While smartphones are increasingly becoming cost-efficient options for replacing PCs, and while Blackberry and Apple have made the smartphone a lifestyle, competitors are seeing diminishing returns during the recession. There seems to be a peeling away of the chaff during these tough times. Gartner’s new report focuses on the declining growth of smartphone sales, but their research makes something apparent: iPhones and Blackberries are selling just fine. In fact, sales are surging. It’s their competitors who are seeing the decline. While overall sales are up this year, they have fallen off earlier 2008 trends. The difference in growth/decline is astounding: Apple is up 327.5 percent, Research in Motion, makers of Blackberry, is up 81.7 percent, and HTC is up 25.9 percent from 2007.

On the flip side, Nokia’s sales have fallen 3.1 percent (the first time this has happened to the Finish corporation), Sharp, 19.3 percent, and “Others,” 20.9 percent.

Overall, worldwide smartphone sales grew 11.5 percent from last year, but is the “weakest year-on-year growth since Gartner, Inc. began tracking the industry.”

So the market is slowing but iPhone and Blackberry sales surge. Will the recession do away with their competition? Nokia still leads in sales, but RIM and Apple are quickly catching up. Other companies have failed to capture the market imagination the way Apple and Research in Motion have.

Apple’s strategy looks increasingly savvy: create the (massive) demand, then slowly introduce the supply. Worked well for Nintendo, too. At first it was hard to find iPhones and sales were exclusive. Now they’re becoming increasingly available in diverse outlets, and prices on the phone itself are falling. And Blackberry has always had its corporate niche.  When selling tech, it's always good to make it an identity-marker as well a product.

By Mark Alvarez