By Harry McCracken | 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.