The Hills Are Greener: Is BlackBerry Rotten Fruit?

The Hills Are Greener: Is BlackBerry Rotten Fruit?

Feb 4, 2013

iOS and Android are the clear frontrunners in the mobile horse race, but BlackBerry, once king of the mountain if we’re mixing up metaphonrs, has made a big push back to relevancy. RIM has re-christened themselves as BlackBerry (a company named after fruit, how stupid), and officially released their first two BlackBerry OS 10 devices, the flagship Z10 and the smaller, QWERTY-boasting Q10, in hopes that they will launch BlackBerry into a new world of relevance.

So, here’s the problem: why? Why should people care about the new BlackBerry 10 phones?

It starts with the Z10. General consensus seems to be that it’s a “nice” phone, but as Ars Technica points out in their review, it’s got state-of-the-art hardware from early 2012 in it (on par to the Galaxy S III, which is likely soon out the door) and just a general lack of interesting new features. Add in that it’s selling for $199 on a two-year deal (when Windows Phones are debuting at $99 or lower) and it’s a hard sell. If anything, BlackBerry should be pushing hardware keyboards, like the Q10, a bit more: it’s got a standout feature that could appeal not only to the QWERTY-loving base, but maybe also an extended audience looking to return to BlackBerry as tacticle keyboards continue their steep decline. In short, it stands out, and could give people an actual, tangible reason to go BlackBerry. Its bezel gestures are a good start, but not enough.

There is a lesson here for the Android market: you need to stand out. Samsung has succeeded in part by aping what Apple does to varying degrees, and then expanding out on it. The Galaxy Note may be mocked by some, but its success for Samsung is unquestionable, and its massive size and S Pen experience are unmatched by Apple. It’s got the kind of standout experience that makes it an actual alternative. Having slightly better specs isn’t enough – the iPhone 5 may have less RAM than the 2 GB phones getting released now, but it’s still winning plenty of benchmark and performance tests. You have to win on features and functionality. Of course, the fact that NFC has yet to take off is part of the problem as well: it would require varying competitors to get their act together and support it in a unified way, and while ISIS payments are coming, it’s taken way too long to actually execute. But that’s a story for another time.

The point is this: if you want to wrestle with the big dogs, you’ve got to be able to beat the big dogs. You can’t just walk around acting like it, the reason that Apple got into its leadership position (and have no doubt, their massive revenues and profits put them there, more so than any market share numbers) is by finding ways to top everyone else, not by trying to play at everyone else’s level.