Despite Steve Jobs' Predictions, RIM's BlackBerry Catches Up to Apple's iPhone

In October, Steve Jobs made a rare appearance during an Apple earnings call — not just to boast of the company's (record-high) revenues and profits, but to pump one figure in particular that demonstrated just how much the company had turned the smartphone industry on its head. That quarter, Apple had sold 14.1 million iPhones—leap frogging BlackBerry by some 2 million units.

"We've now passed RIM, and I don't see them catching up with us in the future because they must [transform] to a software company," Jobs said. "I think that's a challenge for them, to get developers."

Not so fast. According to a Reuters report released today, RIM has caught up. In the past three months, RIM has shipped an estimated 14.1 million BlackBerrys, matching Apple's total from the previous quarter.

Indeed, RIM has managed to develop both popular hardware and software. Analysts say the strong sales were aided by the new BlackBerry Torch, a touchscreen phone with a slide-out keyboard and an overhauled OS.

The report confirms recent research from Nielsen that said both Apple and RIM were in a "statistical dead heat." In overall OS usage, the iPhone is just ahead of RIM with 27.9% market share—but BlackBerry isn't far behind at 27.4%.

Next question: how many iPhones Apple shipped this quarter. Will Jobs make another earnings call appearance, this time boasting of even higher sales figures for the iPhone? If Nielsen's research provides any indication, people may be buying BlackBerrys now, but they want iPhones and Androids later:

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  • Martin Hill

    Austin, you're getting installed base and quarterly unit sales mixed up as well as not taking account of seasonailty.

    Neilsen's figures (like Commscore's before them) measure the total number of smartphones in use while Steve Jobs was referring to quarterly unit sales (which is what Gartner, IDC and others measure). These are two very different things.

    RIM's installed base is slowly losing share to the iPhone as Apple's sales continue to eat away at RIM.

    In terms of Blackberry's most recent quarterly sales of 14.1 million - yes they were indeed higher than last quarter's 12 million, but this is the quarter leading up to Christmas which traditionally boasts greater sales. We have to wait till the end of December to hear what Apple's iPhone sales numbers are to get a better comparison. (RIM finishes their quarter in Nov while Apple finishes their quarter in December).

    Considering iPhone sales always surge in the lead-up to Christmas, expect a figure significantly higher than 14 million this quarter which will prove Steve Jobs' statement to be correct.

    Of course, the Dark horses in this race are the other two members of the iOS platform which are not included in any of these figures - the iPod touch and the iPad. Considering the iPod touch sells almost as many units as the iPhone (possibly even more at Christmas) and the iPad just keeps astounding observers with growing sales, iOS is on target to easily double sales of the Blackberry OS.

    As far as Android is concerned, note that Neilsen, Commscore and Google themselves include tablets such as the Dell Streak and Samsung Galaxy Tab in their figures while excluding the iPod touch and the iPad, so the iOS mobile platform is actually larger than Android as well as Blackberry in both unit sales and installed base. These of course are the important statistics - the phone part is a far less important subset of the overall mobile platform as far as developers, investors, advertisers, peripheral manufacturers and ultimately consumers need to be concerned with.


  • james snelling

    It is interesting that Apple thinks RIM is the competitor. RIM are in a different market completely. Android based phones are the real comparison Apple should be undertaking and watching closely (40% increase in the graphs included in the report).