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Shiny toys meet recession

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Mobile phones are lasting Americans more than 20 months these days, which is good as the average bill has risen to $78 a month, according to JD Power.

Those facts may be related, as longer contracts are used to subsidise more expensive handsets. That forces users to be content with what they've got for 17 per cent longer than they did last year, while paying almost $10 a month more than they were in 2007. But handsets are very shiny these days.

JD Power asked almost 20,000 Americans (12,000 of whom had smartphones) about their relationship with their handset, which seems seems to be turning from a brief fling into a committed affair.

"Customers are delaying an upgrade purchase due to the general economic downturn, in which the expense of purchasing a new device could outweigh the added benefit of owning it" says the company, obviously unaware of the immeasurable value of being able to play Angry Birds on the bus.

Despite (or perhaps because of) users' reluctance to shell out for new handsets the average price has fallen from $81 at the start of 2009 to $76 now, though 42 per cent of those polled didn't pay anything at all for their handset. This could explain the jump in monthly bills as operators struggle to absorb the handset costs, though JD Power has another theory:

"The increase is mainly due to the addition of data-related services, increases in usage activity such as text messaging, and added fees and taxes."

Once they'd got their handsets Apple users were as smug as ever, with the iPhone winning in every satisfaction category except battery life (which unsurprisingly goes to Nokia). HTC came a close second, though when asked how satisfied they were with the operating system, HTC smartphone users said Android was "better than most", while Samsung Android users gave it the lowest possible mark, indicating that not everyone is familiar with what an operating system is.

Removing smartphones makes LG the winner by a considerable margin. Samsung comes next while Nokia gets another pounding with minimum marks across the board.

That's a very US-centric view, and Americans have yet to get used to the 24-month contracts that are rapidly becoming normal on this side of the pond - after all, we've got to pay for those shiny handsets somehow. ®

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