iPhone and HTC EVO 4G Thriving, Palm Is Dead in Smartphone Buying Plans

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Smartphone sales are poised for major growth over the next three months, with Apple and HTC on the upswing in consumer preferences and Motorola and RIM on the downswing, says a new survey by ChangeWave.

In a study that ended on June 28, 16.4% of respondents said they plan on buying a new smartphone over the next three months, the highest percentage on record since January of 2008, when ChangeWave first initiated its quarterly smartphone surveys. In contrast, only 10.8% said “yes” to that question on a ChangeWave study completed at the end of March.

Apple iPhone 4iPhone and Android Will Keep Dominating
Among consumers who are about to make a purchase, a total of 52% answered “Apple” when asked, “Who is the manufacturer of the smart phone you plan of buying?”

On that question, Apple made a huge leap from the March survey, when only 31% of those planning to buy a smartphone had decided on an iPhone, Apple, by the way, started delivering its next generation iPhone 4 smartphone at the end of June.

Meanwhile, Android OS phones also continue to bear a major impact on the market, according to the report. “HTC (8%, up 2 points) [with] its new Droid Incredible and EVO models [is] the biggest beneficiary,” said ChangeWave analysts Jean Crumrine and Paul Carton, in a publicly available free summary of the study.

Conversely, however, Motorola, maker of the Android OS-based Droid and new Droid X, dropped 7 points, from 16% in March to only 9% in June.

HTC Droid Incredible from VerizonBuying plans for RIM’s BlackBerry fell even further, from 14% in March to 6% in June.

For its part, Palm seems to have just about dropped off the map among prospective buyers, fading from a 3% score in March to 0% in June, also according to ChangeWave.

Samsung, LG, Sony-Ericsson Smartphones Not in the Chart
Yet not listed on the comparative chart for consumers’ smartphone buying plans are Samsung, LG, and Sony-Ericsson, all of which have introduced new Android OS phones in recent months. Although some of these phones — like the Samsung Captivate and Vibrant — were unveiled after the close of the June study, others – such as the LG Ally and Sony Xperia X8 – had already been announced.

Samsung’s Galaxy S is set to be sold in different flavors by at least six US carriers. The Galaxy S-based Epic 4G will compete on Sprint’s Wireless Network directly against HTC’s evo 4G.

Samsung Captivate from AT&TIt ChangeWave’s report does highlight the Droid X, first announced on June 28. “The recent unveiling of [Motorola’s] new Droid X device — featuring a 4.3-inch display, which the company believes is ideal for watching video (in contrast, the iPhone 4 only has a 3.5-inch display — suggests it’s determined to fight back to regain its Android leadership mantle,” wrote the two co-authors.

iPhone Owners the ‘Most Satisfied’
ChangeWave’s study also points to a correlation between customer satisfaction ratings and smartphone buying plans. In the study that closed at the end of June, Apple and HTC beat out Motorola, RIM, and all other cell phone makers in customer satisfaction, with 73% of current Apple iPhone users saying they were “very satisfied” with their phones and 39% of HTC phone users giving this response.

In comparison, the percentage of users “very satisfied” with their current phones amounted to 34% for Motorola, 34% for Palm, 31% for LG, and 30% for RIM.

Only 27% of current Samsung phone users said they were “very satisfied.” The same held true for merely 22% of Nokia phone uses and 20% of Sony-Ericsson phone users.

Do satisfaction Ratings Translate into Smartphone Sales?
“Customer satisfaction among existing customers helps explain much of the momentum shift in the smartphone market,” according to the report summary.

It’s probably also worthwhile to point out, however, that the customer satisfaction ratings were performed across all cell phones. Although Apple’s phone line-up that consists only of the iPhone smartphone, HTC, Motorola, Samsung, and some of the other players ranked by respondents produce lower-end cell phones in addition to smartphones.

Consequently, it seems as though some owners of phones made by Apple competitors might have been voicing their satisfaction levels about feature phones, not smartphones, leading to an “Apple-to-oranges” comparison of customer satisfaction.

Also, if sales are indeed closely related to customer satisfaction, ChangeWave’s finding that zero percent of consumers plan to buy Palm phones over the next three months doesn’t seem to dovetail with the fact that Palm ranked higher than several other manufacturers on satisfaction.

Hewlett-Packard, however, unveiled plans to acquire Palm at the end of April, and HP hasn’t yet made any announcements about specific future smartphone products yet.



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