Most Smartphone Owners Are Disappointed, Survey Finds

Tom Jowitt is a leading British tech freelance and long standing contributor to TechWeek Europe

Users are increasingly turning to social networking sites to vent their gripes about the disappointing performance of their smartphone handsets and apps

Smartphones cannot buy you happiness it seems, after a new survey found that 57 percent of smartphone owners are disappointed with the performance of their high-end devices.

Despite the increasing popularity of smartphones (a segment that has enjoyed growth despite the tough period for the mobile industry in general), the survey from system and device testing company Fanfare found that the majority of users are not all that impressed with the performance of their handsets and applications.

Fanfare’ survey of 155 smartphone owners found that the users regularly experiencing problems such as application glitches, compatibility issues, as well as crashing and freezing. It seems that the biggest culprits are streaming media, web browsers and social networking applications.

Nearly a third (29 percent) experience ‘continual’ problems with newly acquired applications, and 64 percent of respondents have required some form of software patching to fix issues on their smartphone.

Despite these problems, most smartphone owners are not sure where to pin the blame for these issues. 55 percent of respondents cannot tell whether individual problems stem from the handset or the mobile network and, as a result, 53 percent instinctively blame the smartphone manufacturer whenever an issue arises.

This can cause a real problem for handset makers, especially if a particular model starts getting a  reputation. Last November for example, two of the leading UK high street handset retailers temporarily pulled the Sony Ericsson Satio smartphone from their stores, after Satio users voiced complaints online about frozen screens and problems with ringtones. Even Google’s Nexus One smartphone was not immune from complaints about a spotty 3G coverage issue.

And even worse for handset makers is the finding that smartphone users are not shy about telling the world about the problems they have with their handsets.

The survey found that smartphone owners are most likely to vocalise their dissatisfaction through social networking sites (58 percent) and to friends and family (57 percent). At the same time, the purchasing decisions of 76 percent are influenced by criticisms from friends and family, and 64 percent will take heed of criticisms received via social media.

Fanfare said that it is clear that the ‘honeymoon period’ for smartphones and mobile applications is over. The maturing market means that consumers are no longer willing to accept quality issues as a consequence of choosing a new, innovative or multi-functional handset. They will instead judge their mobile phones on how they perform on a day-to-day basis.

Apps have become the driving force behind the mobile industry,” said David Gehringer, vice president of marketing at Fanfare. “The Apple App Store and Android Market have served up billions of app downloads, giving smartphone owners the ability to use their phones in new and exciting ways. But now that the novelty is wearing off, users want their applications to be more reliable.”

“This research shows that the average smartphone user doesn’t know the cause of technical problems, but half will instinctively blame their handset manufacturer – most likely switching brand when the opportunity arises,” said Gehringer. “The reality is that it is very hard to tell who is at fault for the glitches that smartphone users are experiencing, but by collaborating over testing, the phone makers, networks and application builders can give customers a better experience and reduce the chance of customer churn.”

Even more concerning for the likes of Nokia, Apple etc is that the research also found that 29 percent of respondents claimed to encounter problems ‘all the time’.

“Social media buzz has a huge impact on the success of products and services and, unfortunately for smartphone brands, they are suffering online,” said Gehringer. “Historically, time to market was the driving force behind development, but we’ve seen the consequences when products are rushed out – if a handset falters or fails, it only takes a few tweets or a couple of blog posts for a PR disaster to escalate out of control. Unless more rigorous testing procedures are put in place, smartphone manufacturers are going to risk more of an impact on their bottom line.”

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