By now, you probably know that the iPhone beat the BlackBerry in the third quarter. But did you also know that, according to researcher NPD Group, Apple's (NASDAQ:AAPL) killer smartphone bumped off rivals in its bid to be the top U.S. handset?

The top five, in order of domestic units sold in Q3, were:

  1. iPhone 3G
  2. Motorola's (NYSE:MOT) RAZR V3 (all models)
  3. Research In Motion's (NASDAQ:RIMM) BlackBerry Curve (all models)
  4. LG Rumor
  5. LG enV2

Winning in good markets and bad ...
What this list won't tell you is how tough it's been to sell handsets lately. NPD reported a 15% decline in unit sales year-over-year. Handset revenue fell 10% to $2.9 billion.

The good news? Average phone selling price rose 6% to $88, which means that cell phones are out, smartphones are in. "The displacement of the RAZR by the iPhone 3G represents a watershed shift in handset design from fashion to fashionable functionality," said Ross Rubin, director of industry analysis for NPD, in the press release. "Four of the five best-selling handsets in the third quarter were optimized for messaging and other advanced Internet features."

That's awful news for Motorola, whose compact RAZR had been the top seller for 12 consecutive quarters. So, too, for lightweight handset sellers LG and Samsung, and, to a lesser degree, Nokia (NYSE:NOK). But it's really great news for Apple and RIM. I'd also give a tip of the cap to Palm (NASDAQ:PALM) here, were it still relevant in the smartphone market.

But, again, it's the iPhone that tops them all. Not so much because of innovation, though it is, but because of distribution. Partnerships with AT&T (NYSE:T) and Best Buy (NYSE:BBY) have allowed Apple to seed the iPhone into thousands of U.S. retail locations.

Looking at the numbers, I'd say the strategy is taking root.

Brrrrrrrring! It's related Foolishness calling: