Survey: iPhone 4 'outperforming' other phones

The free bumper for the iPhone 4, shown in the foreground, is easing phone owners' concerns, according a new survey.
The free bumper for the iPhone 4, shown in the foreground, is easing phone owners' concerns, according a new survey.John Brecher /

Despite "Antenna-gate," as Apple CEO Steve Jobs called it, the iPhone 4 is "outperforming almost every other smart phone in the industry in terms of overall customer satisfaction and meeting owners' expectations," according to a new survey by ChangeWave Research.

Owners of the iPhone 4 also "report experiencing fewer dropped calls" than owners of the previous model, the iPhone 3GS, the firm said in a report Wednesday.

And, although 20 percent of iPhone 4 owners "do say the antenna has caused them problems, by an overwhelming margin they are satisfied with Apple's solution" to provide $29 bumpers for the phones to customers for free.

The research is one of the first looks at how the iPhone 4 is being viewed six weeks after it went on sale. ChangeWave surveyed 213 owners of the device.

While most of the findings are positive — 72 percent say they are "very satisfied" and 21 percent "somewhat satisfied" with the iPhone 4 — the initial ratings "aren't quite as  extraordinary as the early iPhone 3GS satisfaction numbers" from last August, when 82 percent said they were "very satisfied" and 17 percent "somewhat satisfied" with that version.

One in three iPhone 4 owners say the iPhone "exceeds" their expectations and 50 percent say it "meets expectations — which is also a bit less positive than the findings of our iPhone 3GS survey," wrote Paul Carton, ChangeWave's vice president of research, in the firm's report. "But then again, the 3GS wasn't met with a firestorm of controversy upon its launch."

The iPhone 4's design, unlike previous versions, has the phone's antenna wrapped around the edge of the device. When the phone is held a certain way, with a hand over the antenna, it can lose reception, leading to dropped calls.

Last month, Consumer Reports said that, despite rating the iPhone 4 above all other smart phones, it could not recommend it, after testing confirmed "there is a problem with its reception." Soon after, the publication said that use of the rubber-and-plastic bumper "solves the signal-strength problem."

The "good news for Apple," wrote Carton, "is that these issues appear to be clearing up for good — and if they do, this survey shows there is a high likelihood the iPhone 4's customer satisfaction levels could end up equaling or surpassing those of the 3GS."

In "a surprising finding, iPhone 4 owners reported a better dropped call rating (5.2 percent) than their 3GS counterparts (6.3 percent)," he wrote. "In other words, despite the hoopla surrounding the antenna issue, in actuality iPhone 4 owners report experiencing slightly fewer dropped calls on the average than do iPhone 3GS owners."

The iPhone 4's screen resolution of 960-by-640-pixels is the feature owners say they like the best (49 percent); 31 percent say it is the 5-megapixel camera with LED flash; and 30 percent like the phone's touch screen interface.

The "biggest Achilles' heel" for the phone "remains AT&T," wrote Carton, with 27 percent of owners saying they don't like having to use AT&T in order to have the iPhone. (AT&T is the exclusive carrier of the iPhone in the United States.) That's followed by 24 percent who said they dislike the coverage, speed and quality of AT&T's network.

Last year, the No. 1 dislike by 3GS owners was the phone's "short battery life," with 41 percent noting that. With the iPhone 4, 15 percent say that battery life is an issue, which makes sense given the fact that Apple included a much bigger battery in the new model.