This is a guest post by Joe Pawlikowski. He edits BBGeeks, a site dedicated to helping BlackBerry users get the most out of their devices. If you would like to write for TheDolt’s Blog, do read our page Be My Guest; Write A Guest Post.
There was a time when the BlackBerry was not only the highest of high-end smartphones, but it was one of the only practical smartphones on the market. Competitors such as the T-Mobile Wing and the Motorola Q came and went, but none matched the relative completeness of the BlackBerry. Their dominance extended into 2007, when they released their 8800 line, which at the time was state of the art.
And then along came the iPhone, which made the BlackBerry seem primitive by comparison. Year after year Apple released a new model, each one creating more distance between the iPhone and the BlackBerry. In 2008 Android entered the game, and by 2009 Android, too, had surpassed the BlackBerry in terms of practical usability.
Both Android and Apple represent the high end of the smartphone market. As Simon described in a recent guest post, the BlackBerry has been relegated to mid-range. That’s a tough place for the former kind to reside. Yet the BlackBerry’s placement is indisputable. Even with their new devices, which contain high-end hardware, they remain behind both the iPhone and Android platforms. It raises a weighty question: what would make RIM high-end again? Here are a few things they need to do with their future phones to make it happen.
BlackBerry Needs To Go High-End By
One place where both Android and iPhone pummel the BlackBerry is in software. If you browse through the Android Market, the App Store, and App World, you’ll see the first two filled with popular, useful apps, while App World lags far behind. So many of the apps in App World are local radio station apps and e-books. Those inflate the overall numbers, but detract from the quality.
Part of the problem with previous BlackBerry platforms is that they weren’t attractive to developers. It wasn’t just the declining market share. The platform itself didn’t really attract developers. If RIM wants its future phones to gain any clout, they’ll have to make it attractive for developers. That means, first and foremost, avoiding Android’s issues with multiple device sizes. But it also means making it easy for developers to get devices and APKs ahead of releases, so they can create new apps and update their existing ones.
The main point:
if a smartphone lacks the hottest apps, people are going to ignore it. BlackBerry, Palm, and Windows Mobile learned this the hard way. If RIM is going to succeed it needs to make apps and software a priority.
Installing The Best Hardware
Thankfully, RIM has already shown signs that they’re minding the hardware. Starting with the AT&T BlackBerry Torch 9810, RIM has released a series of device with processors that rival the best on the market. Their screens feature improved resolution, and the devices themselves feel full and durable.
This is quite a departure from previous BlackBerry models. Even in 2010 RIM was releasing underpowered devices that couldn’t take full advantage of the device software. But clearly that has changed.
The status quo — even the higher-end status quo — will not hold. RIM needs to keep up with the market and continue creating devices that contain the best hardware the market provides. They do seem on this track. Not only does their latest line have improved hardware, but they’re talking about dual-core chips in their next line. That will keep them on a level with Apple and Android.
There is more to a device than hardware, of course. But a modern smartphone line cannot succeed without high-end hardware. As long as RIM evolves with the market, they should be fine on this front.
Changing The Game
Herein lies the biggest challenge for the BlackBerry, or really any smartphone brand that wants to compete. Why did the iPhone take the nation by storm? Because it redefined the smartphone. Why did Android eventually catch up? Because it provided features that the iPhone did not — and it evolved continuously while the iPhone remained static. If the BlackBerry wants to make a comeback, it has to redefine something we know about the smartphone. It’s not exactly an easy task.
Yet it’s something that BlackBerry will need if it’s going to again reach the highest end of the market. Filling App World with better and more popular apps is a necessary step along the way, as is stocking devices with high-end hardware. But there’s little chance that the BlackBerry will make a dent in the iPhone and Android dominance if it merely toes the line. Android and iPhone have already set the standard. Anyone who wants to compete with them has to raise the bar.
What can they do to change the game? That’s the beauty of all this: no one really knows until it happens. There are endless possibilities for RIM to ponder. But whatever it is, it has to be two things: 1) something that neither iPhone nor Android offers, and 2) something that people want, but don’t know that they want. If they knew they wanted it, we’d likely see it on smartphones already. But RIM’s challenge is to find something that’s missing and bring it to light. That’s what’s going to bring them back to the high end of the smartphone market.
No one said it would be easy. But the path is there for RIM to re-enter the high-end smartphone market. They’ll have to take pages from both Android and iPhone and then combine them with what has worked for the BlackBerry. But most importantly, they need to give us something new. Something that we didn’t even imagine possible. Otherwise they’ll be just another smartphone manufacturer that is constantly playing catchup with Android and iPhone.