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iPhone tops business rankings, steals Nokia market share

Often labeled the outsider in the corporate world, Apple's iPhone has already reached the top of J.D. Power's satisfaction ranks for business smartphones — and is simultaneously the second-largest smartphone maker in the world.

Owners contributing to the product ratings company's yearly study gave Apple top marks among all the smartphone manufacturers operating in the US for its 2008 satisfaction report, awarding it a score of 778 out of 800, rising well above second-place Research in Motion's 703 for its BlackBerry phones and further still past the industry average of 681.

Expectedly, the iPhone performs best with ease of use, feature set and design, all elements J.D. Power says are essential to a good smartphone. Of the top five reasons for picking a phone, 45 percent of those involved in the study cited Apple's strength, Internet access, as their primary reason. Email (41 percent), design (39 percent), Bluetooth support (37 percent) and keyboard layouts (also 37 percent) played similar roles.

And while Samsung has nearly tied RIM in satisfaction with its own lineup, the major makers sitting below the average were those who use Windows Mobile heavily or exclusively for their smartphones, such as HTC and Motorola. Palm, which uses both its own Palm OS and Windows Mobile, has trailed well behind the pack with a score of just 644.

The result was telling for Apple, which failed to rank at all in the 2007 report but is now the best-rated in its home country.

Not all was positive for Apple: while the average asking price for a smartphone was $216, the Cupertino, Calif.-based newcomer's average purchase price was highest at $337. This stems in part from purchases before the launch of the iPhone 3G, when most customers would have paid $400 or more. Motorola's phones were the least expensive at $169.

The award for the top spot among workers comes as researchers at Canalys confirmed that Apple is now the second-largest smartphone producer in terms of volume. Its nearly 6.9 million iPhones shipped during the summer gave it 17.3 percent of the market during the period and validated Apple's eagerness to tout that it had outsold the BlackBerry for the first time. RIM's phone represented 15.2 percent of world smartphone market share.

Apple's sharp, sudden push into the highest ranks has had a ripple effect on incumbents as a result. Of al those hurt, the worst affected is Nokia, which saw its lead erode from a commanding 51.4 percent in summer of last year to 38.9 percent in the wake of iPhone 3G's launch. Symbian, which powers all of Nokia's phones, also took a tumble from its presence on 68.1 percent of all shipping phones to 46.6 percent.

And as with J.D. Power's study, Microsoft has also taken a bruising. Represented by the collective number of Windows Mobile smartphones, the software developer now sits in a modest fourth place with 13.6 percent of the market to itself.