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.