Oops, Apple lied again

August 11, 2023
Wally Nowinski

On their August 3rd, 2023 earnings call, Apple CFO Luca Maestri claimed that the iPhone 14 family enjoyed 98% customer satisfaction in the US market. That’s an extraordinary claim, because it can’t possibly be true. It’s essentially impossible to find anything with satisfaction rates that high, at least not if you’re using traditional research methods and a representative sample.

America’s favorite holiday, Thanksgiving, has an 82% approval rating. The top-reviewed movie on IMDB enjoys 93%. Even Syrian Dictator Bashar Al-Asad only claimed 95% support in his last election, and that was denounced by the United Nations for being undemocratic. 

So what’s going on with Apple? We wrote about this in detail after Apple made a similar claim last May, but here's a brief summary.

Maestri cites a study from 451 Research when making this claim, and presents it as being representative of the US market. 

Here’s the full quote from the August 3, 2023 earnings call. 

“Our iPhone active installed base grew to a new all-time high, thanks to a June quarter record in switchers. This is a testament to our extremely high levels of customer satisfaction, which 451 Research recently measured at 98% for the iPhone 14 family in the U.S.”
Luca Maestri, Apple Q3, 2023 Earnings Call

It’s important to note that Maestri has made an almost identical claim in every single earnings call for the last 28 quarters (full list). Here’s what he said in Q2, 2023:

“We are very pleased by the results of the latest survey of US Consumers from 451 Research, which measured customer satisfaction at 99% for the iPhone 14 family.”
Luca Maestri, Apple Q2, 2023 Earnings Call

And Q1, 2023. 

“Our customers continue to love their experience with our products with the latest survey of U.S. consumers from 451 Research indicating customer satisfaction of 98% for the iPhone 14 family.” 
Luca Maestri, Apple Q1, 2023 Earnings Call

The implication is straightforward. The iPhone 14 family enjoys 98% customer satisfaction among US purchasers. 

The trouble is nothing we know about the iPhone 14 backs up Maestri’s assertion that it is universally loved. The iPhone 14 family generally received tepid reviews when it was released, due to the high price and minor improvements. User reviews posted on Google for the iPhone 14 family were the lowest for any iPhone in a decade. And independent researchers who’ve polled iPhone satisfaction have found the customer satisfaction rates around 81%, far lower than Apple claims. Furthermore, Apple acknowledges that iPhone sales are slipping in the US market. That’s not something you’d expect to see for a universally-adored product. 

What is going on here? 

Neither Apple nor 451 Research responded to multiple emails about this from PerfectRec. However, we did find a 2018 press release from 451 Research that sheds some light on the situation. In it, 451 Research clearly describes a poll of self-identified business and technology professionals and early adopters who like spending money on gadgets. 

“The findings are based on a December 14th – January 22nd survey of 3,568 primarily North American consumers from 451 Research’s user insight service, Voice of the Connected User Landscape and its Leading Indicator panel of 25,000 accredited business and technology professionals whose application for inclusion identifies them as having a high wallet share being used for personal technologies, and a high readiness to try new products and services. The service captures consumer and business spending through weekly tracking studies, delivering a continuous view of user perceptions and purchase activity as new products and services enter the market.” 
451 Research Press Release, 1/31/2018

Needless to say, this is not a representative poll of U.S. iPhone customers. The question we have for Apple is why do they keep repeating this implausible claim in every single earnings call? 

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