Update: RIM has nearly twice the Apple share, gap should continue to grow

Update: RIM has nearly twice the Apple share, gap should continue to grow

Summary: I've been doing a lot of thinking lately about the US smartphone market and in particular RIM (I may go buy a T-Mobile Curve 8900 soon) so it was quite timely when I read the excellent article from Michael Mace titled Watch out for RIM. I wanted to offer some of my thoughts concerning the US smartphone market and why RIM is the current leader and the one I think has the potential to move faster than Apple and others moving forward. The latest Gartner worldwide numbers show that RIM is number two, behind Nokia, with almost double the market share of Apple. I haven't seen any US specific numbers, but with the long history of BlackBerry devices here in the US I imagine their market share percentage in the US may be even great than double that of Apple.

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I've been doing a lot of thinking lately about the US smartphone market and in particular RIM (I bought a T-Mobile Curve 8900 yesterday for $200) so it was quite timely when I read the excellent article from Michael Mace titled Watch out for RIM. I wanted to offer some of my thoughts concerning the US smartphone market and why RIM is the current leader and the one I think has the potential to move faster than Apple and others moving forward. The latest Gartner worldwide numbers show that RIM is number two, behind Nokia, with almost double the market share of Apple. According to links sent to me, the data shows that RIM has about 40% of the US market compared to Apple at a very high 30% (considering they have only been around for less than 2 years). I haven't seen any US specific numbers, but with the long history of BlackBerry devices here in the US I imagine their market share percentage in the US may be even greater than double that of Apple.

The iPhone seems to get all of the attention and admittedly it has done quite well in its almost two years of existence. However, there is a MAJOR reason it will reach a peak here in the US (if nothing changes) while RIM can continue to grow and expand and that reason is the US wireless carrier support. The iPhone is only available on AT&T and may be on AT&T only until 2012 if the 5-year exclusive we heard about in 2007 remains in effect. RIM BlackBerry devices are available on EVERY major US wireless carrier. There are a couple of exclusive devices, but the main consumer devices (Pearl and Curve) can be found on all carriers and the Bold and Storm may eventually roll out to all carriers as well.

RIM is coming out with their BlackBerry App World too that looks to try to encourage a higher quality for applications than what is seen in the Apple App Store at the moment. I actually find several third party applications to be excellent on the BlackBerry platform, in particular the social media apps and communication apps.

I know several people that have recently purchased BlackBerry devices and they are very pleased with the out-of-the box experience. RIM nails it with the BIS for consumers who don't have Exchange servers or other means of syncing data wirelessly and they do it well. No other smartphone requires less from a consumer and gives more than RIM and the BIS. Not to mention the corporate support via the BES and what that offers.

RIM also maintains control over their devices (manufacturer and software) so the user experience is fairly consistent and updates are provided. Granted, the update process is not as smooth as the iPhone and needs to be more consistent across the carriers, but updates are made that add functionality to existing devices.

Another bonus for RIM over Apple is that you can buy different styles of BlackBerry devices that may appeal to a broader audience. Not everyone wants a touch only device and QWERTY keyboards are still much more popular in the US than touch only devices.

The other major player in the US market is Windows Mobile and as an Exchange user I have to say I am still a fan of this operating system. Windows Mobile devices are also available on all US carriers, which may be a major reason it is still doing fairly well. However, the Microsoft model of licensing the OS to many different manufacturers, not providing any real upgrade process, having a limited out-of-the box experience, and no current application store may end up contributing to a growing gap between RIM and Windows Mobile. Windows Mobile is moving forward with initiatives to improve these aspects, but very slowly. The choice of devices and multiple carrier support may sustain Windows Mobile growth until Windows Mobile 7 and beyond, but there are new players (Palm WebOS and Google Android) that may also keep Windows Mobile at bay.

While Nokia is the worldwide smartphone leader, the data has shown continuous market share loss to the other players and they have no real presence here in the US to even speak of so until they do I can't discuss their US impact.

As you can see the US smartphone market is still very fragmented and will remain that way for years to come. I actually don't mind this since there are devices available to meet everyone's specific needs and competition is good at making companies innovate and continue to improve their products. It does seem that RIM is overlooked at times and has the potential to widen their lead over the iPhone, even though the iPhone seems to get all the press.

Topics: Hardware, Apple, Wi-Fi, Software, Smartphones, BlackBerry, Operating Systems, Mobility, Mobile OS, Windows

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14 comments
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  • Proof reading

    Did anyone proof read this before it was posted?

    "I imagine their market share percentage in the US may be even [u]great[/u] than double that of Apple"
    fizzmaster
    • Thanks for the catch...

      Feel free to shoot me an email too if you find a simple misspelling or something like this. We are all human you know and many of us bloggers tend to work LATE at night writing so there may be an occasional error in the post.

      Do you have any comment on the actual article?
      palmsolo (aka Matthew Miller)
    • And yet Apple beat RIM the previous quarter

      I think you need to consider the fact that Apple and RIM have been battling too and
      fro for 18 months or so now and Q4 2008 is just one more tip of the sea-saw.

      In Q3 2008, worldwide, the iPhone beat the Blackberry on the back of the iPhone 3G
      launch:

      http://www.fool.com/investing/general/2008/11/07/iphone-beats-blackberry.aspx

      http://apple20.blogs.fortune.cnn.com/2008/11/07/iphone-passes-rim-gains-on-
      nokia/

      Then in Q4 2008 we saw RIM surge on the back of the launch of the Bold and the
      Storm, taking advantage of the pent-up desire of Verizon and Blackberry fans for a
      3G touchscreen phone option from their favourite companies.

      However, now that the announcement of iPhone 3.0 finally answers the vast bulk of
      outstanding complaints against the iPhone for power users (cut & paste, landscape
      keyboard, creating appointment invites, turn-by-turn nav, better bluetooth, etc) and
      new iPhone hardware is on the horizon, I think it would be a mistake to assume
      Blackberry will continue to increase its lead.

      -Mart
      marthill
  • RE: RIM has nearly twice the Apple US market, gap should continue to grow

    Your focus is too narrow and sounds more wishful then based on current market conditions.

    Think about in this way:

    According to RIM, there are 50 million active BB users. According to Apple, 30 million iPhone and iPOD Touches have been sold as of last December. Yes, last December!

    Now do the math: 30/50 * 100%= 60%

    Ok. Not bad for a platform that has only been around for less than two years! Think platform and you'll see what Apple's really aiming at. Think cell phone and you'll see what RIM has locked itself into.

    Now, think about iPhone OS 3.0 and you're talking about another flurry of applications for the enterprise, consumer, entertainment, music, medical, markets and others.

    Think broader.
    pjtmgt@...
    • Sincde RIM don't make PMPs...

      ...what relevance have iPod Touch sales to this discussion?
      Sleeper Service
      • iPod Touch is a handheld computer not a PMP...

        it runs the iPhone OS and takes advantage of all
        of it's apps and feature etc.. except for camera
        (who knows for 3rd gen Touch) and cellular
        telephony... you can actually currently use if for
        VOIP over WiFi though...

        iPhone OS 3.0 adds APIs that allow it to easily be
        made to communicate with other devices (through
        blueTooth and dock connector) and turns the iPod
        Touch into a platform that can be cleaved onto
        other device in a multitude of markets.. medical,
        science, services... basically anything... apple
        is thinking much bigger and broader...
        mobile/handheld computing) not just cell phones
        like RIM... Apple is drawing in a huge developer
        community and this is what will drive the sales of
        device that run iPhone OS... the apps... not the
        device.

        now iPhone and iPod Touch running iPhone OS..
        maybe in the future.. tablets or other devices..
        again apple is thinking big.. not just cellphones
        doctorSpoc
        • But it's not a phone.

          Are we done here?
          Sleeper Service
          • But it is a number to developers

            Developers care about quality of development platform, quality of
            hardware and number of units sold. Having to only develop for a single
            (or in the future maybe two) form factors with great developer tools will
            be a big draw to the platform.

            Better applications mean better platform.

            No enough has been said.
            puggsly
          • Agree with puggsly

            Apple has not yet begun to fight. They have not even come close to unleashing
            the entire Mac OS into the iPhone. For insight into Apple's endgame, look at
            their investiment in a thriving accessory and developer community.

            Apple engineers are just starting to think about extending their operating
            system beyond the laptop and into cars, excercise, etc. The army of
            developers they are inspiring will realize the potential of mobile computing:
            the magic wand that manages intelligent communication among every device in
            every environment that can benefit from it. Blackberry's challenge is not about
            keyboard, carriers, or cell phone technology; it is a race to be this bridge
            among all things.

            Look at Apple's success in integrating TVs with Apple TV, mp3 players with
            computers; digital camcorders with iMovies; media with iTunes; digital cameras
            with computers; and so much more to see the kind of competitor you are
            dealing with. RIM is confident of it's strength in the enterprise. Still they should
            be minful of every iPod Touch, because each one makes is less
            likely that consumer will invest heavyly in the kind of more profitable
            smartphones you need to compete with the iPhone. It also makes it far more
            likely you will buy an iPhone in the future. That's why Apple smartphone
            competitors should feel depressed by every Touch sale.
            synfusion@...
    • 3 years ago

      RIM had an infinite market, because Apple wasn't in it.

      2 years ago, RIM had about 2000 times Apple's market when iPhone was introduced.

      Now RIM has "double" Apple's market. Tell me again how the "gap" is "growing"?
      vikingnyc@...
  • Lies

    This article is filled with lies and inaccuracies.

    Here's EXACTLY what I think about this article:
    http://tinyurl.com/cqrwne
    scotty321
  • RE: RIM has nearly twice the Apple US market, gap should continue to grow

    This is too narrow a view. Apple not only has
    integration/revenue points far beyond what RIM has with the
    BB (iTunes/AppStore/Mac), it is also poised to expand the
    iPhone into something more than just a smart phone - look
    at the reports coming out of Taiwan of larger touchscreen
    purchases from Apple. Do you think shocking the
    smartphone industry was the only trick Apple had up its
    sleeve? Disruptive technology is Apple's core competence ...
    pun partially intended.
    cwkoller2@...
  • "Touch" isn't a negative for iPhone

    <blockquote><i>...QWERTY keyboards are still much more
    popular in the US than touch only devices.</i></blockquote>
    This merely repeats your earlier statement that Apple has "only"
    garnered 30% of the market in less than 2 years. Beside the
    iPhone, there's not really another "touch" device worth talking
    about-- they're all stylus based.

    Finally, the iPhone's real category might not be smartphones but
    "mobile internet devices." (Remember Jobs's "We're introducing
    three devices today. A new iPod. A mobile internet device. A
    telephone. An iPod...") Reports show Apple with <b>over</b>
    one-half of US mobile internet access, and that market is
    exploding in growth versus voice. The Android, Pre, WinCE, RIM
    and Symbian pretenders, with software that ranges from hideous
    to wishware, look to be miles behind in the growthiest category.

    WaltFrench@...
  • RE: RIM has nearly twice the Apple US market, gap should continue to grow

    Wrong here's why:
    http://counternotions.com/2009/03/19/moat/
    SquishyParts