Samsung makes more satisfying phones than Apple, according to new study

Samsung Galaxy S21 Ultra vs iPhone 12 Pro Max
(Image credit: Future)

Samsung beats Apple and Xfinity beats all other mobile carriers, at least according to a newly published survey on customer satisfaction in the U.S.

The data comes from the American Consumer Satisfaction Index, a study run by the University of Michigan. Breaking down the numbers shows which networks and phone makers are on top, and which have slipped a little since last year.

When it comes to the big phone brands, Samsung is No. 1, with an 81% satisfaction rate. Apple is just below at 80%, as are Google and Motorola. Apple is the only one with a satisfaction score to have dropped in the past year, however. It may have only lost 2% compared to last year's rankings, but that still cost it the top spot.

In a breakdown of individual handsets, the top five all belonged to Samsung. These were the Galaxy Note 10 Plus, the Galaxy S10 Plus and the Galaxy S20 Plus, scoring 85%, with the Galaxy S20 and Galaxy A20 managing 84% and 83% respectively. The highest iPhones came in sixth place, alongside the Galaxy S10. These were the iPhone 11 Pro, iPhone 11 Pro Max, iPhone X and iPhone XS Max, which all managed 82%.

This report makes no mention of more recent phones such as the Samsung Galaxy Note 20, Galaxy S21 or iPhone 12 series. We'll probably have to wait for next year's results to see how these devices fared. While all three of these phones rank highly in our best phones guide, the iPhone 12 Pro Max is our top pick.

The report also shows how happy users are with different parts of the general smartphone experience. At the top with 85% is the ease of texting, while phone calls and the weight and size of the phones sit just below at 84%. The least satisfying part, although still scoring 80%, is battery life, with audio quality being the other factor notably lower than the others at 82%.

US mobile networks satisfaction

Out of the largest U.S. mobile network operators, AT&T sits at the top with a 74% satisfaction rate, up 1% from last year. Verizon and T-Mobile come in second and third, with T-Mobile having seen a 5% drop in satisfaction. That's the largest drop of any network operator compared to last year, which the report suggests could be due to T-Mobile's 2020 merger with Sprint. In fourth place, U.S. Cellular sits with a 69% satisfaction rate.

When it comes to the quality of network service quality, Verizon takes the lead back from AT&T, scoring 79% satisfaction compared to 77%. T-Mobile and U.S. Cellular take third and fourth, both seeing small dips in their scores compared to last year. In fact, AT&T was the only one of the four to not get worse compared to the year before.

If you look at MVNOs (mobile virtual network operators), the winner here is Xfinity Mobile, which sits at a 78% satisfaction rate, the highest score of any mobile carrier in the report, followed by Cricket and Spectrum and Metro. These all rated higher for satisfaction than AT&T, except for Boost Mobile, which only managed 71% customer satisfaction.

The report splits off other MVNOs into a "value" category. Here, Consumer Cellular comes top with 77%, although that's 7% lower than its 2020 score. The bottom of the list belongs to Assurance Wireless, with 67%.

Breaking down the different parts of the mobile carrier customer experience, the big four operators excel in different places compared to the virtual networks. The MVNOs make it much easier to understand your bill, while the big providers reportedly excel at mobile app quality and courteous and helpful staff in-store. To nobody's surprise, all network operators' worst-scoring benchmark is call center satisfaction.

Richard Priday
Assistant Phones Editor

Richard is based in London, covering news, reviews and how-tos for phones, tablets, gaming, and whatever else people need advice on. Following on from his MA in Magazine Journalism at the University of Sheffield, he's also written for WIRED U.K., The Register and Creative Bloq. When not at work, he's likely thinking about how to brew the perfect cup of specialty coffee.