Network quality remains top consideration when buying a smartphone: survey

The battle among mobile operating systems may garner a lot of headlines, but it seems network quality is still the most important factor for smartphone users.

According to a comScore MobiLens survey conducted last year, network quality ranks above a phone's operating system, its app selection, its brand name or its social networking features as the most important factor for smartphone buyers.

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The survey asked U.S. smartphone users to rate several purchase consideration factors on a scale from 1 to 10. Network quality scored an 8.2, just above the 8 scored by a phone's operating system. Other important factors considered by U.S. smartphone users when buying a phone are the applications available for the phone (7.6), music and video capabilities (7.2), brand name (7.0) and social networking features (6.9).

The comScore findings showing the importance of network quality have come just as Verizon has opened its network up to a CDMA version of the iPhone 4 for the first time. AT&T, which until this year had been the exclusive carrier of the iPhone, is currently the most popular wireless carrier in the United States with 95.5 million wireless subscribers. It is followed very closely by Verizon, which last quarter reporting having a total of 94.1 million wireless subscribers.

The survey also showed, among other things:

- That Apple remained on top of the U.S. smartphone market as the iPhone 3GS and the iPhone 4 were the top acquired phones in the U.S. in 2010. The BlackBerry Curve 8530 was the third-most acquired device in 2010, followed by the LG Cosmos and the Motorola Droid.

- RIM is still the top U.S. smartphone operating system, although its lead is rapidly shrinking. On the year, RIM saw its share of the U.S. smartphone market shrink from around 40% in December 2009 to just under 32% in December 2010. The biggest gainer over that same period was Google's open-source Android operating system, which grew from just over 5% of the market share in December 2009 to finish at just under 29% in December 2010. Apple had the third most popular operating system in the U.S., as the iPhone OS garnered 25% of the market share in December 2010.

- Although smartphones are increasingly popular, the most popular use for mobile phones in the United States was overwhelmingly text message, as 68% of U.S. users surveyed said they used their phones for SMS. Picture-taking was the second most popular activity for mobile phone users, as 52.4% of U.S. mobile users said they used their devices to snap photos. Other popular mobile phone activities for Americans included using connected media (46.7%), accessing news (39.5%) and Web browsing (36.4%).

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