Apple's iPhone 3G was the best-selling mobile phone in the United States in the third quarter, surpassing former champion the Motorola Razr, which fell to second place, a market research firm said Monday.
Nevertheless, the iPhone's popularity among U.S. consumers failed to lift the overall market. Handset purchases overall declined 15% from the same period a year ago to 32 million units, the NPD Group said. Handset revenue fell 10% to $2.9 billion, even though the average selling price rose 6% to $88.
The Razr was ranked the top-selling consumer handset for 12 consecutive quarters. The iPhone's ascension represented a "watershed shift in handset design from fashion to fashionable functionality," NPD analyst Ross Rubin said in a statement.
"Four of the five best-selling handsets in the third quarter were optimized for messaging and other advanced Internet features," Rubin said, an indication that there was a growing "data divide" among handset buyers.
"Those who see the value in wireless Internet access are justifying the investment, whereas voice-centric users have little incentive to upgrade, which is obviously detrimental to operators who seek to sell data plans and media-access services to their subscribers," Rubin said.
Rounding out the top five handset models were Research In Motion's third-place Blackberry Curve, followed by the LG Rumor and the LG enV2. In terms of features that attracted buyers, 43% of people surveyed by NPD cited the need for a camera and 36% noted the ability to send and receive text messages.
Mobile phones with a QWERTY keyboard experienced the greatest year-over-year rise in sales, accounting for 30% of all handsets sold in the third quarter, up from just 11% a year ago. Also in the quarter, 83% of mobile phones purchased were Bluetooth enabled, versus 72% a year ago; and 68% of phones were music enabled, versus 49% a year ago.
NPD's findings are based on more than 150,000 online consumer research surveys completed each month.