The State of iPhone Satisfaction

The agony (occasionally) and the ecstasy (frequently) of using an iPhone, as reported by 2150+ respondents to our exclusive survey.

By  |  Tuesday, September 30, 2008 at 5:52 am

It’s one of the most popular phones in history. It’s also one of the most controversial. And it’s almost certainly inspired more news, reviews, analysis, and general punditry than any phone–maybe any other gadget–ever. But when all is said and done, the bottom line on the iPhone is simple: What do the people who use them every day think of their phones?

There’s only way to answer that question–ask a bunch of iPhone owners. Which is what we did from Friday morning through Sunday morning, when we fielded an in-depth survey on life with the iPhone. Over 2150 users of both the iPhone 3G and the original model took the time to participate. And they were a passionate bunch with strong opinions about their phones, both positive and negative. (I published a representative selection of these opinions in “An iPhone Opinion Explosion.”)

Want to avoid reading the rest of this report? Here, I’ll summarize it for you:

The vast majority of respondents love their iPhones. Ninety-one percent said they were totally or very satisfied with them. Seventy-eight percent rate it as an excellent or good value, counting the cost of wireless service.

They rate the App Store highly overall. But there’s serious disgruntlement with Apple policies on rejecting applications that are supposedly too similar to its own–a plurality say that such rejections are unacceptable.

Most respondents think that Apple has responded only “fairly well” to issues stemming from the iPhone 3G launch.

Almost everybody has installed Software Update 2.1, and it gets good marks for improving the phone.

About half of MobileMe users are enthusiasic; the rest are more guarded or downright negative.

Freezes and crashes, slow Internet access, and poor coverage were the problems that most respondents said they’d encountered with their iPhones. And just about everybody has encountered problems.

Cut and paste was the most-desired missing iPhone feature–and almost nobody who took the survey cares that the iPhone doens’t have a physical keyboard.

A couple of other notes before we get going:

1) These results reflect only the opinions and experiences of the folks who took the survey, and may not map to iPhone users at large. In at least one significant respect, the results clearly aren’t representative: 84 percent of respondents use their iPhone with a Mac, not a Windows PC. The survey respondents are speaking for themselves, not for every single iPhone user on the planet–and that’s okay, since what they had to say was really interesting.

2) I haven’t done any breakdowns by type of user. And some of them might be really interesting. (Are iPhone 3G users more satisfied than original iPhone users? Are people outside the U.S. more pleased with coverage than those within?) PollDaddy, the survey tool I used, is terrific, but it doesn’t let you do these breakdowns. I can probably massage the data externally, but frankly, it sounds like a job for Excel (if not SPSS), and I’m still tackling Operation Operation Foxbook, which forbids me from using desktop software. But if there’s enough interest, I’ll dig deeper in a follow-up story.

Okay, enough preamble. There’s lots of data ahead, but don’t worry–if you’re in a rush, just skim the charts and they’ll tell you most of what you need to know.

So What Kind of iPhone Users Took the Survey?
We began the survey by asking respondents a few questions about their iPhones and service. Starting with a biggie: Did they use an iPhone 3G or an original iPhone? Turned out that 62 percent had a 3G, and 38 percent had the first model:

The PollDaddy survey tool helpfully keeps track of where respondents are located. Not surprisingly, most (68%) were in the U.S., with significant representation from other countries where English is the native language or is widely spoken:

With most respondents in the U.S., it was inevitable that the bulk of them reported that their wireless carrier is AT&T:

And given that most respondents have iPhone 3Gs, it’s also no surprise that a large chunk of them have had the phone for only a few months, and a significant chunk have only been iPhone users for less than a month:

On the other hand, this stat may raise eyebrows: 84 percent of respondents said they use their iPhone with a Mac, ten percent use a Windows PC, and six percent use both. I haven’t seen any official breakdown of iPhone usage by platform, but it’s a safe assumption that the majority of the world’s iPhone users sync with Windows, not OS X. Our results may vary in part because a significant percentage of participants learned about the survey on John Gruber’s popular, Mac-centric Daring Fireball site.

Finally, 97 percent of respondents have updated their iPhones to the version 2.1 software update. I have no idea whether that high figure is typical of garden-variety iPhone users–I tend to doubt it–but it’s encouraging, and it means that survey respondents are judging the iPhone in its current form, rather than grappling with software issues which Apple has fixed.

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27 Comments For This Post

  1. Frank Forum Says:

    “a plurality say that such rejections are unacceptable.”

    plurality??? Are you for real? Plurality means more than one so does that mean two people complained or all of them? Thanks for telling us nothing.

  2. Harry McCracken Says:

    Frank Forum: Um, your issue is with Merriam-Webster, not me. To quote from their definition of plurality:

    “c: a number of votes cast for a candidate in a contest of more than two candidates that is greater than the number cast for any other candidate but not more than half the total votes cast”

    Fewer than half of the respondents said that the App Store rejections were unacceptable, but more people chose that option than any other.

    In other words, it received a plurality.

    –Harry

  3. Dennis Says:

    @Frank Forum: Plurality, in the context of most surveys or elections, means the answer (or candidate) with the greatest number of respondents (or voters), but which failed to capture an outright majority (over 50%). In other words, if you had three candidates, and candidate A got 40%, candidate B got 35%, and candidate C got 25%, none of them won a majority, but candidate A won the plurality.

  4. David McElroy Says:

    Frank Forum, you’re clearly unaware of the more common usage of the word “plurality.” In the context of results from a poll or an election, it’s obvious what it means. In this context, the result receiving a plurality received the most votes of the available categories, but not enough to be a majority. For instance, if the percentage of votes was split as A=45, B=35, C=20, that would mean that A had received a plurality of the votes. Check any nearby dictionary for a definition which would probably be more clear than mine.

  5. Harry McCracken Says:

    Thanks, Dennis and David…

  6. Daryl Says:

    While we’re on the language, is “a good value” standard English? I’d just call it “good value”, but maybe the addition of an article is usual for US English?
    Thanks for the survey info. I took part and I see I’m pretty typical in every way – down to seeing it as a result of Daring Fireball!

  7. Nate Says:

    Frank has been officially owned. Yet another reason to be snotty when you don’t know what you are talking about. Or even when you do, for that matter.

    Daryl: I believe in this case the addition of the indefinite article “a” is rather common, at least in the US. The phrase (to me) is somewhat synonymous with “a good buy” or “a good purchase”, therefore stating that its value is on par or better than other phones in its class.

  8. Joanna Stern Says:

    My apologies for changing the vocab convo. Interesting results. I am totally in agreement with the most desired feature being cut/paste. I didn’t realize how annoying it was to not have that feature until today.

    http://blog.laptopmag.com/blackberry-curve-saves-iphone-user-from-iphones-limitations

  9. Sean Says:

    From Merriam-Webster’s online dictionary:

    plurality
    1 a: the state of being plural b: the state of being numerous c: a large number or quantity
    2: pluralism 1 ; also : a benefice held by pluralism
    3 a: a number greater than another b: an excess of votes over those cast for an opposing candidate c: a number of votes cast for a candidate in a contest of more than two candidates that is greater than the number cast for any other candidate but not more than half the total votes cast

    So while I immediately grasped from the context that the article used plurality in the sense of definition three, sense c, perhaps we shouldn’t fault Frank for applying the first given meaning. Snot is not more palatable when returned.

    This means that while more responded that the App Store rejections were unacceptable than gave any other response, a majority gave a response other than that the App Store rejections were unacceptable. Or less tortured, only a minority felt the App Store rejections were unacceptable.

    In common usage in the U.S. ‘a’ preceding ‘good value’, in this context, indicates that ‘good value’ is a class to which the iPhone belongs. Without the ‘a’ the statement would be read as equating the iPhone with ‘good value’ (it possesses good value vs. it = Good Value™).

  10. Tom Says:

    Very interesting results. Thanks for doing this. Amazing how satisfied iPhone users are despite the hiccups.

  11. stats-fan Says:

    The results of this survey are very suspect due to “self-selection bias.” Only people who were motivated enough to answer your survey were included in the data. The data IS NOT representative of the iphone population at large because you did not use a random sample of users.

  12. Harry McCracken Says:

    Stats Fan: Absolutely true, and I cheerfully acknowledge that near the top of the story. As I said, the results reflect only the opinions of the 2150+ people who took the survey–but that’s a lot of people, and I find what they said interesting even though it would be a mistake to conclude that their feedback represents iPhone users at large.

    –Harry

  13. Intosh Says:

    There is not much significance attached to such survey. Do a similar survey on the Linux OS and you’ll find a similarly high satisfaction and approval from Linux users. If the respondents were unsatisfied enough, they wouldn’t keep using the product, nor would they spend their spare time answering an online survey about the product.

  14. Harry McCracken Says:

    I hear you, Intosh, but my experience doesn’t jibe. At PC World, we did dozens of online surveys involving tech products of all types, including some that were more complex and demanding than our iPhone survey. There was never any evidence that the results skewed towards happy, satisfied people. In fact, the opposite issue was more of a concern–dissatisfied people are often more likely to make the effort to make their opinions known, and we needed to make sure our surveys didn’t skew towards unhappy campers.

    As I’ve said, for this survey, we didn’t try to screen people to find a survey pool that looked like the iPhone customer base at large. The survey just represents the experiences and opinions of 2150 people, but I think it makes for worthwhile reading nonetheless.

  15. compulsivewriter Says:

    i find myself agreeing to the survey. i just bought the phone a month ago when it launched in india …

  16. Intosh Says:

    Harry McCracken, I understand your point regarding surveys at PC World and I’m not surprised by your observation. But what I wanted to point out was that Linux and Apple users are similar in that they are first and foremost fans of the product/company. Therefore, surveys on these products where the respondents *choose* to participate will inevitably be skewed. Because the respondents are most likely big fans of Linux or Apple.

  17. Henry Says:

    Who in the world can we talk to to get some action on a browsing filter for kids a la NetNanny or SafeEyes? My teenage kids are dying to have iPod Touches but until I can secure their browsers, they’re out of luck. Was hoping the opening for developers would prompt such a product but no such luck.

    I am astonished by the number of parents who have indulged their kids with iPhones but didn’t know the browsers were wide open.

    Any ideas, folks?

  18. Chris Says:

    Intosh:
    While what you are saying will be somewhat true for questions like “Are you satisfied with your iPhone/Linux distro/etc.?”, but when it comes to more specific questions concerning missing features or annoying glitches, I think the results of the above survey are still very valuable. The actual iPhone will know best what they like/dislike about their device since they use it on a daily basis. I wouldn’t be that interested in hearing opinions from people who had just brief contact (or none whatsoever) with the phone.

  19. Chris Says:

    Sigh… I missed a word there. Should be:
    “The actual iPhone owners will know best…”

  20. ed Says:

    Dear Harry,

    I was wondering if this (great) survey is downloadable?
    Or is it possible for you to send it to me?
    If you want, I could point out my purposes.

    Please send me an e-mail.

    Regards,
    Ed

  21. Kevin Wong Says:

    Were any of the questions open for qualitative data gathering? It’d be interesting to not only learn about what people want, but why and when they would find it useful.

    In anycase, thought we’d share a little fun along the way with what we feel is a great solution to the cut and paste fiasco =)
    http://www.artefactgroup.com/frontier/2008/10/14/artefact-adds-copypaste-to-the-iphone/ Just wanted to share. Looking forward to future posts!

  22. Bryan Says:

    I like my new iPhone however; I can’t stand that every time I try to view a website (mostly WSJ.com) Safari crashes…I thought apple was better than this.

  23. Video Games Says:

    The data represented is a standard generalization. The Iphone is not anything special.

  24. Gloria Says:

    I am a Mac hater but I LOVE my iPhone. It is the greatest! I wanted one of the original iPhones, but forced myself to wait until the 3Gs came out. I am one of those consumers that is reluctant to jump on the bandwagon of every new device until I know enough about it to see its worth to me. I use it every day for so much more than making calls, texting, or accessing the internet. I would say my least favorite part of the iPhone is the life of the battery charge, and the fact that I can’t replace the battery when the time comes.

    Thank you for a very interesting survey. Wish I’d known about it earlier so I could have been a part of the stats.

  25. DISSAPOINTET USER Says:

    KEEP IT SHORT – WORST PHONE EVER ON THE MARKET.!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

  26. gaz Says:

    just bought this one and love it

  27. Billy Glassel Says:

    A person essentially lend a hand to make seriously articles I’d state. That is the first time I frequented your web page and thus far? I amazed with the analysis you made to make this actual publish extraordinary. Excellent task!

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