Apple keeps its great image polished, with the iPhone

The Blackberry Storm was labeled an "iPhone Killer" when it debuted last month.  While less polished than the iPhone, the best-selling phone in America, it upped the ante in several key areas such as offering replaceable batteries, expandable memory, a better camera, and more. 

Early sales numbers have shown the phone indeed boosting the fortunes of Research in Motion and Verizon Wireless.  Overall, the company added 2.6 million new subscribers for the quarter ending in December.  It also shipped 6.7 million units and made $477.3M USD in net income, up from $370.5M USD last year.

However, when it comes to boosting brand image by customer satisfaction, RIM has fallen short to its competitor Apple.  Apple, which has the world's top brand according to recent studies of brand appeal, kept its iPhone customers happy with 77 percent stating they were "very satisfied" in a recent survey from market research group ChangeWave.

By contrast, in the survey of 4,000 U.S. cell phone owners, only
33 percent said they were "very satisfied" with the Storm.  The Storm also posted higher dissatisfaction numbers, with 14 percent of Storm owners saying they were "unsatisfied" with it and only 5 percent "unsatisfied" with the iPhone.

While the poor customer satisfaction is a warning sign for RIM, ChangeWave points out that it’s not a game-ender for the Storm.  The company points out that RIM has already began a decent campaign of firmware updates, which were a critical factor in Apple boosting customer satisfaction.

Paul Carton, research director at ChangeWave states, "Competitive pressures may have caused the Storm to be launched before it was quite ready for prime time.  But if RIM can rapidly fix its initial glitches and bugs, the survey shows that this new offering, along with RIM's other recently released models, will provide accelerated momentum in 2009."

One good sign for RIM was that 39 percent of those surveyed who were buying a smartphone in the next 90 days said they were picking a BlackBerry smartphone, while only 30 percent said they were going to pick the iPhone.

RIM, with 41 percent of the current smartphone market may be better positioned, says ChangeWave.  The company has multiple handsets available and is on multiple carriers, while the iPhone currently only has the base 3G model available on AT&T.  Apple may have trouble capturing more than its current 23 percent market share if it doesn't release another model, like the rumored iPhone nano.

The new study also showed that Palm has continued its slide after conquering 36 percent of the smartphone market in June 2006.  It is now down to 9 percent, and hopes to reverse its fortune with its upcoming Nova OS and handsets.

"Can anyone tell me what MobileMe is supposed to do?... So why the f*** doesn't it do that?" -- Steve Jobs
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