[IMGCAP(1)]For those who missed it, Research in Motion (soon to be known as simply BlackBerry) on January 30, unveiled their hoped for savior - the BlackBerry 10 - at a press event in New York City. For many the BlackBerry was their first, second and sometimes third smartphone, but somewhere along the line the BlackBerry lost its cool factor.
I know for me the coolness wore off right about the time the iPhone was released in June 2007 and for the first time ever Web browsing from a mobile device was on par with the desktop experience. RIM took years to reach the realization that they needed to radically re-design their operating system for the reality of the modern smartphone experience.
Now, after taking well over a year off to finish this long overdue revamping of the operating system - will BlackBerry regain their prominence?
I am betting BlackBerry will largely be ignored by the general public and the reason is simple: there’s simply no compelling “must have feature” on the BlackBerry 10. In fact, here’s 10 reasons why your next smartphone won’t be a BlackBerry 10:
1. Requiring A Separate BlackBerry Plan is So 2003: Back in 2003 when BlackBerry was first widely used as an email and web browser it made sense that their data first was filtered through. BlackBerry’s servers where it was streamlined and forwarded on to your device. Fast forward to modern times and aside from the standard data plan sold by carriers - there is no other platform which requires you to subscribe to an additional data plan and filter your data through a third party such as RIM requires. Although RIM have said there may be some ways you can use a BlackBerry without a BlackBerry specific data plan - it’s likely you will need a BlackBerry plan in order to fully utilize all features.
A BlackBerry data plan is additional to your everyday smartphone data plan. Typically there’s no additional cost though this plan routes most of your data through their servers where it’s optimized and sent to your BlackBerry handheld. What’s so bad about requiring a BlackBerry plan? It’s another point of failure you shouldn’t have to deal with. By routing your data through a BlackBerry server you are at risk for data interruption should that BlackBerry server go down (as they’ve done in the past).
The era of separate BlackBerry data plans should have ended years ago. But there’s good money to be made in requiring you to use a BlackBerry plan so RIM keeps requiring the plan - even as the market has moved on and competitive offerings from Apple and Android have no such separate data plan requirements.
2. Nobody You Know Uses BlackBerry Messenger: One of the early reasons many people flocked to BlackBerry was an instant message-like service called BlackBerry Messenger (BBM). This service was included with your BlackBerry plan and allowed you to chat with friends without paying extra for text messaging. There are two problems now with BBM -- (A) Many smartphone plans include unlimited text messaging and (B) Chances are nobody you know still uses BlackBerry and BBM is only available on BlackBerry. It’s highly unlikely BlackBerry Messenger will be enough to attract anyone except the truly hardcore BlackBerry fan back to the platform.
3. Running Programs In The Background Eats Battery: BlackBerry has made big noise about how their newest BlackBerry 10 devices will multi-task. But that eats battery life like crazy and early reviews report depleted BlackBerry 10 batteries by supper time. That’s a far cry from the BlackBerry of old which used to run for days on a single charge.
4. Porting Apps from Android Look Like They Were From Android: At launch, BlackBerry is claiming 70,000 or more applications. This number is reportedly chock full of lower quality apps that you’re not likely to have heard about (or used). Don’t let the total numbers fool you - the key metric is “quality apps”.
BlackBerry is allowing Android developers an easy way to port their applications to the BlackBerry 10. Porting an application involves using an automated tool to rewrite code. That code almost always runs slower and is more awkward to use because of differing user interface standards between platforms. If you want to use Android apps - buy an Android phone.
5. The Keyboard That You Once Loved Likely to Be Gone: The BlackBerry Z10 flagship phone does away with the physical keyboard. There will be a second device - the BlackBerry Q10 (visually a twin to the BlackBerry 9930) which ships a little later than the Z10. If you absolutely need a keyboard, you’re going to need to wait for the Q10. Ultimately the world has moved on from keyboard devices. To make things even more complicated, there are reports that not all carriers in North America will have both devices so if you’re on a carrier with no plans to carry the Q10 and you love keyboards you’re stuck.
6. Neat Tricks Like The Flow Interface Will Be Copied: One of BlackBerry 10’s cool features which they’ve been showing off is a Flow Interface. It lets you flip easily back and forth between data, which is shown in different programs. If this is popular it will take developers about a day to release similar software for Android and perhaps even Apple’s iOS.
7. The Cool Virtual Keyboard Can and Will Be Copied Too: The new touch keyboard on the BlackBerry Z10 looks cool with some innovative use of autocomplete, which allows you to flick whole works from the keyboard up to the typing area. Again, cool but very easily copied.
8. The Time Shift Camera, Yep That Too Will Be Copied: BlackBerry 10 features a time shift camera, which allows you to take one picture of a person and if, for example, their eyes are shut you can flip through several other images taken automatically during your picture and pull up the best image of the person’s face. A great concept, but if it’s popular this will be duplicated 100 times over with other apps on competing platforms.
9. BlackBerry Browser is a Battery Hog: The BlackBerry browser has been promised to be great since dinosaurs roamed the earth. But unless you need Flash (BlackBerry is one of the only smartphone devices to continue to offer this battery and process hogging video format) there’s nothing more to be gained from BlackBerry 10, which uses the same Webkit-based browser as competitors.
10. BlackBerry Balance Will Remind You That Big Brother’s Watching: A unique feature called BlackBerry Balance promises to give you a separate section of the BlackBerry 10 where you retain personal information separate from your work data. Perhaps this will be attractive to some, but to most it’s likely to only serve as a reminder that their company owns everything on their device.
BlackBerry 10 is not likely to win many converts from existing smartphone platforms such as Android or iOS. What it may do is stop the defections of existing users for a while, but long term it’s unlikely many will be making a BlackBerry 10 their next smartphone.
For more interest in the BlackBerry 10, see CPA/comedian Greg Kyte's unique take on the long-awaited release.
Wayne Schulz is the founder of Schulz Consulting. He began his career working for two professional service organizations and managing their consulting divisions. He has been active not only with the implementation of Sage 100 ERP software(formerly MAS 90 and MAS 200), but often is engaged to help clients design or evaluate their current accounting procedures.
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