iPhone vs. Droid vs. BlackBerry

The iPhone gets all the attention, but don't overlook its competitors.

In terms of reputation and popularity, the Apple iPhone is still the king of the smartphone market in the United States. But the newest RIM BlackBerry and Motorola Droid models are giving Apple a run for its money.

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An April 2010 smartphone survey by J.D. Power and Associates showed that Apple had the highest customer satisfaction level among smartphone makers, while Consumer Reports still has the Apple iPhone 3GS as its highest-rated overall smartphone, beating out the best efforts of all other manufacturers as of June 2010.

But this doesn't mean that Apple has a monopoly on the smartphone market by a long shot. After all, the top-selling smartphone in the fourth quarter of 2009 wasn't the iPhone 3GS but rather Research in Motion's BlackBerry Curve series. And nipping closely on the iPhone's heels was the Motorola Droid, which so far has been the best-selling smartphone based on Google's open-source Android mobile operating system. So which of these devices is most worth your money?

Well, it all depends on what you want. BlackBerry devices still have the strongest enterprise features of any smartphones even though Apple has been smartly and steadily adding enterprise features to its devices, including access to Microsoft's Exchange ActiveSync and Cisco's IPsec VPN, as well as push APIs that have given developers the ability to create push applications that send real-time alerts and other data to users. An AT&T executive said in May 2010 that 40% of iPhones are sold to enterprise users, showing the power of this platform in corporate settings.

The Droid, meanwhile, has the advantage of running on Verizon's network, which has consistently ranked at the top of wireless customer satisfaction surveys. Android, the Droid's operating system, has also proven to be quite popular with both consumers and device manufacturers, who have made the open-source OS one of the most widely-used in the United States. Over the span of a mere quarter last year, Android saw its share of the U.S. smartphone market more than double, as the platform was used on more than 7% of all U.S. smartphones at the end of 2009. The most recent research released by the NPD Group showed that Android-based phones in the first quarter of 2010 accounted for 28% of all smartphone shipments, trailing only Research in Motion's BlackBerry operating system, which accounted for 36% of all smartphone shipments in the quarter.

But despite the continued success of both the Droid and BlackBerry, the iPhone is still likely to remain the biggest mover and shaker in the smartphone market for some time to come. Part of this is due to the fact that the iPhone was so far ahead of the competition when it was first released that other manufacturers have had a difficult time playing catch up. The other part is that Apple has refused to rest on its laurels, as each iteration of its popular device seems to set a new bar for the rest of the industry to strive toward. One twist: AT&T said in June 2010 that it would no longer provide unlimited data services to iPhone users, switching to usage-based plans that will drive up fees. Nonetheless, the Apple iPhone should be the biggest name in the smartphone market for years to come.

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