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The Apple iPhone brought a whole new level on interface and features such as incorporating the iPod technology as well as multi-touch technology which let users to control everything using only their fingers. The research on the level of customer satisfaction on buying an iPhone has been done across the world as it was one of the first handphone that was release by Apple.
Customer satisfaction is a vague and abstract concept and the actual expression of the state of satisfaction will vary depending on individual's needs and it also depends on the product or service. The level of satisfaction can also vary depending on other options the customer may have and other products against which the customer can compare the organization's products. It also distinguishes six qualities of attributes such as basic factors, excitement factors, performance factors, indifferent attributes, questionable attributes and reverse attributes. (Kano, 1984)
The objective of this research is to analyze the level of satisfaction of having an iPhone based on certain factors. This research will look into factors such as price and quality where each factors has its respective advantages or disadvantages to affect the customer's level of satisfaction. This is because every distinct consumer has their own priority of need before even getting a new handphone.
The research will be focusing on the capability of the iPhone and what it has to offer to the customers that makes it different and better than its competitors. These capabilities refer back to the factors which were mentioned earlier in the paragraph earlier. Technology for hand phones has been developing endlessly with new features offered as time past. Apple's new range of products, especially the iPhone shows such vast improvement.
The research first looks at the background of the company which is Apple and what they have offered to their customers before launching the iPhone. Next, the research will provide detailed explanation and information on each factor that will affect the customer's satisfaction. The research will use only secondary data such as online journals and articles, blogs and newspapers so that the latest information can be obtained for the research. In the conclusion, the research will show which factor would be of most importance before considering on getting an iPhone.
Price would be the basic factor where it doesn't only affect potential customers but also customers who already purchased the product. This basic factor does not cause customer satisfaction if it is fulfilled but it does cause dissatisfaction it is not fulfilled (Kano 1984). This explains the curve for basic factor in Figure 2.0 where the curve is below the graph and not above. Apple has started selling the 8GB iPhone at US $599 at it's released before implementing a promotional price of US $399 for the festive season.
The original pricing was a market-skimming pricing strategy where the iPhone was set a high price as it is a whole new product in the hand phone industry to cover development cost (Philip Kotler et. al. 2005, p. 302). The expensive price tag on the iPhone can also to relate to the product life cycle of the particular product. Product life cycle shows the whole process of the products life, from the beginning of it till the possible end of it where it consists of four stages which is introduction, growth, maturity and decline. It maybe a matter of a few hours like the newspaper, months for fashion and style, years (VCD, DVD) or decades (Volkswagen Beetle) (Heizer & Render 2007, p. 157).
The price reduction for the festive season is a promotional pricing strategy to get more customers to buy the iPhone (Philip Kotler et. al. 2005, p. 308). The cut of US $200 has stirred up early buyers and caused dissatisfaction. But as mentioned by Job (2007), the price reduction was supposed to benefit both Apple and every iPhone user to get as many new customers as possible in the iPhone ‘tent'. Having said that, Apple issued the $100 credit to the early buyers for them to use on their next purchase at Apple stores.
Besides that, buying the iPhone is not just bout getting the hand phone because iPhone only allows AT&T line, therefore the customer would need to pay a minimum of US $1939.75 which includes ($599.99 x 24months. and 499.99 4GB iPhone) (AT&T iPhone Rate Plans, Prices, Costs, and What You Get 2007). Having said that, the iPhone is only tied with AT&T, it still attracted many customers. The downside of getting the iPhone is that the user has to comply with the AT&T contract that he or she has signed up with. If the user wants to carry on, he or she has to pay a $175 termination fee though the phone's cost isn't subsidized under the long term agreement. This termination fee which is quoted at a high price dissatisfy customers it is a big investment where most customers would go for the 8GB model rather than the 4GB model which will land up causing them to spend more the USD $ 2000.
From this factor, the research will look more in depth in quality where total quality management systems are driven by identifying and satisfying customer needs. The key dimensions of qualities include durability, interface and functionality. It is believed that the trade-off between the cost of improving quality and the cost of poor quality, the cost of poor quality is understated (Heizer & Render 2007, p. 194). Providing good quality product does not only glorify the company's name but also create loyal customers that will keep buying the products and become brand loyal to it.
The first factor in quality that will look at is the durability of the iPhone. It would be a shame to lose a $500 to $600 iPhone to a minor mishap therefore many customers such as bloggers and even product reviewer always put new technology gadgets for a stress test. PC World conducted one of the many stress tests for the iPhone around the world. Firstly, the iPhone was as stuffed in a plastic bag full of keys and small pebbles. Then the iPhone screen was rubbed against the keys and pebble with a fair amount of force as if like the user was leaning against the counter with his iPhone and keys in the jeans pocket. The result was outstanding as the screen of the iPhone was as pristine as when it went it but there are scratches on the back of it. To take the test to another level, a key was taken and scratched across the glass screen of the iPhone, but it still fail to scratch it. Next, the iPhone went trough a drop test where it started of on a carpeted floor to a concrete sidewalk and from the height of the waist line to the head level. The same hand phone was dropped repeatedly but it still worked normally and the glass display survived without a scratch after the drop test. Overall, the iPhone still looks impressively good but however the only obvious damage would be a few gouges along its metal edge from the drops onto the concrete.
The excitement factors are where it increases customer's satisfaction if fulfilled but it doesn't cause dissatisfaction if it is not achieved. These factors of surprise are to generate delight among the consumers and it is used by the company to distinguish itself from the competitors in a positive way (Kano, 1984). This is why the excitement factor curve is above the graph of the Kano Model in Figure 2.0. The iPhone /a>features the most revolutionary user interface since the mouse which came from the iPod. The multi-touch screen technology is an entirely new interface based on a large multi-touch display and innovative new software that lets the user control everything using only the fingers. Therefore the user can glide through albums with ‘Cover Flow' option, flip through photos and email them with a touch, or zoom in and out on a section of a web page just by using pinch in or pinch out motion; all by simply using iPhone's multi-touch display. Jeff Han's multi touch system uses a technique called Frustrated Total Internal Reflection (FTIR). It involves the use of a transparent screen with the images rear-projected onto it. For touch-sensing, a camera is placed behind the screen to detect the user interaction.
On the human-computer interaction, it is a discipline concerned with the design, evaluation and implementation of interactive computing systems for human use and with the study of major phenomena surrounding them. The basic goal of human-computer interaction is to improve interaction between users and computers by making computers more user-friendly to the user's needs. The iPhone has brought human-computer interaction to a whole new level with the multi-touch screen interface. Though it has its flaws, but if the iPhone is to be compared to hand-phones such as the Nokia N95, the iPhone is not only more stylish but its easier to use (refer to Figure 1.0).
Ergonomics or in the words which is human factors is the application of scientific information concerning humans to the design of objects, systems and environment for human use. Usually when the word ergonomics is brought up, it focuses more on office environment where the right office furniture and the right computers system can maximizes work efficiency because there will be comfort when the employees to carry out their task in the office. But looking at the iPhone's multi-touch screen interface, it does have its own distinct pros and cons. Though browsing through pictures and music can be such a breeze, but typing a SMS or any activity that requires typing on the iPhone would be a little more difficult because there is no physical keyboard on the iPhone as the iPhone is completely a touch screen handphone except for the power button and the home button. Adding to that, the iPhone does not include a touch screen pen and the on-the-screen keyboard is rather cramp, making hard for users with big thumbs.
Technical specification of a handphone is the most basic and the most important part to look at before buying a handphone. This is where the performance factor comes in where every attribute of the product is being analyzed. Basically, satisfaction can be gain when the performance of the product is good or high and it causes dissatisfaction if the performance is low or bad. Therefore, the line for performance factors is linear line that cuts across the graph as shown in Figure 2.0.
Firstly, the flash memory capacity which comes in 4GB or 8GB which is a lot for a handphone but there will be no memory expansion for the iPhone. With no memory expansion and with a maximum capacity of 8GB, it defies the iPod feature in the iPhone because the maximum capacity of 8GB comes in second compared to the 16GB iPod Touch which looks exactly like the iPhone. The iPhone also includes a 2 mega pixel camera but it is without flash which is quite disappointing for a hand-phone which costs a lot and has a nice 3.5 inch diagonal display. Besides that, the battery life for the iPhone is quite lasting compared to the competitors as how it is displayed in Figure 1.0 under the ‘talk-time' column. The audio option in the iPhone is actually a build in iPod where with just a touch on the menu, users can listen to their music on the go. Adding to that, the audio support supports common files such as MP3, AAC and WAV, therefore there is no need to convert files before transferring it into the iPhone. The video support for iPhone has not opened up just like all iPods where it only allows limited video formats H.264, mp4 and M-PEG 4 video. This makes the iPhone quite an unreliable video player compared to other hand phones and mp4 players such as CREATIVE ZEN mp4 which can play common video format such as (.avi).
On the contrary, Apple has another feature can cover this flaw which is easy access to YouTube on the iPhone which allows users to watch YouTube videos on the go, as long there is WiFi (Wireless Fidelity) connection present. This brings us to the WiFi feature which allows users to surf not only for YouTube, but also to surf the internet with the embedded Safari internet browser. Safari is a web browser just like Internet Explorer or Mozilla Firefox where it allow users to surf the web on the iPhone just like how they surf the internet on their computer. Users can also purchase songs instantly on the go or songs that they listen at Starbucks through the iTunes Music Store. This requires WiFi and an iTunes account in order to proceed. A short sample of each song can be heard on iTunes before choosing to purchase it for only USD $ 0.99 per song.
Having stated all the factors above such as price, durability, interface, human-computer interaction, ergonomics and technical specification, all this contributes to customer satisfaction where it was divided into 3 which are basic factors, excitement factors and performance factors. Each of these factors has it pros and cons where it depends in the consumer's preference on which would be of great importance.
To summarize it, the iPhone does comes with a very nice appearance and nice touch screen interface but the expensive price tag that comes along with it makes customers take a step back to reevaluate whether is it really worth to invest in an iPhone
With the Customer Satisfaction Model by N. Kano, consumer can use this model to place all the iPhone's attributes according to their perception on to the model and see how the iPhone fairs out in the outcome.
Ultimately, the basic factor which is price would be the most important factor because of the AT&T line subscription which will last for two years and will cost a lot even for a working customer.
Heizer, Render 2007, Operations Management, Pearson International Edition
Kotler, Amstrong, SH Ang, SM Leong, CT Tan, K.Tse, Principles of Marketing, Pearson Prentice Hall
Multi-touch screen interface
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iPhone Competitive Data [Image] 2007
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Customer Satisfaction Model [Image] 1984
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