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U.S. mobile phone sales: BlackBerry up to 5th, iPhone, erm, nowhere

NPD Group’s latest survey of the U.S phone market shows an overall 22% decline in sales and 7% decline in revenue over the first quarter this year. Interestingly, the big winner is RIM, whose BlackBerry phones took it to fifth place in the list.

But the big "missing in action" is Apple, with the iPhone. Although there were some shortages on iPhones towards the very end of the period covered by the survey, this won’t have impacted on the figures significantly.

In fact, RIM being well in front of Apple is consistent with Canalsys’ survey from Q4 of 2008, which saw the company a distant second behind the BlackBerry in the smartphone category. What will disappoint some amongst the company’s hordes of fervent fans is that Apple doesn’t appear to have made up much ground on RIM in a quarter where, it has to be said, the BlackBerry-maker’s line up has been less than stellar.

One thing which is likely to play in Apple’s favour, though, is that it appears that consumers are favouring high-end feature phones like the Nokia N95, BlackBerrys, and so on rather than more simple devices. In this long term, this is likely to mean that Apple has the opportunity to increase its market share as it broadens the range of iPhones.

And, of course, one thing which Apple hopes will take a chunk out of RIM is the release of the iPhone 2.0 software, likely to happen on the 9th June at Steve Jobs’ keynote speech at WWDC. Push email, contact and meeting integration with Exchange servers will make the iPhone a much more compelling platform for companies.

But it’s worth remembering that a hefty chunk of RIM’s recent growth has come from customers who don’t use Exchange, and who instead rely on the ability of BlackBerry Internet Services (BIS) to push email from any POP or IMAP account. In other words, these guys are consumers, not businesses, and are buying BlackBerry because of the keyboard more than anything else.

iPhone, of course, has no keyboard: and I wonder if that will hold it back for a generation raised on texting, and used to the tactile feedback of a "real" keyboard rather than a virtual one.

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