I’ve been a long time BlackBerry user and ever since I got my first one, I’ve had nothing but the traditional BlackBerry phone. By traditional I mean the small screen with the standard keyboard below. It did exactly what I needed it to do, allowing me to communicate with people that matter and be productive with my time. But things have changed since I got my first BlackBerry and more consumers have embraced touch, that’s where mobile is and will continue to grow. So here’s the question that many traditional BlackBerry users are struggling with. What BlackBerry 10 device should they purchase; keyboard or full touch? I think current BlackBerry users should get a full touch BlackBerry 10 device and here’s why I believe it will help RIM be successful long term.
Strong need to change the BlackBerry perception
There is a strong need for RIM to change the perception the average consumer has of a BlackBerry, RIM has started the change on the corporate side already. Instead of listing a bunch of words consumer may use to describe a BlackBerry, I simply want to point out that most of the negative words that might come to mind are more or less caused by one thing; the BlackBerry keyboard. Look, there’s no arguing BlackBerry is the best productivity and communication device. But what I see as productivity most consumer see as a boring user experience. Apple made the bet that productivity can be overcome because the vast majority of consumers are not getting 200 plus emails per day nor are they writing anywhere near that amount. What most consumers do have is a lot of free time that needs to be wasted. And since this is the case the typical things consumer want to do such as playing game or browsing suffer in experience because of the keyboard at times.
For example, gaming on a traditional BlackBerry is not as fun due to the keyboard. I have a PlayBook and I can guarantee you that if similar titles were available on my BlackBerry Bold, I wouldn’t play a single one. Why? It’s about the experience and on a Bold 9900 it’s as enjoyable. Every time I attempt to play a game on my Bold, I feel like I’m trying just to prove to myself gaming is possible.
Touch is the new standard in mobile
The vast majority of OEMs have moved to producing only full-touch smartphones. While developing countries lag in touch screen adaptation, I believe this will eventually change as well. Apple is largely to be credited for this move and has largely become the gold standard for touch similarly to RIM becoming the gold standard for keyboard. RIM and loyal followers have been trying to convince the average consumers to switch to BlackBerry based on the keyboard and BBM. But today there are many alternatives to BBM and the user experience is harder to sell when a keyboard is attached. Keep in mind I am strictly talking about the average consumer here. When it comes to the power users a traditional BlackBerry is just simply the best tool in my opinion, period. But these are not the people moving away from RIM, it’s the average consumer so while RIM isn’t going to flat out say it, I believe the strategic choice has been made to focus more on a full-touch experience and adapting that for a keyboard form factor.
Full touch gives BlackBerry users some swagger
Who doesn’t want to have some swag? I often find it interesting that while BlackBerry users are perhaps the most passionate and dedicated group of consumers, when placed in a room filled with people who have other platform they often find themselves having to defend their choice for why have a BlackBerry and running out of “swag weapon” for a lack of better word. Why? It’s largely because there’s perceived lack of swag or flash to really throw back at other platform. That’s not the same as saying BlackBerry user a missing features, in fact, I would argue BlackBerry users have more features than other platforms then they even know about. But in today’s mobile world it’s not good enough to provide features; rather you need to present those features with some swag.
If you have a BlackBerry right now just think about how difficult it is for you to show your friends or family some BlackBerry swag. By getting the full touch screen BlackBerry that swag is possible. The fact that it’s an all touch screen phone mean half the battle is done as you’re not trying convince friends or family on the keyboard as well as the BlackBerry OS. The full-touch phone allows a BlackBerry user to focus on the OS and present those swag features and really show why RIM’s OS is different and offers a better experience. A BlackBerry user is not fighting against the standard norm of having a full-touch phone today.
So which phone will I be buying?
Yes, I will be making the switch from a keyboard to a full-touch screen BlackBerry. Trust me, as I write this I am crying inside but I also want to see RIM succeed. I believe it would be a disservice to us consumer should RIM not make it, they have made the changes at the company level to make me believe. I really think RIM has a great OS that people will love once they are able to see it and play around with it. I have a lot of friends who use other platform and while they are using it one common thing I am starting to hear more and more is they are not satisfied with them. Doesn’t mean they will all switch but the fact they are not satisfy is a good sign for RIM’s future OS.
But like a traditional user, I might relapse so just going to get a keyboard BB10 later in the year to be safe side. But don’t worry my primary phone going forward will be full touch BlackBerry because I truly believe the OS was designed for touch. I also want to make clear I am not saying RIM needs to kill the keyboard because I would be the first person in Waterloo protesting. What I am saying is that RIM has the keyboard segment locked with no real challenger currently. It needs to focus on where consumers are going and where it is currently not competing in; touch segment.