Business users no longer drive smartphone adoption

Consumers now buy the most smartphones, with the iPhone way in the lead in user satisfaction

Gone are the days that smartphones -- the BlackBerry, for all intents and purposes -- were a mark of the user being an executive or business traveler. Today, smartphones are now bought mainly by individual consumers and used for mostly personal needs, according to a new survey of more than 1,000 users by the consultancy CFI Group.

Given that the smartphone audience is now consumers using it mainly for personal use, CFI's survey not surprisingly showed that the Apple iPhone has the best level of customer satisfaction, at 83 percent. Google's Android platform and the Palm Pre tied for second place at 77 percent, followed by the Research in Motion BlackBerry at 73 percent, the defunct Palm Treo at 70 percent, and devices using Nokia's Symbian OS and Microsoft's Windows Mobile coming in last at 66 percent.

[ Find the best iPhone apps for business and IT in InfoWorld's online "no junk" iPhone app finder. | See who wins in our mobile deathmatches: iPhone versus BlackBerry and iPhone versus Palm Pre. ]

The survey also showed that, in addition to being the best in satisfaction, the iPhone has the most loyalty and word-of-mouth recommendations: 92 percent of current iPhone respondents said they have their ideal phone, 90 percent have recommended the phone, and 35 percent said they purchased their phone because of a recommendation. Also, the iPhone is the most popular alternative to any other smartphone.

The study found that Android and the Pre scored well because they share several traits with the iPhone: the ability to deliver consumer-oriented activities like apps, an easy Web-browsing experience, and multimedia playback. Business-oriented smartphones, like Treo and early generation BlackBerrys, are falling behind, whereas "generic" smartphones that run Symbian and Windows Mobile are not even on the radar, according to CFI Group.

Ironically, the U.S. national carrier with the fewest smartphone options, T-Mobile, has the top satisfaction score among carriers, at 79 percent. Verizon tied for the top satisfaction spot with a 79 percent score as well. Sprint, the exclusive provider of the Pre, came in second at 74 percent, while AT&T -- which boasts an exclusive deal to carry the iPhone -- came in at 73 percent among non-iPhone users and at just 66 percent among iPhone users.

CFI Group noted this lack of correlation between the popularity of the device and the popularity of the carrier service. Furthermore, CFI noted that the carrier with the largest number of sophisticated smartphones (such as the iPhone and BlackBerry Bold) -- AT&T -- had the worst customer satisfaction levels. And customers who switched to AT&T (mainly to get the iPhone) were much less satisfied than existing AT&T customers. Conversely, although Verizon tied for top customer satisfaction as a carrier, its users rated it least satisfactory for its smartphone options, at 38 percent.

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