Holiday Smartphone Buyers Want Their Money Back

While electronics were very popular gift items this holiday season, slightly less than a quarter of those who bought smartphones this year ended up returning them to the retailer, according to new research by Opinion Research.

The research, released yesterday, revealed that smartphones (excluding Apple's iPhone and the RIM Blackberry) were the most returned electronic technology products of the holiday season, with 21 percent of all smartphone buyers returning them.

"The research was not surprising to any of us," says Kevin Wood, vice president and senior technology analyst with Opinion Research. "Between the set-up, installation, and using them for the first time, the entire smartphone segment came in significantly lower in ease of use. With the smartphones, the whole matter of tethering them to the computer was found to be very difficult."

Even among those who were able to get their smartphones up and running in about an hour or two, many are using only a small percentage of the phones' total capabilities because the devices are not intuitive for most people, Wood says. A big reason for this, he adds, is that vendors have been more concerned with getting their products into the hands of consumers than with creating an enjoyable out-of-the-box experience for them.

In general, the research found that a bad first experience with the technology has created a negative opinion of many companies producing the technology, but could have much worse repercussions to the industry as a whole. "My sense would be that there is a greater effect on the sector than on a specific company," Wood says. "More than likely, I’m going to go back to a lower-grade technology when I return it, and wait until the technology is right for me."

Also hampering the technology’s adoption by the general populace—outside of only the very tech-savvy—is the lack of a clear definition of what constitutes a smartphone. Definitions vary, and include everything from "a basic Voice over Internet Protocol phone, Blackberry, iPhone (which is clearly not a smartphone, but is marketed that way), and a basic mobile or cell phone," Wood continues.

And the industry will have a hard time addressing the issues until it better defines the category, he adds.

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