BlackBerry Knocks iPhone Back Down to No. 2

Though Apple Inc.’s iPhone topped Research in Motion Ltd.’s BlackBerry as the domestic smartphone leader for the last half of 2008, RIM has climbed back to the No. 1 position. The BlackBerry Curve was the No. 1 selling smartphone in the United States in the first quarter of 2009.

According to research firm NPD Group, an aggressive “buy-one-get-one” promotion from Verizon Wireless helped the Curve get to No. 1. Overall, RIM’s consumer smartphone market share increased 15 percent to reach nearly 50 percent of the smartphone market. Meanwhile, Apple’s and Palm’s share both declined 10 percent each.

“Verizon Wireless’ aggressive marketing of the BlackBerry Storm and its buy-one-get-one BlackBerry promotion to its large customer base contributed to RIM capturing three of the top five positions,” said Ross Rubin, director of industry analysis at The NPD Group. “The more familiar, and less expensive, Curve benefited from these giveaways and was able to leapfrog the iPhone, due to its broader availability on the four major U.S. national carriers.”

NPD ranks smartphone sales in the first quarter as such:

  1. RIM BlackBerry Curve (all 83XX models)
  2. Apple iPhone 3G (all models)
  3. RIM BlackBerry Storm
  4. RIM BlackBerry Pearl (all models, except flip)
  5. T-Mobile G1

Smartphones as a segment in general are growing in sales – they represented just 17 percent of handset sales volume in Q1 2008, and now make up 23 percent of sales.

“Even in this challenging economy, consumers are migrating toward Web-capable handsets and their supporting data plans to access more information and entertainment on the go.” Rubin said.

While half of smartphones on the market now sold with touch screens, 70 percent of all models instead offer QWERTY keyboards. T-Mobile’s G1 and the Palm Pre are handsets that support both QWERTY and capacitive touch, Rubin reported.

Worldwide the landscape is different. Nokia leads the global smartphone market, followed by RIM and Apple trailing by several percentage points.

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