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By Paul Carton

It’s been just over a year since the iPhone was released, and Apple (NASDAQ:AAPL) is upping the ante in the smart phone wars.

We’re talking about the release of the new 3G version of the iPhone.

Our latest ChangeWave survey of 3,567 consumers – conducted in the aftermath of Apple’s June 9th announcement on the release of its 3G model – shows the next generation iPhone having a tsunami-like impact on the smart phone market.

But hold on…

Market leader Research-In-Motion (RIMM) – maker of the ubiquitous BlackBerry – hasn’t taken this latest salvo lying down. The company has up to three new releases on the horizon that it expects will provide highly attractive alternatives to the 3G iPhone.

The Coming Apple Tsunami

We asked consumers who currently own a smart phone or who plan to buy one in the next 90 days to tell us the manufacturer.

RIM (42%; unchanged) holds steady as the consumer smart phone market leader among current smart phone owners, even as second place Palm (14%) has sunk to a record low.

But the biggest mover here is the Apple iPhone (11%; up 2-pts) – which continues to make major inroads in the consumer marketplace. Having gained market share for the fourth-consecutive survey, it is now close to wrestling the number two spot away from Palm.

Good news for Apple – but it’s when we asked respondents about their planned smart phone purchases over the next 90 days that the full extent of the marketplace transformation becomes apparent.

An astonishing 56% of respondents who plan to purchase a smart phone in the next 90 days say they’re getting an Apple iPhone – a huge 21-pt leap from the previous survey.

The chart below shows just how dramatic a jump in market share this represents.

Going forward, RIM’s share of consumer planned purchases is set to take a significant hit over the next 90 days, falling 6-pts to 23%. Palm remains a far distant third with just 3%.

Note that the above chart focuses exclusively on the 10.5% of total survey respondents who say they plan on buying a smart phone during the next 90 days. The 10.5% represents a sharp jump from our previous survey in March, and it is the highest percentage of planned smart phone buyers we’ve recorded in a ChangeWave survey (see chart below).

So, what’s the most likely explanation for such a large-scale projected increase in smart phone buyers going forward? It’s the anticipation and publicity surrounding the imminent release of the 3G iPhone.

Another reason for Apple’s continued popularity is its incredible customer satisfaction rating. An extraordinary four-in-five iPhone owners (78%) report they’re Very Satisfied with their iPhone. RIM ranks second, with a highly respectable 54% of its customers saying they’re Very Satisfied. Palm (29%), while up a few points since our previous survey, still ranks near the bottom in terms of customer satisfaction.

In another positive for the new 3G iPhone, better than one-in-two current iPhone owners (55%) say they're Very Likely to buy the 3G iPhone for themselves or someone else in the future. And many don't plan to wait long. Among this group, half (50%) say they'll purchase within the first 90 days of release.

RIM Gets Set to Counterattack

While the 3G iPhone announcement has catapulted Apple into the lead over RIM in terms of planned consumer smart phone purchases, it should be remembered that RIM has a huge lead of its own in the corporate smart phone market. RIM is also still the leader among current owners in the consumer market.

Moreover, RIM isn’t sitting idly by while Apple roles out the 3G iPhone. The Canadian manufacturer has multiple plans in motion to counter Apple’s momentum among consumers – including an already announced new product release (the Bold) and two likely additional product releases (the Thunder and Kickstart).

Next week we’ll see what Alliance respondents have to say about RIM’s new counteroffensive – and how the smart phone wars continue to shake up the service provider space.

Get ready – multiple battles are underway.

Jim Woods co-wrote this article.

Source: Apple Ups The Ante With 3G iPhone - But RIM's Almost Ready to Counter