Apple’s iPhone is biting at the heels of current consumer smartphone favourite, RIM’s BlackBerry, with more consumers than ever now favouring the Apple phone.

ChangeWave Research director, Paul Carton, dropped us a line today to let us know the findings of ChangeWave’s latest Consumer Smart Phone survey, titled, “Apple Soars Behind iPhone 3GS Momentum”.

The September 14-21 survey offers a look at the impact of the new Apple and Palm offerings – along with an update on Research In Motion and overall smartphone industry trends going forward.

The survey of 4,255 consumers shows strong growth continues in the smart phone market, with 39% of respondents now reporting they own a smart phone – up 2-pts since June and nearly double the level of two years ago.

“Looking ahead,” ChangeWave informs, “while the current survey shows a slight dip in consumer buying plans for the next 90 days, that’s to be expected in the aftermath of the huge iPhone 3GS and Palm Pre product launches back in June.”

Interstingly, 11.6% of consumer surveyed now say they plan on buying a smart phone in the next 90 days – 3-pts less than in June but still one of the highest percentages ever recorded in a ChangeWave survey.

With 40% share, RIM remains the current market share leader among consumers, but has fallen 1-point since the previous survey and is at its lowest level in two years.

Apple – which now has 30% share – has “seen a huge market share jump since the previous survey,” ChangeWave tells us. “Not only has the iPhone 3GS release enabled them to gain 5-pts overall – for the first time it has also placed them within striking distance of the number one spot in the consumer market.”

Palm (7%) remains far behind in third place, but we note that this is the first survey in nearly two years where its share hasn’t fallen – and that’s a clearly encouraging sign.

There’s more: Apple remains the leader in terms of planned buying going forward — 36% of those who plan to purchase a smart phone in the next 90 days say they’ll get an iPhone.

More important, the iPhone continues to maintain the highest customer satisfaction rating in the industry among major cell phone manufacturers — with 74% of owners reporting they’re Very Satisfied with their iPhone.

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