With increased competition from future iPhone technologies looming, Research in Motion has hired a veteran Apple interface director to lead a new team of designers tasked with improving the user experience of the company's BlackBerry handsets.
Apple's penchant for keeping its partners out of the loop reportedly cost the company its relationship with alternative rock band U2, which recently drew sponsorship from rival smartphone market Research in Motion.
Shares of Research In Motion stock rose almost 23 percent after the company reported strong quarterly and year-end results for its BlackBerry smartphones, climbing back from a precipitous fall in February that drove the company to issue an outlook warning.
Apple maintained the third place position in global unit sales of smartphones, but was passed up by Microsoft's Windows Mobile to become the fourth largest smartphone vendor in terms of operating system platforms as it continues to lead the industry in year over year growth.
In a move that will clearly distance itself from one-time ally Apple, world-famous alternative rock band U2 revealed plans for its upcoming tour to be sponsored by Apple rival Research in Motion, in what the two sides are calling a "shared vision."
Apple this week kicked its eco-friendly MacBook campaign into overdrive with new placements on network television and top-tier internet properties; meanwhile, Research in Motion considered taking a shot at Apple in a new television commercial but ultimately couldn't bring itself to pull the trigger (video included).
Apple is just short of the top spot for US phone sales in stores. Also, China Unicom may be close to a long-awaited deal for the iPhone in its country, the Boston area is slated for another Apple store, and iFixit has broken with tradition to tear down an Amazon Kindle 2.
An insistence on a physical feedback screen and dual-network support has pushed the cost of making Research in Motion's BlackBerry Storm significantly above that of current-generation iPhones, hinting that Verizon may be paying more to rival AT&T in touchscreen phones.
While AT&T on Wednesday credited sales of 1.9 million iPhone 3Gs for helping to drive its fiscal fourth-quarter results, rival carrier Verizon won't tell how many BlackBerry Storms were sold in its first quarter on the market.
A late launch and buggy software are described as normal by Resesarch in Motion, but may have led the company to sell just half a million of its first touchscreen BlackBerry in the final weeks of 2008 — a fifth of what Apple's iPhone 3G reportedly achieved in the same quarter.
Mobile phone makers are sounding alarms to their investors cautioning that mobile sales are down and likely to only get worse in 2009. However, Apple's iPhone is uniquely positioned within the safer smartphone market, a segment that is expected to continue to grow next year.
Apple's share of the worldwide smartphone market is closer to 13% than the 16% reported earlier this week, but that's still good enough to push the iPhone maker past Microsoft to become the third largest smartphone OS vendor, according to Gartner.
In addition to outselling a broad and combined range of Windows Mobile handsets, Apple's iPhone 3G is being credited this week as the lone force responsible for growth of the smartphone market during the September quarter.
While Research in Motion continues to dominate the corporate smartphone market, new data shows Apple to be chipping awake at the BlackBerry maker's lead after having recently bludgeoned Palm to become the second leading supplier of advanced handsets to businesses.
On Friday, Research in Motion and Verizon will answer to the iPhone with the BlackBerry Storm — a touchscreen-based handset that will sell for $250 with a two-year contract, though a $50 mail-in rebate will bring the cost inline with Apple's entry-level offering.
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.
Apple announced quarterly iPhone sales that surpassed those of BlackBerry maker Research in Motion by nearly a million and a half units or 25%: nearly 6.9 million iPhones versus the 5.4 to 6.1 million BlackBerry units RIM sold per quarter during the same calendar quarter in 2008. Apple and RIM have non-overlapping fiscal quarters.