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NPD: BlackBerry Curve Top Consumer Smartphone

Port Washington, N.Y. — The BlackBerry Curve unseated the iPhone 3G as the best-selling smartphone through consumer channels during the first quarter, when BlackBerry maker Research In Motion (RIM) boosted its share of smartphone sales to consumers to almost 50 percent from the fourth quarter’s approximate 35 percent, The NPD Group reported.

The sales exclude purchases by enterprises for their employees.

Three BlackBerry smartphones made NPD’s list of top-five consumer smartphone sellers in the first quarter, NPD added. In contrast, Apple’s share and Palm’s share each fell 10 percent sequentially compared with the fourth quarter.

The Curve benefitted from a “buy-one-get-one” promotion by Verizon Wireless and its availability through four major U.S. national carriers, whereas the iPhone 3G is available only through AT&T, said Ross Rubin, NPD industry analysis director. He attributed RIM’s capture of three of the top five positions not just to the buy-one get-one-free promotion but also to Verizon Wireless’ aggressive marketing of the touchscreen-equipped BlackBerry Storm.

The top-five sellers to consumers in the first quarter, based on Mobile Phone Track surveys of consumers, were the:

1. RIM BlackBerry Curve (all models)

2. Apple iPhone 3G (all models)

3. RIM BlackBerry Storm

4. RIM BlackBerry Pearl (all models, except Flip)

5. T-Mobile G1 (Android-based)

These models captured top share in a consumer smartphone market that, despite the economic downturn, grew to 23 percent of phones purchased by consumers in the first quarter from the year-ago 17 percent, the NPD Group reported.

The findings are based on more than 150,000 consumer research surveys completed online each month.