RIM’s BlackBerry Smartphones Need a Lesson from Apple

Aug 8th, 2010 | By technologynews | Category: Technology

With the Aug. 12 debut of BlackBerry Torch on the AT&T network,
Research In Motion hopes to rekindle the ardor that American audiences
once felt toward its super-secure, super-fast e-mailing smartphones
affections that have more recently been turned toward Apples iPhone
and the astounding number of high-end handsets running Googles Android
operating system.

The Torch features a first-ever in BlackBerry design a multitouch display plus a RIM keypad and it will be the first to run RIMs renovated new OS, BlackBerry 6.
And still, the phone maker may be setting itself up for disappointment,
partly of its own doing. While Apple has slowly ingratiated the iPhone
to enterprise users, RIM has likewise worked to gain users outside of
its well-established enterprise base which ultimately may prove the
harder direction to move in.

Despite its growing presence in the consumer market, its main claim
to fame and relevance is as a provider of highly secure and
reliable email service, Analyst Ken Hyers, with Technology Business
Research (TBR), told eWEEK. The device itself is almost secondary, and
I expect that most buyers of the Torch, at least initially, will be
corporate users upgrading from their existing BlackBerry handsets. This
means that RIM, more than other handset manufacturers, can get away
with products that are not as cutting edge, since the service is the
thing, not the device.

Consumers, however, have little tolerance for a brand new device running short of cutting edge.

They could have at least given the damn thing a better screen, Gizmodos Matt Buchanan complained in an early review, echoing the (general) sentiment of a number of journalists
who were given the device in advance of its launch. Engadget reviewer
Josh Topolsky similarly offered: Its tough to feel excited about the
BlackBerry Torch and OS 6 after heavy testing.

The engineering-focused RIM, TBRs Hyers explained, needs to now put
more emphasis on product design from an appearance standpoint.

This is something that both Apple and others do very well, and is a
real weakness for RIM, Hyers told eWEEK. I do not think they are in
danger of losing their relevance, because their email product is still
unique and the industry gold standard, but they are definitely giving
up sales opportunities by not focusing on product design like they

Analyst Neil Mawston, with Strategy Analytics, says the Torch is at
least a step in the right direction for RIM. Its best BlackBerry to
date, itll help RIM to if not attract new customers stem the loss
of current customers to Apple or Android, as well as help AT&T, as
it faces the loss of its exclusive rights to the iPhone.

In a July 30 research note, Mawston noted that RIM posted the
highest year-on-year growth of any of the top-five handset makers, but
nonetheless described RIM as sorely needing a hit with BlackBerry 6. 

The Torch is a sizeable step forward for BlackBerry, but it is not
an Android or iPhone killer, Mawston told eWEEK. The Torch’s design
lacks the wow factor of the iPhone, while it has a smaller screen and
slower processor than many of the Android superphones that are emerging
such as the Samsung Galaxy S.

For an established player such as RIM, theres still a little time to get it right.

The Torch 1 is a good start, said Mawston, but it’s going to
need to move fast and deliver an even better Torch 2 in 2011 if it
wants to maintain momentum. 

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