How BlackBerry Leapfrogged Past iPhone

By  Michael D. Cole — May 12, 2009

The ubiquitous presence of the BlackBerry is apparently paying off, at least in the consumer marketplace, according to market researchers from The NPD Group.

The research firm reported that an aggressive "buy-one-get-one free" promotion by Verizon Wireless helped propel RIM's BlackBerry Curve past Apple's iPhone to become the top-selling consumer smartphone in the U.S. in the first quarter of 2009.

The wireless market research arm of The NPD Group reports that RIM's consumer smartphone market share increased 15 percent to nearly 50 percent of the smartphone market in Q1 2009 versus the prior quarter, as Apple's and Palm's share both declined 10 percent each.

Based on U.S. consumer sales of smartphone handsets in NPD's "Smartphone Market Update" report, the first-quarter 2009 ranking of the top-five best-selling smartphones is as follows:

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

The NPD Group, which did not disclose specific sales figures in its rankings to the public, compiled and analyzed mobile device sales data based on more than 150,000 complete online consumer research surveys. (Sales figures did not include corporate/enterprise mobile phone sales.)

The results reverse a trend that at one point last year reportedly had the iPhone outselling all Blackberries combined.

Ross Rubin, director of industry analysis at The NPD Group said Verizon Wireless's "aggressive marketing" of the touchscreen BlackBerry Storm, and its buy-one-get-one BlackBerry promotion contributed to RIM capturing three of the top five positions.

Rubin adds that the less expensive Curve benefitted from the Verizon giveaways and was also able to leapfrog the iPhone, due to its broader availability on the four major U.S. national carriers. (By contrast, Apple's iPhone is carried exclusively by one carrier, AT&T.)

The NPD Group also offered other telling data about the surging smartphone marketplace.

According to the market research firm, smartphone sales represented just 17 percent of consumer handset sales volume in Q1 of 2008, but reached 23 percent of sales last quarter.

Rubin commented that "even in this challenging economy," mobile phone enthusiasts are "migrating toward Web-capable handsets and their supporting data plans to access more information and entertainment on the go."


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