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iPhone Tops in Satisfaction for Business Users

Apple iPhone
Apple's iPhone isn't just the most engaging mobile device, it's now touted as the most satisfying, according to a new survey.

J.D. Power and Associates' annual business smartphone customer satisfaction survey found the iPhone ranked ahead of even enterprise mobility stalwart BlackBerry for ease of operation, operating system, design, features and battery life.

It's the first time that Apple's (NASDAQ: AAPL) device was included in the survey. Last year, Research in Motion's (NASDAQ: RIMM) BlackBerry took top honors.

"Apple ranks very high in most factors that drive smartphone satisfaction and experience especially in design and feature dimensions," Kirk Parsons, senior director for wireless services at J.D. Power, told InternetNews.com. The study, conducted late this summer, polled 1,388 business wireless customers who own a smartphone.

The iPhone scored 778 on the survey's 1,000-point scale, while BlackBerry models scored 703 and Samsung phones came in third with 701. According to the research firm, the BlackBerry models include the Pearl and Curve series and the Samsung devices were the Blackjack and Instinct devices.

The news comes as smartphone makers are striving to outdo each other in product design and in offering advanced multimedia and Internet features. Their aim is to both attract more buyers as well as to serve a market of wireless carriers who are counting on exclusive deals for flashy devices to woo new subscribers.

The findings also illustrate that overall user experience may be just as much a selling point as are the innovative applications that experts say are increasingly critical to luring new fans.

"Apple has differentiated itself in areas that are most important to business smartphone users," Parsons said.

The top reason most users chose a specific smartphone brand was Internet capability, which ranked as the most important feature with 45 percent of users.

E-mail support came in second, with 41 percent, while design landed in third place, at 39 percent. Bluetooth support and built-in keyboards each grabbed 37 percent.

Lots of bugs, dropping costs

The survey, released this week, found that users are still challenged by mobile device software-related issues, like frozen applications, system reboots and touchscreen glitches.

Of those experiencing problems, 44 percent said they have had to reboot at least one a week during the past year, with 34 percent having dealt with an application snafu once a week for the past 12 months.

Parsons said the problems aren't unexpected, since that today's smartphones are really mini-computers -- and that all software and handset makers need to improve reliability to gain deeper market penetration.

When it comes to the applications that owners use and demand, having GPS is a big user want, with 37 percent stating they'd like to have the feature in their device. Additionally, 25 percent said they craved Wi-Fi, while and 23 percent wanted a touchscreen on their next smartphone. Voice recognition software that would provide for hands-free, automatic dialing, is a feature requested by 15 percent of smartphone owners.

Despite all the new features being baked into the latest devices, the study found that the average smartphone price is declining. It's now at $216, down from 2007's average cost of $261.

iPhone owners, however, are willing to pay more than the average. The study found that the iPhone's purchase price averages at about $337. Motorola handset owners, on the other hand, report the lowest handset cost, at $169.

Several third-party applications stood out among users as their favorites. The most popular downloads among business users were games at 49 percent, followed by Microsoft Word and Excel at 43 percent, and travel-related software at 36 percent.