Apple and Research in Motion are brushing aside competitors in the smartphone market, according to research from ChangeWave which claims customer satisfaction among iPhone and BlackBerry users is very high.

ChangeWave says Apple leads the pack, with 79 percent of iPhone users 'very satisfied' with the handset, while BlackBerries hold a 54 percent satisfaction rating.

BlackBerry users like one feature the best - email, with 56 percent noting it as the feature they liked the best. "No other feature comes even close in terms of popularity," ChangeWave said.

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iPhone users, however, like multiple features of the device. Its seamless integration of a phone, iPod and internet browser is the leading feature, with 36 percent of customers noting it as the one thing they like best. However the touchscreen interface was the best feature for 27 percent of users; it's ease of use was most important to 16 percent and Safari appealed to 5 percent of those surveyed.

Respondent BOB04545 said: "I love the iPhone. It is revolutionary. I love being able to jump on the internet, send email, get maps, weather forecasts, instant message, and make phone calls."

The speed of AT&T's EDGE network in the US and lack of copy-&-paste were castigated as the worst features of the device, the researchers found.

"Both Apple and RIM dominate the US smartphone industry and are in the process of overwhelming the competition," said ChangeWave research analyst, Paul Carton. "Each has a super-loyal cadre of users that fervently support their phone brand - and each has extraordinary room to grow."

Carton also noted that consumers are now moving to favour smartphones when purchasing new handsets, "both Apple and Research In Motion are the big winners. In other words, just as the Apple iPhone has captured the hearts and minds of its user base, so has the RIM BlackBerry."

The research notes that both companies retain key advantages, with Apple's soon-to-ship iPhone Software 2.0 likely to generate renewed interest in its handsets. Consumers say the top features they'd like to see in the iPhone include: 3G support, third-party software, GPS, email integration and voice recognition - features many of which are anticipated to debut in iPhone Software 2.0.

"The bottom line in this horse race is Apple and Research In Motion are both giant winners. The rest of the smartphone manufacturers lose."