Apple's iPhone 3GS blunts Palm Pre impact, challenges BlackBerry

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A new consumer survey shows smartphone ownership is still growing rapidly, future demand is strong, and that Apple's iPhone 3GS has made a big impact since its launch, overshadowing the Palm Pre and approaching RIM's BlackBerry.

The survey of 4,255 users was conduced by ChangeWave Research last month to provide a look at how the launch of the iPhone 3GS and Palm Pre have affected the US smartphone market.

Smartphone ownership among those surveyed is now up to 39%, two points higher than the previous quarter and nearly double the level of just two years ago.

Future demand is also healthy, with 11.6% saying they plan to buy a new smartphone in the next 90s days. That's down 3 points from June when users were anticipating the launch of the iPhone 3GS and Palm Pre, but ChangeWave says its "still one of the highest percentages ever recorded" in the company's regular surveys.

In terms of current market share, RIM's BlackBerry phones remain in the lead with 40% ownership, but that's off a point from the previous quarter and is the lowest level for RIM in the last two years.

Apple gained 5 points this quarter to reach 30% ownership; ChangeWave observed "for the first time it has also placed them within striking distance of the number one spot in the consumer market."

ChangeWave also notes that "36% of those who plan to purchase a smart phone in the next 90 days say they'll get an iPhone," and that Apple's iPhone satisfaction ranking (74%) is vastly ahead those users assigned to makers of other smartphones, which ranged from Sony Ericsson at 17% to RIM at 43%.

Palm's position remains unchanged at 7%, but the company notes that "this is the first survey in nearly two years where their share hasn’t fallen – and that’s a clearly encouraging sign." Just three years ago, Palm had the top spot in smartphones with 36%.

Apple RIM Palm smartphone share

Additional details published by ChangeWave tracking future smartphone demand and satisfaction ratings can be found in the research group's full report.