Blackberry users, happiest of all smartphone users

BlackBerry devices, which are manufactured by Research in Motion (RIM), rank highest in overall customer satisfaction among business wireless smartphone users, according to the J.D. Power and Associates 2007 Business Wireless Smartphone Customer Satisfaction StudySM released today.

The inaugural study measures business customer satisfaction with their wireless smartphone, which is a mobile phone offering advanced capabilities, often with personal computer-like functionality such as a BlackBerry or Treo.

Overall satisfaction is examined across six key factors. In order of importance, they are: ease of operation (22%); operating system (21%); physical design (20%); audio (14%); battery aspects (13%); and utility features (10%).

RIM ranks highest in overall smartphone customer satisfaction with a score of 702 points on a 1,000-point scale, performing particularly well in the operating system factor, which includes the speed of moving between applications and speed of sending/receiving e-mails.

RIM also performs particularly well in battery aspects, including the length of battery life. Treo manufacturer Palm (698) and Samsung (698) tie to closely follow RIM in the ranking.

“While RIM has differentiated itself from the competition in areas that are most important to business smartphone users, competition in this market is tight,” said Kirk Parsons, senior director of wireless services for J.D. Power and Associates.

“Particularly for RIM, ease of using basic applications and features and providing the right amount of functionality in a lightweight package has given the manufacturer an edge.”

The study finds that satisfaction is critical to future sales and profitability of smartphone manufacturers, as highly satisfied owners are more than 50 percent more likely to repurchase the same brand than those who are not satisfied with their smartphone.

Additionally, owners who are “delighted” with their smartphone are 80 percent more likely to recommend a particular brand than an unsatisfied owner.

The study also finds that customer satisfaction varies depending on the type of operating system - RIM, Palm, Microsoft Windows Mobile or Symbian - being used in the smartphone device, as each system has its own advantages.

For example, customers note that the Palm system’s basic features are easy to use, such as making and receiving calls; checking voice mail; using the keyboard and key pads; and understanding display screen symbols.

In comparison, smartphone devices using the Microsoft Windows system perform well with regard to call quality, particularly when it comes to sound quality and having a wide variety of preloaded ring tones to choose from.

“While each OS platform excels in a particular area, there is definitely room for improvement across the market as not one smartphone brand excels in all business application dimensions,” said Parsons.

“It’s critical for manufacturers to offer a complete package of functionality and ease of operation that meets the business needs of customers.”

The study also finds the following key smartphone business wireless usage patterns:

* Among smartphone customers, 13 percent report having to get their device repaired, with software application issues, device locking up or display not working being the most frequently reported problems.

* More than 40 percent of smartphone users would like GPS (global positioning system) capabilities on their device, while 26 percent would like Wi-Fi capabilities, 22 percent want touch screen and 19 percent would like to have a TV integrated into their device.

* The average reported purchase price of a smartphone device is $261. Palm owners report the highest purchase price at $313. Motorola has the lowest reported device pricing at $194.

* The top five reasons given for choosing a smartphone brand are: personal digital assistant (PDA)/personal information manager (PIM) functionality (50%), Internet capability (48%), Bluetooth capabilities (46%), general ease of use (44%) and overall design/style (44%).

* Thirty-five percent of smartphone owners download third-party software. Popular software downloads among business users include games (51%), travel-related programs (42%) and business applications such as Microsoft Word and Excel (36%).