Research in Stasis: A Consumer's Qualms with BlackBerry
Lyons is a member of The Motley Fool Blog Network -- entries represent the personal opinion of the blogger and are not formally edited.
Call me a yellow journalist, but in the wake of October's trainwreck and November's hiccup, I can’t help but put Research In Motion (NASDAQ: BBRY), the Canadian telecom giant adored by suits and (increasingly) ignored by everyone else, in my crosshairs. A few years back, under the impression that I would one day be a globe-trotting businessman*, I made my entrance into smartphone-dom with the purchase of a BlackBerry Bold. My fondness for alliteration notwithstanding, I was attracted to the device’s powerful, understated appearance, not to mention the promise of impeccably streamlined email integration. I left the Verizon store with my future ahead of me, and the means to get there nestled quietly in my pocket.
Twenty some odd months later, I am unequivocal in my conviction to switch to another brand of smartphone. More to the point: I am dead set on abandoning Blackberry. Coming soon is a look under the hood, at the failures, financials, and possible futures of Research in Motion, but for now, here are three reasons why I, the BlackBerry consumer, am abandoning ship:
1) Their handling of the October outage was absolutely abysmal.
And to delve a bit into the personal: it cost me. Literally. When I noticed my email service was lagging on DD (Down Day) 1, I turned to Google Search for a quick fix. After close to an hour of fiddling around, both on crackBerry forums and with my device, I “resent my book” and, having received confirmations of everything being in order on all my email accounts, breathed easy as I returned to my regularly scheduled life.
Can you guess how this ends? The email had actually been sent a day earlier, “tomorrow” actually meant “today”, and I actually ended up losing money and seriously inconveniencing a nice lady who barely made her flight. And what do I get from the fellers at RIM by way of heads-up, or even apology? On DD1, when the problem was painfully apparent and I was literally searching Google for reasons why my BlackBerry wasn’t working: nothing. In terms of the apology that did come, too little, too late.
So there’s that. Also:
2) All of their proprietary software is boring, redundant, or both.
Nobody uses BBM anymore. Nobody ever will use BBM Music. I can’t name the other exclusive features BlackBerry has to offer, because I’ve never come close to using them. Why would I, considering the mediocrity (and that’s being generous) of what should be my phone’s bread-and-butter apps: web browsing, GPS, voice dialing, PC integration…even the Bing search feature, which I initially enjoyed, eventually fell victim to the load times and error screens. Sure, the thing got email, but after a year or so, that didn’t really make it a “smart” phone; by 2009, with the Apple (NASDAQ: AAPL) iPhone chugging along and the Google (NASDAQ: GOOG) Droid making serious headway, my BlackBerry was just barely earning a gentleman’s C.
Finally, and speaking of email:
3) "It's really good with email" isn't a good sell anymore. And now that it isn't, neither is Blackberry.
Having mistaken it for the third stop on my tour of the Famous DC French Fry Vendors, I wandered into a café a few weeks back that just so happened to feed out into the foyer a high-powered law firm. Now, for discretion’s sake, I won’t say the name of the firm, but I will say that it was Patton Boggs. Anyway, as is fairly common when in a law office, I ran into a lawyer, who was using an iPhone in what appeared to be a businesslike manner. Which, it turns out, he was: that past month the IT department had given Apple products the go-ahead, and attorneys and staff alike were now offered a choice in their company phone package.
The point of the story is this: all smartphones are email-savvy, and as that becomes more emphatically the case (creators of the botched iPhone Gmail app: I’m looking at you), utilitarian boasts—“we are the most efficient business phone!”—will lose their luster to questions of aesthetic, elegance, and, as always, innovation. Now I’m just one man, but in my humble consumer opinion, BlackBerry ranks dead last in all three of those categories. That’s why I’m tentatively bearish on BlackBerry, and why I’m definitely taking my business elsewhere.
*As opposed to a street-crossing McDonald's patron.
Lyons George does not hold a position in any of the above-mentioned companies. He used to hold a BlackBerry Bold up to his ear, mostly for telephone conversations, until one day he threw it into an oncoming train.