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BlackBerry Outshines Apple iPhone In Fourth Quarter

BlackBerry's market share is growing at a faster rate than the Apple iPhone's, signaling the iPhone's smartphone dominance may be coming to an end.

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According to recent numbers from research firm IDC published by The Industry Standard, BlackBerry maker Research In Motion (RIM) Ltd.'s U.S. smartphone market share rose in 2008's fourth quarter to 47.5 percent, up from 40.4 percent in the third quarter, while Apple market share waned, dropping to 22.3 percent in the fourth quarter compared to 30.1 percent in the third.

Other smartphone heavyweights also saw a fourth-quarter uptick, including T-Mobile, HTC, Nokia, Verizon and LG, while Motorola, Palm and Samsung lost ground.

As for devices sold, Apple iPhone sales dropped to 4.36 million in the fourth quarter, a sharp decline from third-quarter sales of 6.89 million. While RIM has yet to announce its sales figures for the fourth quarter, the company does expect its subscriber numbers to increase and has predicted that it would ship 7.5 million to 8 million devices in the fourth quarter. Throughout BlackBerry's more than 10-year history, RIM has sold more than 50 million smartphones.

The new market share numbers are a sharp contrast to a Canalys report late last year that noted that Apple held 17.3 percent of the worldwide smartphone market in the third quarter, second only to Nokia, while RIM and BlackBerry placed third with 15.2 percent of the market.

RIM's return to dominance has been fueled by a string of hot device releases that saw it through the end of 2008. Starting with the BlackBerry Bold 9000, RIM hammered the market with smartphone after smartphone. RIM capped off the year with its official slap at the iPhone and its entrance into the war of the touch-screen titans, the BlackBerry Storm. While the Storm was said to have a rocky start, the Verizon Wireless exclusive handheld was able to sell 1 million units in its first couple of months. Those numbers weren't as impressive as the Apple iPhone 3G's 2 million-plus in its first quarter, but the Storm, coupled with other key releases, helped bring BlackBerry back to the forefront.

And 2009 is looking to be another solid year for RIM, with the BlackBerry Curve 8900 recently hitting stores and rumors swirling around the BlackBerry Gemini 9300 and the BlackBerry Niagara coming later this year.

Granted, rumor has it that a next-generation iPhone could be coming soon, but BlackBerry's continuing rapid-release pace should help it continue to beat out the competition.

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