BlackBerry 10: One Brand, One Promise or Lost Brand, Lost Promise?
Yasir is a member of The Motley Fool Blog Network -- entries represent the personal opinion of the blogger and are not formally edited.
RIM's (NASDAQ: BBRY) BlackBerry 10 event was one of the most awaited tech events of 2013, and with that event, BlackBerry is back! Or is it?
RIM slowly made its way into the consumer market after targeting a niche audience of government and corporate individuals, but failed to dominate the smartphones market after the release of Apple's (NASDAQ: AAPL) iPhone and the Android OS. The stage was set, the wait was over, and RIM's event successfully ended after unveiling Alicia Keys as BlackBerry's global creative director. CEO Thorsten Heins also mentioned the change of RIM's name to Blackberry, with a vision of one brand and one promise. However, two new Blackberry 10 smartphones, the Z10 and the Q10, were the headlines of the event. Blackberry gambled its future on BB10, and the outcome still looks uncertain after the recent fall in share prices.
While most people claim that Blackberry 10 won't be able to attract Apple, Android, and WP users, it is still good news for loyal Blackberry users. The Z10 smartphone is a completely reengineered and redesigned smartphone featuring a 4.2 inch touchscreen, which will compete against the iPhone, Nokia's (NYSE: NOK) Lumia line, and Android smartphones. BB10 also brings several other features, including the hub, peek and flow. The hub brings all the messages from email accounts and social accounts while the flow feature brings impressive multitasking on smartphones. The flow type multitasking has never been seen on smartphones before and BB10 certainly brings something new and unique in the smartphones market with its new devices. This new multitasking feature aims to compete against Apple, Android and Nokia's way of multitasking. Apple's iPhone and iPad have always lacked "true multi-tasking" which is one of the reasons why a lot of Android users prefer Google's OS over Apple iOS. Similarly, Nokia's Lumia line also lacks "true multitasking" as some users feel that it is clunky at times and you can't force close applications. The latest Lumia 920 does bring improved and updated multitasking because of the updates in Windows Phone 8 and switching between apps is more snappier. BB10 brings "Playbook like" true multitasking to its smartphones with some major improvements, which is a great thing. The new video chat feature was also unveiled in the BB Messenger which is, again, a great news but only for Blackberry fanatics.
The BB10 smartphones also come with a totally new app store with over 70,000 apps but this is more of catching up to iOS and Android's nearly a million apps rather than bringing something unique. Nokia's Windows smartphones, however, still has around 100,000 apps as Microsoft plans to match Android and Apple's number. So, Blackberry did come strong in terms of apps and stands in a similar position as Nokia in the number of apps available even though WP had very few apps on release. Also, Heins claims that BB10 phones have the best touch screen typing experience with next generation word prediction and flick typing. Other than that, there aren't many unique features to talk about as Android phones, iPhones and Nokia's Lumia phones are already offering a lot.
One of the "bad" things about BB10 is that it's confusing. I know a lot of Blackberry users would disagree with me but it's true. Free Z10 devices were distributed to most of the people who attended the BB10 conference and when given to the general public, people found it really hard to even open up an application. Users were having trouble opening up the email app, closing an app and even unlocking the screen. Yes, Android phones were also confusing at first but everything was straight forward with the home button. Nokia's Lumia 920 was also somewhat confusing at start as it was a totally new WP8 OS, however, a lot of people are already used to it and the Lumia's Home, Back and Search button makes it easier for users operate the device It will take time for people to get used to the new gesture-based operating system without any home or back button and some are already finding it frustrating.
The lack of quality apps is also an issue in BB10. Yes, Skype and Whatsapp are available along with Angry Birds but Instagram, Netflix, Hulu, Angry Bird games other than Star Wars, Temple Run and even Youtube is missing from the app store. This will change and thousands of apps will be coming in every few weeks, however, currently the app store is still tiny compared to the Apple and Google stores. Similarly, Nokia's Lumia line also lacks some key quality apps even though there are substitutes available for nearly all the apps missing, such as Instagram. Nokia has also done quite well in the Ovi App Store as the app store for low-end Nokia devices also has over 100,000 apps suited for the low-end devices.
Overall, Blackberry played more of a catch up rather than unveiling something totally unique. The basic smartphone features are there including a great camera, an app store that will grow, a powerful dual core processor, a new tabbed browser and several more. The most liked security features are still present along with a unique OS and a gesture-based interface. CNET Editor Jessica Dolcourt stated that the current Blackberry users will be delighted with the totally new and polished user interface along with some new impressive features, however, this won't be enough to attract current Android, Apple and Windows Phone users. There are millions of happy Android and Apple users who don't want to switch and Nokia's Lumia line is also growing at a steady rate. Nokia's CEO Stephen Elop claimed that he sees improvement every single day, despite Windows 8's slow growth. Also, Elop recently said that he plans to catch up to the big players in the market and aims at keeping up with Samsung and Apple.
Forrester analyst Charles Golvin gave a strong statement that Blackberry, at most, can just maintain its current market share. He also stated that their consumer information showed that more than half Blackberry users will be getting new smartphones this year and less than 2 in 5 users will go for a Blackberry smartphone. Blackberry used to be a major player in the mobile phones industry and Blackberry smartphones were real smartphones back then. After the release of Apple's iPhone, Blackberry faced a major blow. Steve Job's iPhone launch event is still seen as one of the biggest changes in the mobile phones industry. Blackberry finds itself in a similar position as Nokia after the release of its Windows 8 smartphones. While Nokia already has different market segments with its different smartphone, Blackberry's future depends on BB10. It is almost certain that Blackberry will not be able to attract around 70 to 80 percent of the global smartphones market which is dominated by Apple and Android but might be able to maintain its 80 million users. Others say that Blackberry has no future and we only need to see when it folds.
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