Some of the most intense battles for customer loyalty can be found in the smartphone arena. Due to the ubiquitous nature of the device, combined with the distinction between a small number of enormous manufacturers and carriers, many smartphone users are eager to launch into reasons why their choice is superior to all others. According to a recent study from market research giant J.D. Power, however, data seems to suggest that one factor seems to drive customer satisfaction above all others.
The research, pulled from “J.D. Power 2016 Full-Service Smartphone Satisfaction Study—Volume 2” and “J.D. Power 2016 Non-Contract Smartphone Satisfaction Study,” suggests that smartphone shoppers who enter contracts with full-service carriers—AT&T, Sprint, T-Mobile, and Verizon—tend to exhibit higher overall satisfaction than those who purchase through non-contract providers like MetroPCS or Boost Mobile.
On a 10-point scale, full-service carriers clocked in at 8.30, while non-contract carriers managed only a 7.86 score. This increased satisfaction (and subsequent loyalty) can be partially attributed to the model of smartphone available through each carrier.
“Typically, full-service carriers will offer the latest smartphones before the non-contract brands mainly due to the higher price points of newer devices,” said Kirk Parsons, senior director and technology, media & telecom practice leader at J.D. Power. “The majority of the wireless service expense is tied to the device, and the purchase price can be as high as $750. Price points can influence both model selection and a customer’s experience with the device. When customers are satisfied with their smartphone selection, the manufacturer and carrier can benefit through customer loyalty and repurchase intent.”
Barring unusual events, new phones are bound to create increased satisfaction, giving an immediate edge to the full-service carriers that offer them. Interestingly, full-service carriers also saw stronger loyalty across all brands compared to non-contract ones, with 35 percent of users saying they will “definitely” purchase from the same manufacturer for their next phone, a full 15 points higher than non-contract customers.
The battle of smartphones continues to rage, perhaps now more than ever before. J.D. Power’s look at how this relates to full-service versus non-contract carriers offers a new perspective into the factors that play into the drawing of these battle lines.

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