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Apple’s iPhone slips back behind the BlackBerry

Back when Apple announced it had overtaken the BlackBerry in sales, I wrote a piece for Mobile Computer Mag which councilled caution. There were, in fact, several reasons why iPhone sales for that quarter were likely to be high – and noted that it would be the performance of the phone over the coming year which gave a real indication of how popular it was.

Recent research from IDC shows that I was right to be cautious:

“According to the IDC Worldwide Quarterly Mobile Phone Tracker from February 2009, the data for all converged devices (i.e., smartphones) shows that Research In Motion (RIM) increased its U.S. market share from 40.4% in Q3 2008 to 47.5% in Q4. Apple, on the other hand, lost market share in the U.S., dropping from 30.1% in Q3 2008 to 22.3% in Q4.”

What this doesn’t mean is that the iPhone has suddenly become a failure, and the BlackBerry a success. Instead, it’s a natural consequence of some of the factors which I explored in my post winding out. There was a lot of pent-up demand for the iPhone 3G. As I wrote at the time:

“Secondly, in the markets that the iPhone was already covering, there was significant pent-up demand. The iPhone 3G was announced at the beginning of June, which almost certainly means that sales dried up to nothing for a month while consumers waited for the new model. Effectively, this means Apple has managed to squeeze four months of sales into a single quarter’s results – a neat trick, but one which it can’t do in every quarter.”

That four-months-in-a-quarter trick worked, and gave Apple a bumper top-line sales figure. But it was a one-off, and people who were drawing the conclusion that Apple had come from nowhere to number one so quickly were just not looking at the figures properly.

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