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iPhone or BlackBerry? Service is a major factor

Blackberry Curve sales bested those of the iPhone 3G for the first quarter of the year, NPD research shows. What will happen when the iPhone hits other carriers?

Correction: This report misstated which BlackBerry version recently got a big marketing push from Verizon. It was the Storm.

New data from NPD Group suggests that RIM may have caught up with some of the iPhone marketing hype, taking the top spot in U.S. consumer smartphone sales for the first quarter of 2009. The BlackBerry Curve (of which there are several models across multiple carriers) bested the iPhone for the first quarter of the year, with RIM taking three of the top five spots.

We get a lot of Apple fanboy grief here in the CNET Blog Network, but I'm a BlackBerry user. Personally, I prefer the BlackBerry keyboard and form factor but feel that the iPhone interface and applications are superior.

But more important than the applications or the interface, I need my phone to work. I want it to be able to make calls, receive calls, send e-mail, etc. The iPhone, for all its glorious features, is at best a mediocre phone with occasionally terrible coverage.

AT&T, the lone iPhone carrier in the United States, has been slow to fix network issues and slow to respond to customer complaints, and it lacks a certain amount of customer service social grace. Most of the gadgety or techie types of people I know who don't use the iPhone avoid it entirely because of AT&T.

Realistically, there should always be more BlackBerrys sold than iPhones simply because of network diversity. While the iPhone may be acceptable--even good as a business smartphone, the spotty coverage and weak customer service makes the device a questionable choice for on-the-go business users.

The Blackberry Storm got a big marketing push from Verizon that no doubt helped grow the customer base, but the Storm is not an iPhone killer.

I'm looking forward to seeing what RIM has to offer in the future, as well as seeing if/when Verizon will finally get the iPhone. Until then, I'll stick with the BlackBerrys, which, despite the occasional random java error and simplistic user interface, have served me extremely well for the last five years.

Follow me on Twitter @daveofdoom