The fact that I speak English (at least, I try) makes me very insensitive to certain issues that I only realized last week, when I read that the BlackBerry Storm would be officially released in Brazil. But I have a very good reason to be insensitive: I am not running a multi-million dollar company. What is RIM’s excuse? RIM should be very aware of these issues and have addressed them a long time ago.
The announcement says: “Be Prepared. Research In Motion and TIM’s (Brazilian carrier) weather forecast warns you of a storm of changes heading towards Brazil and hitting on March 10. More information coming soon.”
Be prepared, alright. I certainly expect a “storm,” but not a pretty one, and who can blame me for that? I read articles and BlackBerry forums quite often and I know that the Storm has been disappointing a lot of people. A lot. In fact, I know one huge BlackBerry fan who has had just about every single BlackBerry model in the last few years. Please excuse me while I consult him briefly on this matter.
Luciano: – Hello, Greg. Pray tell, isn’t it true that you loathe the Storm so much that you have plans to shoot yours with a firearm in your backyard – in Australia, where it is perfectly legal – and videotape the experience as soon as the novelty wears off for your beloved teenage daughter?
Greg Myers: – Yes, Luc. It certainly is.
Luciano: – Thank you, Greg.
Greg Myers: – No problem, mate.
OK. Back to the Storm and its many problems. That’s when most of you out there get to say “Oh, don’t worry, the latest firmware updates have solved many if not most of the problems.” OK, stop right there. What the hell is a “firmware update”? Go around on the streets with a clipboard and a smile and ask people if they know. Not everyone is prone to spend considerable time on the internets, you know that? And, for those who do, what is their experience like? Well, just see for yourself.
Here is exhibit A. That’s the Brazilian carrier Claro Web site. It requires Flash, so don’t bother trying to get in from your mobile. You’ll have to choose a state to get in. I live in the state of São Paulo, but it doesn’t really matter in the issue at hand. Just pick any one. Once you are in, have fun trying to find information about BlackBerry plans. You don’t speak Portuguese? No problem, just look for the word “BlackBerry”. Finding the devices is very easy, but can you find details on the plans? I can’t. Can you find details on how to download and install a firmware upgrade? Geez, I even had a giggling fit when I wrote this last question.
Here is exhibit B. That’s the Brazilian carrier Vivo Web site. It doesn’t require Flash for everything, but I doubt you can see much from your mobile. Same drill: click around as much as you can and try to find the damn “BlackBerry” name somewhere in that ridiculous maze of a site. Want some help? Here it is: the plans. Hey, do you see what I see? The iPhone is mentioned right there. Is anyone surprised? Information on the BlackBerry is hidden a little further, here. And this page offers some basic suport, but it’s generic to all cell phones, not just BlackBerry phones. And it certainly doesn’t mention firmware upgrades.
Exhibit C is more encouraging. Although there is no mention of “BlackBerry” on the front page or even on the “Data Plans” page, BlackBerry phones are easily found on the “Devices” page. It gets better: if you click around aimlessly for long enough, the corner of your eye might catch the word “Download” in a menu that shows up occasionally and leads you to this page inside the blackberry.com domain. This is good particularly because this is the carrier that is going to launch the Storm in Brazil shortly. But wait. First problem: the drop-down menu doesn’t offer any downloads for the Bold, their latest model. You think the Bold doesn’t need it? Wrong! I’ve seen people complain about the Bold in Brazilian forums. A firmware upgrade solved their woes, but those are people who hang around the internets, they actually have forum accounts. Other Bold owners with better things to do must be cursing their Bolds daily. Second problem: the latest firmware available for the 8300 Curve in this page is… 188.8.131.52.
And the latest firmware available for the Pearl is 184.108.40.206. Hey, 2007 called. It wants its firmware back! So which firmware versions for the Storm can we expect to find on this page when the unhappy Storm owners need one?
Now it’s time to introduce this very nice page. It features firmware download links for probably every carrier in the world that carries the BlackBerry. Nice page, really. But I am so involved with the BlackBerry that I actually write for BerryReview, sometimes articles as long as this one, and even I didn’t have that link at hand. I didn’t have it bookmarked, I had to google and check several search results to find that page. What chance does an “ordinary” BlackBerry user have?
So that page is there and features links to 5 Brazilian carriers. I am on Claro, so I choose it first, and this is how I am greeted:
RIM, what Junior High School dropout convinced you that we speak Spanish in Brazil?!! Or are you so hopelessly broke that you can’t afford a translator to give Brazilian consumers really adequate assistance? What have you been doing with all the money that millions of users worldwide give you every month?
I tried the other carriers and saw that some of them have 4.5 firmwares available, but not the latest. Storm owners are very likely to suffer with the world of pain that the Storm has been inflicting upon the innocent if that’s all the firmware they are expected to count on.
I certainly have rambled long enough, haven’t I? This is an assessment of what awaits any misguided Brazilian soul who ventures into buying the infamous BlackBerry Storm through a Brazilian carrier. Even if (big IF here) it lands here with the latest firmware, the latest firmware doesn’t solve all the problems yet, and the Storm is completely targeted at ordinary consumers who may not be prepared to or even interested in hunting firmware upgrades in the wild and going through the lengthy and scary process, and maybe wipe the device with JavaLoader.exe and start anew in case the upgrade fails (it happened to me once).
The Storm has the potential to sell a lot in Brazil because of the touch screen and that could be a disaster. The BlackBerry is not a popular brand in Brazil. There is no marketing effort in Brazil. Even in the carrier Web sites, the BlackBerry is buried under a lot of other things. The iPhone is not buried. No, it is flaunted with intent because everybody knows the iPhone, it has a lot of appeal. Even in forums populated by die-hard gadget fans, one’s fingers are more than enough to count the number of those who swear by the BlackBerry. Those who take the plunge are always pleased with the experience, but very few take that plunge. Brazilians don’t dislike the BlackBerry, they just don’t know it. So the Storm will be a lot of people’s first BlackBerry here and it could be a terrible first impression that may taint the brand’s reputation for years.
Maybe a portion of this whole scenario is the carriers’ fault, but no one is going to blame a carrier when their Storm phone is throwing the fits it has become famous for. Everyone is going to curse the BlackBerry brand, and rightly so. RIM should be overseeing all these issues, their name is on the line. You would think that a company with all that money and history would dedicate a lot more attention to detail and doing things right. Who is in charge of this? Is anyone watching the front door of the building? It’s the kind of thing that boggles my mind.
Please use the comment section below and let us know what this whole situation is like in your country. Feel free to comment on how you’re getting along with your Storm too.