Research In Motion's famous BlackBerry outsold Apple's iPhone for the start of 2009, pushing aside the device's "just for business executives" label. And today RIM announced it's activating a new push-notification feature in the BlackBerry API, weeks ahead of Apple's attempt at doing the same.
The smartphone sales figures come from a new survey by NPD Group. And before you drum-up the argument that there are more types of BlackBerry on sale, versus just one iPhone, you need to know that the top-selling smartphone for the quarter ending in March was the BlackBerry Curve 8300 line. The iPhone came in second place, but the BlackBerry Storm came in third and the Pearl in fourth. Of these three devices, the 8300 is the more "traditional" business-styled BlackBerry, but the success of the all-touchscreen Storm and the pocket-and user-friendly Pearl shows that RIM's BlackBerrys may indeed be shedding its corporate suits-only label in the minds of the phone-buying public. Score one for RIM over Apple.
RIM used this opportunity to further brag about it's lead on Apple by announcing a Java-based push API system for third-party software developers. The move effectively takes public a facility previously reserved for enterprise server notifications (part of the way BlackBerrys keep your mobile email in real-time) and it gives apps like games and news services the ability to alert users to real-time updates. The new system works over cellphone network data or WiFi, and runs in the background without requiring the relevant apps to remain active. There are a couple of apps primed and ready to use the new system including 7digital, an online music store that lets you buy low-bitrate music for download on go, but then replaces it with full quality MP3s when the phone is connected to a WiFi network
The push service sounds very much like Apple's own push notification system, which has been promised before but then delayed, and is due to go live with the updated iPhone 3.0 firmware next month.
The temporary slipping of the iPhone's crown could simply be due to consumers waiting for the next-gen version to come out. Nonetheless, it will be interesting to see how Apple responds to RIM's challenge.