JD Power Explains Why Samsung Beat Apple In Its Latest Tablet Study: Price

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Yesterday, JD Power released its newest tablet satisfaction study and the Internet went a bit nuts. For the first time, Samsung had edged  out perennial favorite Apple in customer satisfaction on tablets. This was a stark change from volume one of the study which had Apple handily beating its competitors.

There was outcry about how close it was, about how the JD Power chart and scoring (835 to Samsung, 833 to Apple) simply didn’t add up. I have to admit, I was fairly curious about that, and supposed that it had to be about price.

So I reached out to JD Power and spoke to Kirk Parsons, senior director of telecommunications services. What he told us wasn’t too surprising, but it may help clear up some of the confusion. First off, the “power circle” chart that’s being widely circulated is simply a visual tool, and not representative of the actual scores given to the brands evaluated in its survey.

The power circle chart showed Apple winning handily in four categories, including performance, ease of use, physical design and tablet features. Only one category showed a clear win for Samsung: cost. But most folks were a bit skeptical, considering that the JD Power report only weights cost as 16 percent of the overall score.

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Parsons confirmed the percentage, but said that the differential between the price category scores of the iPad and the score of the Samsung tablets that were included in the survey was large enough to “more than offset” the score in the other four categories. Parsons says that the price category contributed to a full two-point difference between Apple and Samsung.

For reference, here are the manufacturer’s suggested retail prices of Samsung tablets released in the last year, the range covered by the study. But note that JD Power bases the price category on a ‘cost of service factor’ which includes several questions including  “how satisfied are you with the fairness of price paid for your tablet?”. This factor is where Samsung has an advantage, not with the actual MSRP of all the tablet models included in the survey.:

  • Galaxy Note 10.1 16GB – $499
  • Galaxy Note 10.1 32GB – $549
  • Galaxy Note 10.1 (2014 Edition), 16GB – $549
  • Galaxy Note 10.1 (2014 Edition), 32GB – $599
  • Galaxy Tab 3 7.0 – $199
  • Galaxy Tab 3 8.0 – $299
  • Galaxy Tab 3 10.1 – $399
  • Galaxy Note 8.0 – $399
  • Nexus 10 16GB – $399
  • Nexus 10 32GB – $499

And here are Apple’s iPad prices:

  • iPad mini 16GB – $329
  • iPad mini 32GB – $429
  • iPad mini 16GB – $529
  • iPad 2 16GB $399
  • iPad 16GB $499
  • iPad 32GB $599
  • iPad 64GB $699

Note that Apple charges around $100 to double the memory of the model below, while Samsung only charges $50. Samsung also offers tablets both right above and below Apple’s non-Retina iPad mini, which was only just reduced to $299. Note, too, that the study was conducted on devices released within the last year only, so the long-term usefulness of said devices really wasn’t in play here.

All of the above prices are MSRP, and many have been reduced at the retailers. Apple rarely discounts its tablets aside from limited promotions or yearly drops, but some retailers offer discounts. Parsons declined to share the exact price ranges of the tablets included in the study. Of note: Apple also scored the same two power circles on the first study earlier this year, which it aced, and which applied the same metrics and questions.

So — purely according to the JD Power study — if you want the best performance, ease of use, physical design and “tablet features,” then the iPad is probably the way to go. But if you’d like to stretch your dollar as far as it can go, the Samsung lineup offers more value.

Additional reporting on this story by Chris Velazco / Article updated to note how JD Power defines ‘cost of service’.