I visited a very cool mobile phone store called imo (Independent Mobile) the other day that carries more smart phones than any brick and mortar store that I have ever been in. You can get everything from Palm OS, to Windows Mobile, to BlackBerry OS, to Symbian OS powered devices. I heard that they could even get some of the Linux powered devices in if you asked them nicely.

In talking with one of the employees I asked them as far as the smart phones go, what is really hot right now. Since imo sells everything, they should have a good feel for what people off the street were interested in. As you can probably imagine, when people first walked in the door interested in PDA phones, BlackBerry was usually the first brand name to roll off of there tongue. You might, however, be surprised as to what they usually walked out of the door with.

The imo employee proceeded to tell me that there were two types of smart phone shoppers that generally came through the door. The kind that wanted a BlackBerry and new it. These types usually already owned a BlackBerry and were just upgrading to a newer device or where changing carriers an needed a device that worked on whatever network they were switching over to. The overwhelming majority of these types of BlackBerry shoppers knew that they were going to be hooking their new BlackBerry to a corporate BES or at least that their IT guy would set them up to get their “work” email.

The second type of shopper was that kind that wanted a BlackBerry or something like. These folks just wanted a cool phone that they could get there email on. They almost all refer to what they want as to “Something like a BlackBerry” but the imo employee said that they generally had no idea what a BlackBerry really until he explained it to them.

Once the shoppers understood that they could get email on other smart phones in the same way that you could a BlackBerry using BlackBerry Internet Service only, they overwhelmingly abandoned the notion of getting a BlackBerry for some other smart phone with “Cooler” features. The imo employee told me that when shoppers started to compare the email, address book, calendar, and cost of the BlackBerry service, to these same features plus, wi-fi, MP3, removable media, streaming video, cool slide out keyboards (you wouldn’t believe how many people buy MDA type devices just because of the slide out keyboard), camera phones (you probably would believe how many people buy these things soley because they have a camera phone and BlackBerries don’t), and other non-BlackBerry features.

If you went by the OS and not by individual device sales the imo employee said that BlackBerry OS to Windows Mobile was about a wash, however, if you take out all the shoppers who were hooking their BlackBerries up to a corporate BES, the ratio changed from about 50/50 to 90/10 in favor of Windows Mobile devices.

As for the hottest selling device, the imo employee thought that it was the Treo 700w, however, the BlackBerry 8700c and 7130e gave it serious competition.

I should note that this was not an official scientific survery, it was just a 3 minute conversation with the person that sold me my new Plantronics Bluetooth wireless headset…