This is a guest post by Joe Pawlikowski. If you want to guest post on this blog, check out the guidelines here.
Have you traded in your BlackBerry yet? According to a recent report, BlackBerry users are trading in their devices at record paces, mostly to take advantage of the new iPhone 4S. The spike in trade-ins also coincides with the nearly week-long BlackBerry outage that had many customers up in arms. This is just another in a long line of BlackBerry misfortunes that have left the brand’s image tarnished. It seems like as good a time as any to ask the question: What, if anything, does the BlackBerry have over Android and the iPhone? Far too many people will immediately answer with a loud “nothing!” but that ignores many positives the BlackBerry brings to the table. Here are just a few things that the BlackBerry still has going for it.
A Simple Platform
The iPhone and Android are full of bells and whistles. In fact, in many cases the bells and whistles sell the phone more than the phone itself. Consumers have voted with their wallets, and the conclusion is clear: they want devices that not only provide the basics, but also bring them a wide array of apps, games, and utilities. But while this may well represent a majority opinion, it does not represent a universal one. Some people want to keep it simple.
If more developers created apps and games for the BlackBerry, then Research In Motion would certainly welcome that. It’s one big reason why the BlackBerry lags behind the competition. But in some ways it’s better that there isn’t an enormous suite of apps and games. Many of them amount to nothing but distractions, and that defeats the purpose of the BlackBerry. Since its foray into the mainstream in the early 2000s, the BlackBerry has been all about productivity.
There is still a segment of the population, mostly the business-minded types, who prefer the simplicity of the BlackBerry. There might not be a ton of apps, but there are some very powerful apps that help keep people organized. The BlackBerry actually comes with comprehensive calendar and contacts features, plus memos and tasks. Using just the native tools anyone can stay on task and avoid distraction. And there is certainly value in that to some users.
Meanwhile, iPhone users just got distracted by the latest play in Words With Friends.
Even as the iPhone and then Android overtook BlackBerry, it still retained a big advantage in one area. Today the BlackBerry still has the best messaging system on the planet. The versatility of BlackBerry inboxes, combined with the indispensable BBM — not to mention the physical keyboard — makes BlackBerry tops in the business when it comes to messaging services.
Again, this harkens back to simplicity. When people ask me for smartphone advice, I always make one point clear up front: if you don’t need your email wherever you go, you probably don’t need a smartphone. If the person then says that they don’t need their email everywhere, I usually recommend the iPhone or Android. If they do need email everywhere, then we get to talking about the BlackBerry. The push services are second-to-none.
Sure, there are issues, such as the aforementioned outage, but that just reinforces the idea. The outage happened because all BlackBerry messages are necessarily filtered through RIM servers. These servers not only help deliver email instantly, but also ensure security. It is, in other words, what makes the BlackBerry a BlackBerry. And it’s why the BlackBerry still tops its competitors when it comes to email and instant messaging.
Let’s not underestimate the physical keyboard, either. Again, an iPhone user has no use for a physical keyboard. For them it just takes up valuable screen space. But for the messaging-focused user, it can mean everything. A friend once related an anecdote about his BlackBerry. He’s a lawyer at a bit New York City firm, and he’s constantly taking cross-country flights. “When you have to coach a junior associate through a brief, you have to soothe an angry client, and the flight attendant has already told you three times to shut off your phone, you absolutely need that keyboard to get everything done. If I had an iPhone I don’t close the loop on any of those messages.”
Make no mistake: the new BlackBerry Dakota — a/k/a the 9900 — has the best keyboard of any smartphone I’ve ever used. It makes for lightning-fast typing. I’m willing to bet that I could double the speed of fast iPhone typers, while maintaining a higher level of accuracy. No need for autocorrect here.
A potentially exciting future
The iPhone and Android have certainly had their days in the sun. Both have made exciting announcements that have created buzz in the industry. And they’ll surely make more exciting announcements about new features. But really, the big things they already have covered. They’ve established their platforms, so really all we’re getting now is more bells and whistles. Yet the BlackBerry has an opportunity.
In early 2012 Research In Motion plans to unveil its new line of smartphones. These will no longer run the old BlackBerry platform. Instead they will run what the company is calling BBX. It comes from QNX, the operating system that runs the BlackBerry PlayBook, and, of course, BlackBerry. It will bring those features we talked about above — specifically messaging, calendar, and contacts — to a new, more powerful platform.
Yes, this will add bells and whistles and take away some of the simplicity of the BlackBerry. But those simple features will still be present. At the same time, the BlackBerry will have the best multitasking system in the business to go along with all these great features. We’ve already seen RIM equip its devices with top of the line hardware — its BlackBerry 7 smartphones are blazing fast and have visually stunning displays. Now they’re going to combine that with software that can handle the modern mobile user’s needs.
As a whole, the BlackBerry platform simply does not stand up to the iPhone or Android. While it does stand out in some areas, it lags behind in almost all others. It’s really no wonder why customers are leaving for the competition. But RIM does have a bright future ahead of it. With some exciting developments on the horizon, we could see the BlackBerry once again rise to glory, alongside the iPhone and Android devices.
Joe Pawlikowski is the editor of BBGeeks.com, a site that helps BlackBerry users get the most out of their devices offering tips and reviews on everything from games to BlackBerry car mounts.
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