iPhone 4S Satisfaction Rating at 96% (AAPL, SSNLF, MMI, GOOG)

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The iPhone 4S from Apple Inc. (NASDAQ: AAPL) gets top marks for customer satisfaction according to a new survey from Changewave Research. Some 77% of customers are “very satisfied” with the latest iPhone, and another 19% are “satisfied” with the device. For the previous model, the iPhone 4, customer satisfaction totaled 93%. A mere 2% of owners were dissatisfied with the iPhone 4S.

The most popular feature of the iPhone 4S is the Siri digital assistant, which 49% of owners identified as the best feature of the new phone.

But the iPhone 4S is not perfect. Some 30% of owners bemoan the lack of 4G capability and 38% are dissatisfied with the new phone’s battery life. However, the well-publicized battery life issue with the iPhone 4S did not play a significant role in the satisfaction ratings:

Two-in-five owners said they had experienced reduced battery life with their iPhone 4S (40%). But when asked how much of a problem this issue was for them, only 8% of all owners said it was a Very Big Problem while 20% said it wasSomewhat of a Problem.

A problem that plagued the iPhone 4 antenna did not recur with the iPhone 4S, according to Consumer Reports:

In special reception tests of the iPhone 4S that duplicated those we did on the iPhone 4, the newer phone did not display the same reception flaw, which involves a loss of signal strength when you touch a spot on the phone’s lower left side while you’re in an area with a weak signal.

Apple’s fix for the reception issue led the consumer magazine to add the iPhone 4s to its list of recommended models, but the device is not at the top of the list. The Galaxy S II smartphone from Samsung Electronics (OTS: SSNLF) and the Droid Bionic from Motorola Mobility Holdings Co. (NYSE: MMI), which use the Android operating system from Google, Inc. (NASDAQ: GOOG), were the top two phones in the magazine’s rankings.

Changewave also asked iPhone 4S owners about dropped calls. Just 2.5% of iPhone 4S owners said that they had a problem with dropped calls, half the number that noted dropped calls in the July 2010 survey of iPhone 4 owners. Changewave attributes the improvement in dropped call rates to the availability of more networks:

AT&T had been the exclusive service provider for the iPhone. But in the current ChangeWave survey, nearly two-in-five iPhone 4S owners are using other wireless service providers (i.e., Verizon, Sprint) that have historically shown lower dropped call rates in our surveys than AT&T.

The dropped call rate for Verizon Wireless customers was 1.3%, compared with a dropped call rate of 4.2% among AT&T customers.

When customers pay $199 to $399 for a new smartphone, it’s natural that they should be satisfied with it. After all, no one wants to admit to spending that kind of money for a piece of junk. Consider though, that in another survey by Consumer Intelligence Research, some 30% of iPhone 4S buyers were iPhone 4 owners who paid an early termination fee of around $325 for the privilege of buying an iPhone 4S. And 23% of those buyers bought the top-of-the-line model for $399. That’s pretty impressive testimony to iPhone owners’ loyalty to Apple and its ability to deliver a high-quality product every time.

Paul Ausick