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Here's another approach to tracking the showdown between Apple Inc.'s iPhone and Research In Motion Ltd.'s BlackBerry: Look at their respective sales on eBay, where iPhone has shown a lot of interest lately.

Advanced Economic Research Systems has tracked sales on eBay over the past month, and the results may  raise eyebrows. BlackBerry daily sales on eBay have tumbled about 50 per cent from their peak, to about $49,000 (U.S.), putting iPhone sales well in the lead. Daily sales of the new 3G iPhone spiked to $176,000 soon after its debut, and have since fallen back to $142,000 - possibly because the phone's availability in retail outlets is improving.

Still, that's nearly triple the dollar amount of BlackBerrys sold. And although the market for the original iPhone is falling sharply, it is still outselling the BlackBerry in dollar terms, which isn't bad for an obsolete product.

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"It's a gauge of popularity on eBay," said Fred Speckeen, chief executive of Advanced Economic Research Systems. "And I guess the next logical question is: What kind of an audience is eBay?"

He believes the audience is sophisticated, with a statistically relevant number of wireless devices changing hands every day. As well, the majority of devices tend to be new - Mr. Speckeen's gut feeling is 75 per cent - which means that the figures wouldn't be skewed, say, by fanatically devoted BlackBerry owners refusing to give them up to the resale market.

"You could argue that BlackBerrys are a very well distributed product, so you don't need to go to eBay to get one," Mr. Speckeen said. As well, the eBay sales could reflect more tech enthusiasts rather than so-called enterprise buyers - that would be business folks who get their BlackBerrys through work.

But if the main battleground for growth in wireless devices is in the retail consumer market, eBay sales are saying a lot about the emerging iPhone threat to the RIM.

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