updated 09:21 pm EST, Fri February 22, 2013
Apple's handsets three times less problem-prone than competition
A new study by mobile device repair company FixYa examined a key factor in cell phone usage rarely able to be judged by buyers at the time of sale, but one of the most important in ongoing loyalty and value: reliability. From almost three quarters of a million problem reports, Apple's smartphones overall (and the iPhone 5 in particular) were found to be nearly three times more reliable than its nearest competition, Samsung. Google-owned Motorola's phones scored the worst of the four major brands examined.
Data from 772,558 FixYa reports was compiled to prepare the survey, which listed pros and cons of each major brand and on each company's flagship phone models. One of the most telling figures is that Apple, despite having an estimated 26 percent of the overall phone market share, had less than 10 percent of the problem reports. By comparison, Samsung had about the same market share, but generated 150 percent more complaints. Nokia, with third-place marketshare overall (22.15 percent) had by far the worst track record of the three, generating twice as many complaints as Samsung and around 45 percent of all the problem reports FixYa documented.
If complaints are weighted against marketshare, however, Motorola comes off even worse -- despite having a scant two percent of the handset market, it generated just as many complaints as Samsung, which has 22.7 percent. Proportionally, this means that Motorola phones were 10 times more likely to have a problem than Samsung phones.
Each brand was rated with customer comments that listed both pros and cons associated with the overall complaints. Notably, the main "cons" of owning an Apple phone had nothing to do with its hardware or software reliability, instead focusing on areas such as lack of customization, a lack of some of the latest new features, and battery life (the latter being a common issue across many phone models).
Motorola's phones, for all their other problems, won praise from owners for its great battery life (the Samsung S III phone in particular was also singled out for this feature). Other "pros" for Motorola phones included much-improved design changes with recent models, focusing on how the phone feels in a user's hand. Complaints about Motorola phones centered around their poor-quality cameras and speakers, touchscreen malfunctions (particularly for the Atrix and Droid models) and most commonly the inability to remove preinstalled apps (usually foisted on users by the carrier, in cooperation with Motorola). Verizon's preinstalled apps were singled out as the most obnoxious.
Nokia phones (both smartphone and feature phones) got dinged for its generally larger size for its models, poor battery life and excessive heat. Users also complained about a lack of available apps and poor "ecosystem," but reserved their biggest gripes for the tendency of the phones to provide a "laggy" response to gestures and button presses -- though this could be more of an issue with Windows Phone and Symbian, the two main OSes Nokia uses.
Unlike Motorola phones, Nokia customers were generally very pleased with the durability and quality of the touchscreen -- FixYa reported nearly zero issues with the touchscreen performance, even after damage had been sustained (the latest Nokia models use Gorilla Glass, like the iPhone). Another point of praise was the Windows 8 Phone homescreen, rated as very customizable and fresh-looking.
Samsung's phone models were widely praised for the display, with very few reports of dead pixels or other issues. The company's skinning of Android with its own TouchWiz UI also won compliments for the way it makes Android less cumbersome to use and generally improves the overall user experience. The Galaxy S III enjoys all these benefits as well as recently-improved battery life, making it the top-rated model of Samsung's lineup.
However, the company was also slammed for poor battery life on the Galaxy Nexus line, and dinged for multiple microphone and speaker issues across the entire range of Samsung offerings. Users reported that sound-quality and reliability issues significantly degraded the portion of the phone experience that is most crucial: the actual phone usage.
Apple's iPhones, while garnering a staggering 3.47 out of 4 reliability score overall -- the full rankings were Samsung with 1.21, Nokia with 0.68 and Motorola with 0.13 -- were not immune from criticism, which mostly centered around battery life. Apple has struggled with the issue, often seeing battery life go down following new versions of iOS, only to crawl back up at least somewhat as further updates refined energy-saving techniques. As previously mentioned, the other major complaints didn't relate to reliability, focusing instead on customization and quick adoption of new features -- neither of which has been a priority for the iPhone or iOS.
What won the iPhone line its incredibly high score was that iPhone owners experienced very few issues with the phone not of their own making. Barring accidents such as submergence in liquid or obvious user abuse, Apple owners had the fewest complaints of any other brand.
Even when problems arose, they were generally fixed simply with techniques such as restarting and were not persistent issues like Samsung's microphone and speaker problems. Customers also praised iOS's "dead simple" user interface that was described as "sleek," "simple" and not confusing. The overall ecosystem of the iPhone's integration with the App Store and its interoperability with other Apple products also won over users in FixYa's report.