Samsung (SSNLF) just struck a deadly blow in the smartphone war.
According to a consumer satisfaction study from ASCI, consumers are more satisfied with Galaxy smartphones than they are with Apple’s (AAPL) iPhones. Samsung’s Galaxy S III and Galaxy Note II both outperformed the iPhone 5 — and the iPhone 4 and 4S, for that matter.
Granted, the difference was small (the Galaxy S III scored an 84, compared to the iPhone 5’s 82), but don’t expect Apple to take any comfort in that. Apple and its user base pride themselves on the quality of the devices, but this study suggests that Samsung is edging out its competition.
The Galaxy S III represents a six-point jump in quality over its predecessor, the Galaxy S II, as well as a jump over Apple’s latest devices, which averaged a score of 82. Oh, and Samsung’s latest Galaxy smartphone — the S4 — isn’t even on the list, because it was released after the study.
This is troubling news for Apple. Google’s (GOOG) Android devices (such as the Galaxy S4) already have a dominant market share, and if this study represents a shift in consumer preference, that balance could tilt even further. And don’t forget about the Droid Razr Maxx HD, from Google-owned Motorola Mobility, which is sitting just two points below the iPhone.
Sure, Apple’s scores are the most consistent, but that’s not entirely a good thing. One of the most pervasive complaints about the company is that it has lost the ability to innovate, and has instead resorted to yearly iterations of its previous iPhones. The fact that there’s only a one-point difference between the iPhone 4 and the iPhone 5 seems to validate that complaint.
Apple faithful shouldn’t lose hope, though. If the Galaxy S4’s numbers are even with (or lower than) the S III, that would suggest that smartphones have plateaued in quality — capping out somewhere around the 85 mark. If that turns out to be the case (and we really can’t know until we see ratings for the S4), there’s not much room for improvement, and Apple doesn’t have to worry about being blown out of the water. Conversely, if the S4 were to score significantly better than the iPhone 5, then Apple’s failure to innovate would be that much more pronounced.
In any case, this is good news for Samsung. At best, it’s surpassing Apple in smartphone quality. At worst, it has plateaued, along with its competitors.
We’ll have to wait for numbers on the S4 and the next iPhone to find out which.
Adam Benjamin is an Assistant Editor of InvestorPlace. As of this writing, he did not hold a position in either of the aforementioned securities.