Blackberry returns fire

BLACKBERRY'S owners Research in Motion (RIM) yesterday launched a public attack on comScore, one of the leading research companies in the UK, saying its latest statistics on smartphone sales were wrong "by a wide margin".

The difference in opinion over comScore's numbers is also the difference between BlackBerry as the most popular smartphone brand in the UK or the fourth, behind the iPhone, handsets that run Android and Nokia.

ComScore released its latest figures for smartphone growth in the UK on Friday, estimating that BlackBerry had around 3.5 million subscribers in May.

The Canada-based company, which has suffered a tough first half to the year but remains strong in the UK, complained the estimates were off by almost half. It claims "just under 7 million subscribers" for the month.

One analyst at a rival research firm said: "It is unusual that a spat like this becomes public. We'd be surprised if BlackBerry was fourth in the UK, it is performing very well over here. The market is a shining light."

ComScore responded with surprise that this had become an issue. A spokeswoman for the data company said there was a distinction between the numbers it had reported and those put out by BlackBerry.

She said that BlackBerry "is talking about sales figures, we are talking about primary handsets used by people of over 13 years old". So many respondents could have still have a BlackBerry without it showing up in the data as their "primary" handset.

A spokeswoman for BlackBerry hit back: "The amount of people with a second handset still doesn't begin to explain the difference in numbers."

RIM pointed to a different set of figures drawn up by rival GfK Group, which showed it was the number one smartphone vendor in the UK as well as top for pre-pay smartphones in May. GfK's numbers found that the BlackBerry Curve 8520 was the best selling pre-pay phone during May.

ComScore was perplexed RIM had moved to air its concerns in such a public manner, adding the two sides were still in talks over the matter. "I don't think it is a real issue," its spokeswoman said. "They work with us and have done for some time." One industry insider not connected to either company said: "These situations do arise. If the numbers are way out there may be some issues with how the data is put together. For a company to dispute the numbers means there must be truth to it."

ComScore's data announcement found that 42 per cent of UK mobile consumers used a smartphone in May up from 27 per cent a year earlier. Apple is the most popular with a 27.1 per cent market share. This was followed by Android-powered devices, which had soared a staggering 634 per cent in the past year. Then came Nokia's Symbian, which had dropped a tenth.

Separately, it emerged that product delays from RIM, including the new Bold 9900, had hit UK-based chip manufacturer Wolfson Microelectronics. It is understood that RIM would have been Wolfson's third biggest customer but for the delays to its new portfolio. The UK group warned that delays to products and challenging conditions meant sales would grow 10 per cent less than expected.

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