As smartphone users place increasingly complex demands on the functionality of their devices, satisfaction with battery performance is becoming a critical factor in overall satisfaction, as well as brand loyalty, according to a pair of new studies from J.D. Power and Associates.
Satisfaction with smartphones is greatly impacted by battery performance, particularly the length of battery life before recharging is required.
The study finds that satisfaction with battery performance is by far the least satisfying aspect of smartphones, and satisfaction in this area is one of only a few attributes that have declined significantly, compared to the company's 2011 study.
Satisfaction levels with battery performance differ widely between owners of 3G- and 4G-enabled smartphones. Among owners of 4G-enabled smartphones, battery performance ratings average 6.1 on a 10-point scale — considerably lower than satisfaction among owners of 3G smartphones, which was 6.7.
Part of this difference stems from the fact that new 4G smartphones use substantial battery life searching for next-generation network signals, which tend to be scarcer than 3G signals. In addition, owners of 4G-enabled smartphones use their device more extensively, which puts a significantly higher demand on the battery.
"Both carriers and manufacturers recognize the fact that battery life needs to be improved," said Kirk Parsons, senior director of wireless services at J.D. Power and Associates. "However, the study uncovers the need for a greater sense of urgency – short battery life can result in perceived phone problems, higher rates of merchandise returns and customer defections."
According to Parsons, smartphone owners who are highly satisfied with their device's battery life are more likely to repurchase the same brand of smartphone, compared with owners who are less satisfied.
Approximately 25 percent of 4G-enabled smartphone owners are highly satisfied with their battery – ratings of 10 on a 10-point scale – and say they "definitely will" repurchase a device from the same manufacturer. In comparison, among owners who are less satisfied with their battery – ratings of 7-9 on a 10-point scale – only 13 percent say the same.
The two studies measure customer satisfaction with traditional wireless handsets and smartphones among owners who have used their current mobile device for less than one year.
Satisfaction is measured in several key factors. In order of importance, the key factors of overall satisfaction with traditional wireless handsets are: performance, with 31 percent; ease of operation, with 24 percent; physical design, with 24 percent; and features, with 20 percent. For smartphones, the key factors are: performance, with 35 percent; ease of operation, with 24 percent; features, with 21 percent; and physical design, with 20 percent.
For a seventh consecutive time, Apple ranks highest among manufacturers of smartphones in customer satisfaction.
Apple achieves a score of 839 on a 1,000-point scale and performs well in all factors, particularly in ease of operation and features. HTC, with a score of 798, follows Apple in the smartphone rankings.
LG and Sanyo rank highest in overall customer satisfaction with traditional handsets, in a tie with a score of 716 each. LG performs well in all four factors, while Sanyo performs particularly well in ease of operation. Sony Ericsson, with 712, and Samsung, 703, follow in the traditional handset rankings.