The latest ChangeWave consumer smartphone industry survey reveals a two horse race for dominance between Research In Motion and Apple, and all at the expense of Palm.

ChangeWave surveyed 3,597 consumers across 17-24 March in order to determine their smartphone preferences and usage patterns. And while the survey showed RIM's Blackberry to be dominant in terms of market share, iPhone continues to gain converts and has many consumers already expressing the desire to buy one.

BlackBerry holds 42 per cent of the current US smartphone market, while Palm, with 16 per cent, continues to see its market share decline. Up and coming newcomer to the market, Apple, already has 9 per cent of the market - and customers like using an iPhone more than they like its competitors.

"The iPhone receives an astonishing 79 per cent Very Satisfied rating among its owners," ChangeWave said, "considerably ahead of all other manufacturers in the smartphone market including second place RIM (54 per cent). Palm (22 per cent) once again ranks at the bottom in terms of customer satisfaction."

The research also reveals that 35 per cent of respondents who plan to buy a smartphone in the coming quarter already want to purchase an iPhone. A similar survey in January revealed a 23 per cent preference, meaning the iPhone is gaining momentum.

“The biggest reasons for the surge are the recent Apple announcements on the iPhone Software Development Kit and the new 2.0 Operating System,” said Tobin Smith, founder of ChangeWave Research and editor of ChangeWave Investing.  “One-in-10 respondents now say they’re more likely to purchase an iPhone in the future because of the new smartphone software.”

And in related news, new research from iSuppli this morning confirms once again the extent to which iPhone users employ their device, while reports suggest the iPhone's Safari web browser should see an update soon.