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RIM's BlackBerry Curve outsold Apple's iPhone in the first quarter of this year, according to a US survey conducted by the wireless-market research firm NPD Group.

To help the BlackBerry pass the iPhone, however, Verizon had to give RIM's phones away. From February 6th through March 31st, Verizon ran a "Buy One, Get One" promotion for the BlackBerry line, a giveaway that NPD's director of industry analysis, Ross Rubin, understandably identified as "aggressive marketing."

Also contributing to RIM's success was the fact that the BlackBerry Curve costs about half that of the iPhone - and that world+dog is waiting for the next-generation iPhones, which are widely rumored to appear this summer.

This impending release of new iPhones was almost certainly a factor behind AT&T's recent report that iPhone sales had slipped to 1.6 million in the first quarter, down from as many as 2.4 million in the third quarter of 2008. The same sales dive also took place before the iPhone 3G replaced the original iPhone last July.

The NPD report identified the top five smartphones as follows:

  1. RIM BlackBerry Curve (all 83XX models)
  2. Apple iPhone 3G (all models)
  3. RIM BlackBerry Storm
  4. RIM BlackBerry Pearl (all models, except flip)
  5. T-Mobile G1

RIM's smartphone line accounted for nearly 50 per cent of all smartphone sales, an increase of 15 per cent over the previous quarter. That jump was at the expense of phones from Apple and Palm, which both declined by 10 per cent.

Smartphones in general are gaining ground on less-capable handsets. According to NPD, they now account for 23 per cent of all mobile-phone sales, up from 17 percent in 2008. ®

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