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Apple Takes It On the Chin: BlackBerry Curve Surpasses iPhone in Popularity

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Lower prices and wider availability are likely responsible, but whatever the reason, Apple (s aapl) probably isn’t super pleased with the news today that Research in Motion’s (s rimm) BlackBerry Curve has surpassed the iPhone as the No. 1 most popular smartphone in the U.S.

Apple’s handset slips to No. 2, followed, a bit surprisingly considering the reviews I’ve read, by the touchscreen BlackBerry Storm. All of this is according to the NPD group’s smartphone sales numbers for the first quarter of 2009.

BlackBerry dominated the list overall, with the Pearl following the Storm as the fourth most popular handset. All of which makes it sound like RIM is winning the race handily, and they are, but when you consider the fact that the iPhone is only available from AT&T (s att), while BlackBerry’s handhelds are generally available from all major carriers, the numbers start to appear less in their favor. Consider also that June will almost certainly see the release of brand-new hardware from Apple, while BlackBerry’s devices have already seen some major updates since the iPhone 3G’s release last year. All of which tells me that the Curve shouldn’t get too comfortable at the top.

Sitting in fifth place is T-Mobile’s G1, the first (and still only) smartphone running Google’s (s goog) Android operating system, which has yet to really realize the early potential that it seemed to hold. The G1 is also HTC’s only appearance in the Top 5, which doesn’t bode well for the South Korean manufacturer, especially considering the Palm Pre’s imminent introduction to the field.

While Apple will probably recapture the top spot come June, they can’t take other spots with their current single-offering business model. Rumors are surfacing that a new, cheaper version of the iPhone could be in the works, and if true, this would almost certainly nab them another. If, as some suggest, their exclusivity deal with AT&T comes to an end, expect them to grab even more ground from RIM.

13 Responses to “Apple Takes It On the Chin: BlackBerry Curve Surpasses iPhone in Popularity”

  1. Howie Isaacks

    A lot of buy one, get one free promotions have been ran for the BlackBerry. How many of those have been run for the iPhone? The BlackBerry isn’t so great if you have to give it away. People love free things, so they will snatch them up. I don’t think this is very impressive considering that the iPhone is sold by only one carrier in the U.S.. If the iPhone can take second place while being sold by only one carrier, that’s a lot more impressive than the BlackBerry being sold by multiple carriers with freebie promotions.

  2. #2 or not, Apple’s iPhone has a lot going for it. But what everyone has to remember is that it’s still the new kid on the block compared to RIM’s long history with BlackBerry even with a 1 Billion apps downloaded.

    While I am a happy BlackBerry owner (on my 3rd one now), I’d really like the option of switching to an iPhone given the myriad of applications for it (no question – way more than BB.) The major problem for me (and I’m sure a number of other users) is the lack of clean and secure Exchange integration. Even with the add-on Exchange software component, it won’t be allowed on my companies corporate network anytime soon.

    How RIM and BES differ to the iPhone solutions is that it basically solves the security issue is with a periodic “push” of data from inside the IT network to the BB servers rather than opening a hole in the firewall to get at the data directly from the phone.

    If Apple could come up with a similar solution that was acceptable for corporate users who rely on Exchange, I’m sure you’d see more people switch over. Given I rely primarily use my phone for business and second for personal use, I don’t see myself switching anytime soon either.

    Corporate use is definitely where RIM definitely trumps Apple.

  3. I figure some people are waiting to see what comes out this June before buying an iPhone. Seems like Apple is becoming victim to it’s own hype machine and schedule… that’s probably why they dropped out of Macworld for next year.

    On a side note, I don’t really see the point of being #1 all the time… only one person can be #1 at a time… and it puts a target on your back… What I’m getting at is #1 isn’t always sustainable and not always worth it. Make a solid product that brings in profits. Who care’s about #1?

  4. HereAndNow

    I personally don’t have a need for a QWERTY keyboard but, for those that do, it is tough to beat a Blackberry. And from what I read in comments everywhere, it appears that once you are accustomed to a QWERTY keyboard, it is tough to go without.

    Regardless of what the ongoing statistics are, there are some GREAT smartphone options on the market these days and it is only getting better.

  5. Infophiliac

    Being #2 is only good if you used to be #3. There is no way around that.

    If Apple’s decision to limit themselves to AT&T is limiting their ability to sell their product, that isn’t a good excuse; it’s a possible indictment of part of their business model.

    If RIM ran a BOGO promotion, that means that offering discounts helps sell their product, not that Apple should be excused.

    Obviously, Apple has a different objective in mind, to some extent, than merely selling the most units possible, but if we’re going to judge them by market share, which seemed to be the sole objective of this post, then there is nothing here to celebrate for them.

  6. Well, I would take this announcement with a big grain of sand… Didn’t RIM run a “if you buy one, we’ll give you another one” promotion during this period?

  7. adamjackson

    It doesn’t matter how Apple feels about it. When they have 10 different models across every single carrier world wide (including pre-paid) and their OS is a solid 5 years old, they can bask in the glow of being #1 as well.

    I love the iPhone but Blackberry will continue to dominate for so many reasons.

  8. Steve

    “No. 1 most popular smartphone in the U.S.?” Don’t you think that is a misrepresentation of what is said in the announcement?

    I interpreted the list as the top 5 best-selling smartphones during the 1st quarter. That doesn’t necessarily mean the #1 is the most popular in the U.S. period.

    A little misleading…

  9. rhonda Baldwin

    Well, part of the problem may be with AT&T. I live in the middle of the country with no AT&T service available. I have been patiently waiting for them to build their network in our area. Now several years later, they still don’t have service here and I was informed by their sales department that I would be dropped if I piggybacked service all the time.

    They forced me to purchase a blackberry curve. I have complained to AT&T and Apple. I have been a faithful Apple user since before 1984. I want an iphone and look forward to the ending of the AT&T alliance.