iPhone finally dulls the Razr's edge

The changing of the guard is official: According to new data released by market research firm NPD Group, Apple's iPhone 3G is now the best-selling consumer handset in the U.S., usurping longtime leader the Motorola Razr, which topped the list for the previous 12 quarters. Despite the iPhone's ascendance, third quarter device sales were disappointing: Domestic purchases by adult consumers declined 15 percent year over year to 32 million units, with sales revenues plummeting 10 percent to $2.9 billion, even as the average selling price increased 6 percent to $88. Still, we're likely to look back on the quarter as a watershed moment, heralding a transition in consumer thinking away from hardware design to software optimization--the remainder of the top five (Research In Motion's Blackberry Curve, LG's Rumor and LG's enV2, respectively) further bolsters the growing relevance of messaging and other advanced features.

The iPhone also continues to make headway in worldwide smartphone sales: According to analyst firm Canalys, Apple shipped almost 6.9 million iPhones internationally during the third quarter, edging out RIM for second place behind Nokia, which shipped more than 15 million units in all. Canalys adds that total worldwide smartphone shipments hit a new zenith of 39.9 million in during Q3, with the U.S. market more than doubling while the Asian market declined 18 percent year-over-year, blamed in large part on faltering sales in Japan. Smartphones now represent about 13 percent of the total mobile phone market, up from 11 percent the previous quarter.

So to what do we attribute the iPhone 3G's continuing success? Is it the persuasiveness of Apple's marketing efforts? The user-friendliness of the App Store? Perhaps--or maybe it boils down to simple customer satisfaction. The iPhone ranks highest in overall consumer satisfaction among enterprise smartphone users according to marketing information services firm J.D. Power and Associates, which measured satisfaction across five key metrics--ease of operation, operating system, physical design, handset features and battery life--weighted from first to last in order of importance. Apple scored a 778 on a scale of 1,000, performing especially well in the ease of operation, physical design and handset feature categories; RIM followed at 703 points, narrowly beating Samsung at 701. The numbers add up to one conclusion: The iPhone's run at the top isn't going to end anytime soon. -Jason