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iPhone, BlackBerry Lead Smartphone Growth

Nokia is still at the top of the heap with 42.4 percent market share during the third quarter, but after a 3 percent decline, according to Gartner research. The competition is hot, said Roberta Cozza, principal analyst at Gartner. "Nokia is feeling the pressure from increased competition in the consumer smartphone market," she said. "The company introduced solid Nseries products with top features, but its lack of a commercial touch-screen device in its smartphone portfolio prevented Nokia from capitalizing from consumer demand for this feature."

Nokia just unveiled the powerful N97, but the device won’t be available before the first half of 2009, leaving the Finnish mobile maker slightly exposed.

Moving off store shelves at a decent clip are BlackBerry phones. Consumers started taking notice of Research in Motion’s handsets when the Canadian smartphone specialist made phones such as the BlackBerry Pearl more attractive to the mainstream consumer. Sales of RIM devices increased nearly 82 percent during the third quarter. New phones such as the BlackBerry Storm will only help that number grow.

Since its launch in 2007, the iPhone has turned the mobile industry on its head. Apple claimed the third spot on the list with almost 13 percent market share – which is impressive considering it is made up almost entirely of consumer sales. The worldwide launch and hardware subsidies of the iPhone 3G have helped Apple’s position in the market.

In fact, for the first time, iPhone sales surpassed all other Microsoft Windows Mobile devices combined worldwide and in North America. Until Windows Mobile gets the overhaul it needs, the iPhone’s Mac OS X and perhaps even the Google’s Android will be gaining market share.

One key factor is applications. "In 2009, application portfolios will become one of the key strategic considerations for smartphone market players and, if successful, they deliver an alternative revenue stream and will improve consumer stickiness," Ms. Cozza said.

Overall, North America saw the greatest smartphone gains with 68 percent increase in the quarter. RIM and Apple benefited the most with over 70 percent of that share between them.

With holiday shoppers looking for that perfect gadget to give, don’t be surprised to see that number on the rise.