Helped in no small part by aggressive promotions, RIM’s Blackberry Curve became the best-selling US smartphone in the first quarter of 2009 – overtaking Apple’s iPhone.

The Curve’s popularity helped increase RIM’s consumer smartphone market share by 15 per cent over the previous quarter to almost 50 per cent, according to market research firm NPD.

Apple’s iPhone – the previous top-seller – and Palm each saw their market share slip by 10 per cent during the three-month period ended March.

NPD’s director of industry analysis, Ross Rubin, attributed the changes to an aggressive "buy-one-get-one" promotion by Verizon Wireless.

"The more familiar, and less expensive, Curve benefited from these giveaways and was able to leapfrog the iPhone, due to its broader availability on the four major US national carriers," he said.

The promotion also helped RIM secure two additional top five positions.

In the third slot was the BlackBerry Storm, and the fourth was made up of all BlackBerry Pearl handsets with the exception of flip models.

T-Mobile’s G1 handset running Google’s open Android software was the fifth most popular smartphone during the quarter.

Based on US consumer sales of smartphone handsets in NPD’s Smartphone Market Update report, the first-quarter 2009 ranking of the top-five best-selling smartphones is 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

Smartphones, which represented just 17 per cent of handset sales volume in Q1 2008, now make up 23 per cent of sales.

Rubin said this showed that even in a challenging economy, consumers are migrating toward Web-capable handsets and their supporting data plans to access more information and entertainment on the go.

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