Apple's dominance in smartphone customer satisfaction faded last year, with rivals like Samsung and Motorola dramatically closing the gap, a national survey said today.
Although the iPhone remained the top smartphone by customer satisfaction, with a score of 81 in the American Customer Satisfaction Index (ACSI) published Tuesday, Apple's lead largely evaporated. Not only did Apple's score fall two points from the year before, satisfaction in competitors' devices jumped.
Samsung's satisfaction score grew the most, increasing by five points to 76, a 7% gain. Motorola's score climbed 5.5% to 77 points, while Nokia's gained a point to close at 76, a 1.3% increase. Other smartphone manufacturers' scores slumped: Those of HTC and LG slid 4% and 5.3%, respectively.
2012's eight-point gap between Apple and the best of the rest was halved in 2013, as Apple now leads the next-closest, Motorola, by just four points.
ACSI's director, David VanAmburg, attempted to explain Apple's shrinking lead.
"While the iPhone 5 had strong sales, it has not bolstered Apple's overall customer satisfaction," said VanAmburg in a report accompanying the survey results. "[And Samsung's] improvement is the largest yet for any cell phone manufacturer."
VanAmburg credited the 2012 launch of the Galaxy S3 for the boost to Samsung's score, and noted that the 81 scored by the iPhone lagged behind the 86 garnered by Apple's Mac personal computers and iPad tablets last September.
ACSI's results generally conformed with media coverage and customer reactions to the iPhone 5 -- which was seen as a minor upgrade, even though it sported a slightly larger screen -- and Samsung's Galaxy S3 and S4, which have been applauded. Most analysts, for instance, have portrayed Samsung as Apple's only real competitor.
According to IDC, Samsung shipped 71 million smartphones in the first quarter, while Apple shipped 37 million iPhones, or just over half as many. Apple's share shrunk to 17.3% for the quarter, down from 23% the same period in 2012; meanwhile, Samsung's share climbed from 28.8% to 32.7%.
The ACSI scores can be found on the organization's website. The results were based on surveys of nearly 9,600 Americans between Jan. 21 and March 17.