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BlackBerry Maker Snags Half of U.S. Smartphone Market

Research in Motion Ltd. captured more than 50 percent of the U.S. smartphone market in the second quarter, up sharply from first-quarter levels, according to figures released Monday by technology research firm IDC.

Apple Inc., maker of the iPhone, and Palm Inc. both lost share in the second three months of the year.

The IDC numbers show that RIM, maker of the wildly popular BlackBerry wireless device, held 53.6 percent of the U.S. market for smartphones in the second quarter, up from 44.5 percent in the first quarter.

A smartphone is a handset that uses a high-level operating system that can run multiple applications at once — such as a Web browser and an online game — and handle applications other than just those approved by the device maker or service provider.

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According to Ryan Reith, a senior research analyst at IDC, RIM's strong market position was driven in large part by the recent release of two new BlackBerry devices — the Curve and the Pearl — for the Sprint Nextel Corp. and Verizon Wireless networks.

Sprint and Verizon are the two leading operators of U.S. wireless networks that rely on CDMA technology.

Curve was launched with both networks in the second quarter of this year, while Pearl was launched with the two networks in the fourth quarter of last year.

RIM launched the Pearl with AT&T Wireless and Deutsche Telekom AG's T-Mobile — which both rely on GSM technology — in late 2006. It launched the Curve on those networks in mid-2007.

IDC's numbers show that Apple's share of the U.S. smartphone market tumble to 7.4 percent in the second quarter, from 19.2 percent in the first quarter, as consumers waited for the July release of the iPhone 3G to upgrade their devices.

The iPhone 3G sales, Reith said, should show up in the third quarter for Apple.

Palm, meanwhile, saw its market share fell to 10.8 percent in the second quarter, from 13.4 percent in the first quarter.

Reith said Palm faced a particularly tough quarterly comparison since it launched its new Centro device on the Sprint network at an introductory price of $99 in the first quarter.