“The last quarter was the quarter of the portable,” said Tim Cook, Apple’s chief operating officer, the executive who ran the company for several months when CEO Steve Jobs was on medical leave. “Sales of Mac portables were up 35 per cent year-over-year. This was a blow-up quarter.”

There was considerable truth to Cook’s characterization. In July, August and September, Apple sold 2.3 million Mac notebooks and only 787,000 desktops, posting a year-over-year gain in the former of 35 per cent and a year-over-year decline of 16 per cent in the latter.

“Desktop sales have reached a point where they’re never going to come back,” opined Gottheil. “The turnover point has been reached, when whole new configurations are in the home, in dorm rooms. People may have a screen they use for other purposes, too, but people aren’t having a box any longer.”

The average sales price (ASP) of Apple’s Mac laptop line was also up, noted one Wall Street analyst during the question-and-answer portion of the earnings call. “That was a result of a higher mix of MacBook Pros,” explained Oppenheimer, repeating a refrain the company gave in July when it discussed Mac sales for the second quarter, particularly sales after the early-June refresh of the line.

“[Portable sales] were a direct result of the line-up we announced in June,” said Cook, noting that for a time, Apple had a backlog of orders for some MacBook Pro models.

At the same time that Apple revamped the MacBook Pro line-up, it also cut prices of many of the models. Apple, however, has contended that the price cuts have actually helped boost the ASP, as many users have simply “moved up” from the $999 entry-level MacBook to the $1,199 MacBook Pro.

Gottheil seconded that. “The MacBook Pro is pulling people from the bottom of their line, people are saying ‘for $200 more I can have a more substantial computer’,” he said.

Source: Computerworld.com

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