You know you're in trouble when you show up in a survey in the "other" category.
It's no secret that Windows Mobile — hoping to get a jumpstart with the release of Windows Mobile 6.5 on Oct. 6 — is at the bottom of the mobile OS heap and struggling to get noticed in a crowded market. But a new smartphone customer satisfaction survey puts some hard numbers to that perception. And the conclusions ain't pretty.
The survey, conducted by CFI Group, is based on feedback from 1,000 respondents. Not surprisingly, the iPhone cleans up in nearly all categories, with an overall satisfaction rating of 83 out of 100. But the competition is gaining on Apple. Next in line is Android phones and Palm Pre, both with a rating of 77. BlackBerry has a rating of 73 and the Palm Treo has a rating of 70.
And then there were ... the "others". CFI labeled Windows Mobile and Symbian phones as generic and clumped them together in the "other" category. The "other" satisfaction rating was a 66.
Windows Mobile's biggest obstacle, according to the CFI study, is that most smartphone users don't even know they're using it. And boy, that's a hard thing to fix when millions of smartphone users can't stop talking about their iPhones and BlackBerrys.
Ninety-two percent of iPhone users in the survey say their iPhone is their ideal smartphone, while only 19 percent of generic smartphone users call their phone an ideal phone. The "Likelihood to Recommend" rating for generic smartphones is a 63, the lowest rating across all smartphone types.
In most performance categories, Windows Mobile (and Symbian, to be fair) finishes last. This includes "ease of navigating the interface", "variety of applications available", and "ease of shopping for applications".
Access to mobile applications, a rapidly growing feature as smartphones transform into entertainment devices, is a particular sore spot for Windows Mobile. The iPhone and Android dominate this category, whereas 33 percent of users of generic smartphones have never downloaded an application to their phone. Generic smartphones are also a distant last in entertainment categories such as "surfing the Web", "playing games", and "streaming audio or video from the Web".
The low ratings speak to the kinds of people who use generic smartphones.
The study states that despite the popularity of branded smartphones like the iPhone and BlackBerry, there are many more generic smartphones out there from manufacturers like Nokia, Motorola and Samsung that run either the Windows Mobile or Symbian OS. The problem? Users of these phones don't even know what operating system is running. There's no brand awareness.
In Microsoft's defense, the company is developing Microsoft-branded phones called "Project Pink" that will reportedly include Zune services and their own app stores and be built on top of Windows Mobile 7. But it could be a year until we see these "Windows" phones because WinMo 7 is not expected to release until the last quarter of 2010.
Until then Windows Mobile will struggle with brand cluelessness. According to the CFI Group report: "Generic smartphone users are the most likely group to get their phone because of a deal or 'just because' they ended up replacing an old non-smartphone with a new smartphone. Many generic smartphone customers aren't actively seeking the smartphone; rather, providers are pushing these smartphones onto the customer."
Not exactly what you'd call savvy and passionate customers. These are people who just want to talk and text message, and couldn't be bothered with all those apps, games, songs and videos.