Apple Closing in on RIM in U.S. Market Share

changewave_chartA new survey by research firm ChangeWave has Apple’s (s aapl) iPhone on course to eventually best BlackBerry as the U.S. device of choice when it comes to smartphone options. It also reflects good news for the smartphone industry in general, since overall ownership of the data-hungry cellular devices is up to 39 percent of respondents, which represents a jump of more than 200 percent from the same time two years ago.

ChangeWave’s last survey took place in June of this year, and since then, Apple’s stock has jumped 5 percent. The last time there was a big jump in Apple sales, the iPhone 3G was introduced, and it lasted six months before the rise started to plateau, though it always showed positive growth. If that trend is any indication, the iPhone 3GS should continue to inflate sales until the new year at least, which could put Apple in a position to overtake RIM (s rimm).

RIM fell one percentage point from the last survey period in June 2009, from 41 percent to 40 percent. The BlackBerry has been steadily falling since January of 2008. The smartphone maker does have the Storm 2’s release on the horizon, but competing against major, new devices like the Palm Pre and the 3GS will be tough.

Speaking of the Pre, Palm (s palm) is also included in the survey, and remains behind in third place with only 7 percent market share. When ChangeWave started conducting its survey in June of 2006, Palm owned 36 percent of the market, topping RIM, its only close competitor, which had 30 percent. Worth noting is that this is the first survey in nearly two years where Palm didn’t lose some of its share.

Aside from being the only company to show positive growth between surveys, Apple is also the leader going forward in terms of planned purchases by respondents. Thirty-six percent of those surveyed who plan on making a smartphone purchase in the next three months are planning on choosing an iPhone. RIM follows with 27 percent choosing BlackBerry devices.

Apple also leads in another very important category: customer satisfaction. A whopping 74 percent of respondents say they are “Very Satisfied” with their iPhones, while only 43 percent of RIM customers say the same about their BlackBerry devices, the next closest cell phone on the survey. It’s a telling gap, and one which explains why Apple could overtake its perennial rival in the U.S. sometime in the next six months. A new product launch in June could seal the deal.