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NPD reports iPhone was top US handset in Q3


There's word this morning that the NPD Group's latest research shows a surprising finish for the iPhone in the 3rd-quarter sales competition among US cellphones bought by consumers; for the first time in three years, there's a new top model. The Motorola RAZR, long the most popular handset for adult consumers, has fallen before the touchable juggernaut from Cupertino, CA.

Yes, even while the overall consumer unit sales for cellphones declined 15% from the year-ago quarter (ouch!), the iPhone 3G kicked the RAZR out and took over as the #1 most popular handset sold in the US. LG also bypassed Motorola as the #1 overall vendor in consumer phone sales. Even though the RAZR is now offered as a free phone on new contracts with many carriers, those phones still count as sales for the purposes of the NPD analysis -- making the iPhone's ascendancy even more stunning.

"The displacement of the RAZR by the iPhone 3G represents a watershed shift in handset design from fashion to fashionable functionality," said Ross Rubin, director of industry analysis for NPD (and recent TUAW talkcast guest). Four of the five best-selling handsets in the third quarter were optimized for messaging and other advanced Internet features.

The top three phones (the iPhone, the RAZR, and the Blackberry Curve) address some different markets and diverse user needs -- but to have the iPhone on top, even counting in the pent-up demand for a 3G version, is pretty astonishing. Considering that Apple has ramped up from a v1 iPhone which gave up some key functionality in the interest of getting to market in a hurry, and even the 3G model lacks some popular items (copy/paste, tethering), getting to the top of the heap is an achievement worth celebrating.

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