Satisfaction survey shows why Apple’s iPad will remain on top

Apple’s iPad (s aapl) is still the tablet market leader in terms of sales, despite gains by Android (s goog) devices like the Amazon(s AMZN) Kindle Fire, and a recent survey of tablet user satisfaction suggests it’s well-poised to stay in the lead. The iPad’s customer satisfaction is through the roof, according to a ChangeWave report, while Amazon’s Kindle barely exceeds the satisfaction level of the rest of the tablet pack.
Seventy-four percent of survey respondents said they were “Very Satisfied” with the iPad in an earlier November survey, while only 54 percent said they were “Very Satisfied” with the Kindle Fire in the January survey. The average of Very Satisfied customers for all other tablet devices combined was 49 percent. Why the 20-point gap between the iPad and Fire? It came down to what many users seemed to feel were missing features, according to ChangeWave.

The major dislikes that survey respondents listed for the Kindle Fire included the lack of a hardware volume button, the absence of a camera, short battery life, a lack of cellular connectivity and the size of the Fire’s app library. Cost and screen were favorite features among Kindle Fire owners.
Apple’s focus on user experience seems clearly to be better at winning the admiration of users post-purchase, while Amazon’s focus on offering a low-cost device seems to ultimately leave customers feeling like there’s something missing. That strategy appears to have worked well in the short term. One analyst said earlier this week that Amazon may have shipped as many as 6 million Fires during the last quarter of 2011. But long-term, Apple may have been right when it suggested in December that strong Kindle tablet sales might eventually help boost iPad demand.
Consider that the features tablet users indicated a desire for in expressing their dissatisfaction with the Kindle Fire are all features the iPad currently offers; there’s a clear path of where to get what they want out of a tablet already in place. And if Apple does decide to keep the iPad 2 around as a lower-cost offering when it unveils the iPad 3, the Fire’s No. 1 selling feature won’t seem nearly as much of a marked advantage.
On the flip side, Amazon could also address those deficiencies in future iterations of the Kindle Fire, should it find cost-effective ways of doing so. But Apple will continue to push the experiential envelope at the same time, and so far whatever it provides seems to set the standard in terms of tablet buyer expectations. Pleased customers are loyal customers — as ChangeWave says, it’s found that satisfaction is highly linked to future sales, so Apple’s big lead here is definitely a key measure of success.