/ SAcsi

Apple iPhone maintains lead in customer experience: Mobile Handsets - 2016 SAcsi Index

Nokia and Samsung meet expectations while Blackberry disappoints

The latest South African Customer Satisfaction Index (SAcsi) for Mobile Handsets reveals that South African consumers are highly satisfied with their experience with Apple phones. These phones exceed South African mobile phone users’ expectations of quality, reliability and meet their needs with an index score of 83.5.

Trailing Apple are Nokia and Samsung phones scoring 80.6 and 79.5 on the index, respectively. These three brands lead by scoring above the average industry index of 78.2.

While Huawei and Sony have been in the South African market for a few years, they are new entrants to the SAcsi in 2016. Both handsets ranked on par with the industry average with Huawei scoring 77.2 and Sony 76.2 among consumers.

Blackberry phones continue to fall out of consumer favour overall and received low scores across the board. It lagged the industry leader, Apple, by more than 12 points, with a satisfaction score of 71.4.

Consulta, the independent research company exclusively licensed to conduct the index in South Africa, surveyed more than 1 700 mobile handset owners, choosing the total number of respondents in line with the various manufacturers’ local market share. The research is conducted independently, without sponsorship from any of the brands, offering impartial insights into the mobile handset market in South Africa.

The 2016 SAcsi for Mobile Handsets benchmarks customer satisfaction through an internationally recognised model combining a Customer Expectations Index, a Service Quality Index, a Product Quality Index, a Perceived Value Index, and a Perceived Quality Index to achieve an overall result out of 100. The index provides a weighted average of the various aspects of a customer’s experience with the mobile handset, the degree to which the product or service has met, fallen short of, or exceeded their expectations.

Samsung has almost doubled its market share since the 2015 SAcsi for Mobile Handsets, with Apple showing significant, yet somewhat slower growth with their much higher priced handset models in a very competitive market. Blackberry is certainly on the decline as was evident in the challenge the researchers faced to find users of this brand of handset to fulfil the sample requirements. Even though Nokia no longer exists as an independent brand, it holds a slightly larger share of the market due to legacy handsets, and devices still being sold through the likes of Ackermans and second-hand stores.

Customer expectations

Customer expectation measures how the mobile handset compares to the owner’s expectations of their ideal phone. Apple owners have the highest expectations of their mobile handset (87.9), compared to the industry average of 81.6. Samsung owners noted an expectation of 82.5, followed closely by Nokia (81.8), Sony (80.9) and Huawei (78.3) owners. It is significant to note the large expectation premium Apple loyalists have for the brand.

Blackberry is the only handset that has seen a decline in customer expectations from 2015 to 2016 and has the lowest expectation score at 76.0 – a significant five points below the industry average.

“Apple is very strategic at creating market demand for its products by introducing devices and services that consumers did not know that they needed or wanted,” says Prof Adré Schreuder, CEO of Consulta. “This includes the likes of the app store and Apple Music, which other brands and platforms have introduced their own versions of to maintain a competitive proposition offering the same attributes, whilst the brands that haven’t competed on these key drivers – like Blackberry – that have lagged behind in this metric.”

Perceived quality of mobile handset

In terms of measuring customers’ experience of device quality, Apple owners again lead by a significant margin with a score of 88.7. The industry average is 82.7. Nokia owners show a score of 84.9, Samsung 83.6, Sony 81.7 and Huawei 80.4. Blackberry once again lags the leader by nearly 12 points at 76.9.

Perceived value

According to Prof Schreuder, perceived value directly influences a customer’s satisfaction, and whether they will return to a particular brand in the future. In a clear deviation from the leading positions in expectations and perceived quality, the Apple iPhone is significantly lagging in this category. Nokia leads the pack at 82.5, exceeding the industry average of 77.9. Other brands that exceeded the industry average were Samsung (79.0) and Huawei (78.0).

Interestingly, brands with a perceived value below the industry average included Apple on 76.9, Sony on 76.6 and Blackberry on 74.1.

Although perceived value is of great importance for an initial purchase decision, the impact typically diminishes for repeat purchases. “It will be interesting to see the data during the next SAcsi given the recent mixed reactions expressed around the launch of the Apple iPhone 7,” says Schreuder.

“Interesting feedback from survey respondents was that phone users who have prepaid handsets deem Nokia to be the brand that delivers the best value for money. Samsung leads the way among phone users with contracts, with the brands wide variety of handsets meeting the needs of diverse customer types. The significant price premium charged for Apple iPhone handsets clearly constrains the growth and market share of Apple in South Africa.”

Future likelihood to recommend

When asked if customers would recommend a particular mobile handset to their family and friends, the popular metric used in this criteria is the Net Promoter Score (NPS). The NPS is calculated as the difference between the percentage of promoters or customers who recommended your brand, and detractors or customers who did not recommend your brand. The Net Promoter Score for Apple was 58% followed by Nokia at 47% and Samsung at 44%. While seemingly low, these scores were all above the industry average of 36%. Huawei and Sony both yielded a Net Promoter Score of 27%, while Blackberry received a score of just 2%.


“Although there has not been a shift in leadership when it comes to market share, small brands entering the industry are increasing the level of competition among mobile handset manufacturers,” Schreuder explains. “South Africa is considered to be a fast adopter of new technology, with mobile handsets also being a status indicator. Consumers tend to replace their handsets with new models as soon as they’re launched, rather than holding on to an older yet still functional device.”

“It is important to note that service providers play a role in a consumer’s experience of their mobile handset, as they are able to design contract plans for different segments of the market that can offer great value for money,” he adds. “It is particularly important for service providers to consider South Africans’ leap onto the Internet, with many handsets being a user’s primary device for surfing the web, accessing social media, and managing their email.”