How time flies. A few weeks ago the BlackBerry world was mad at RIM for a massive 3-day outage. Now, RIM is dangling a sweetener to take away the bitterness generated by the whole sordid affair–there’s a $100 free app bonus that RIM is giving to all users to make up for the outage. While corporate users don’t seem to be going anywhere anytime soon, only time will tell if this is enough to keep frustrated consumers in the BlackBerry fold.
But whether you’re moving or not, $100 worth of apps is an offer you shouldn’t refuse. The offer is available till December 31, but not all apps are available as yet—I can currently see four apps on App World—Shazam Encore, Bubble Bash 2, DriveSafe.ly Pro and Vlingo, which is to BlackBerry what Siri is to iOS. Over the next few weeks I’ll review some of these apps on BerryTalk and give you my verdict on them.
But coming back to the question of loyalty to RIM or trying other platforms, I thought I’d put some thoughts down on BlackBerry pros and cons as I see them.
First, the cons—areas where RIM has to improve and quickly at that, if BlackBerry has to retain its sheen.
What's behind the big bad RIM outage
Applications: This is RIM’s biggest bugbear. While Apple’s App Store and Android Market feature hundreds of thousands of apps, RIM’s App World is threadbare in comparison. And the upcoming move to BBX will complicate things even further as developers need to create apps for a whole new OS. And it’s not like the much talked about Android app capability on BBX is going anywhere too—we recently heard that the feature is now further delayed to February 2012. To a Mumbaikar like me, this reminds me of infrastructure projects like the Mumbai Metro, where deadlines keep getting extended and the promise seems hollower each time the deadline is extended.
RIM executives justify their smaller app store with explanations that claim that most of what BlackBerry users want are available, and a recent independent study recently revealed that BlackBerry developers make more money. Unfortunately, the fact that BlackBerry developers do better financially than developers on other platforms is of little comfort to a user—I’d rather have Angry Birds on BlackBerry today.
And while it’s a fact that BlackBerry is very strong on the enterprise apps front, again that doesn’t mean much for consumers. RIM has to do more and come up with some out-of-the-box thinking to solve this one—just adding developers organically will not do; there’s no way RIM can catch up with Apple and Android unless a radical solution is found. And if that solution is the Android capability on BBX, roll it out soon.
Battery Life: In my experience, the worst BlackBerry when it came to battery life was the 8520, which to be fair was a cheap device and hence you couldn’t really complain. But when the Bold 9900, which is RIM’s top-of-the-line model today offers poorer battery life than the 8520, it’s a big problem.
My Bold 9900 on BES and 3G gives me half a day of battery life, which when compared to the full day I got on the 9780 displays a case of priorities gone wrong. In the quest to offer the thinnest BlackBerry, battery capacity has been sacrificed and somehow, I think it’s the wrong call to take on a device that’s aimed at the high-end user and especially corporate head honchos.
All the new OS 7 BlackBerry smartphones (the Bold 9900, Curve 9360, Torch 9810 and Torch 9860) have lower capacity batteries than their predecessors and in my experience RIM’s claims of OS 7 devices consuming lesser power and hence requiring lower capacity batteries is doubtful. In my opinion, RIM needs to get back to what was once a hallmark of BlackBerry—great battery life.
But while there are cons there are powerful pros too. However, I won’t write about the usual stuff such as the great BlackBerry keypad, BlackBerry Messenger (BBM) reliability and BlackBerry’s famous security—so secure that even US President Barack Obama uses a BlackBerry.
I’ll rather focus on features that are not as well known and are behind-the-scenes, but which are really behind the BlackBerry experience—far beyond just the smartphone, but which includes the service.
DataSmart: BlackBerry’s Data Optimisation and compression feature, is one such feature. People don’t realise that RIM compresses data—this includes every e-mail, Web browsing data, instant messages and some application data as well–and does this extremely well.
So, if you’ve ever wondered how you receive an e-mail on your BlackBerry 20-30 seconds before it lands in your Microsoft Exchange inbox, this is the reason behind it. Interestingly, this is not just about receiving e-mail and other messages faster—it can also save you money if you’re on a fixed data plan, because BlackBerry’s DataSmart technology enables up to two times more Web browsing, four times more e-mail and twice as much of social networking on fixed plans, according to a RIM backed study.
BlackBerry Protect: Much has been written about RIM’s legendary IT policies–one reason why Chief Information Officers (CIOs) at corporates love BlackBerry is the management and governance features that RIM offers as part of the BlackBerry Enterprise Server (BES) offering.
If you’re a consumer and wonder what this means, IT Managers at organisations using BES can control all aspects of a BlackBerry on BES, from apps to features like the camera—cutting-edge manufacturing firms for instance, ensure that users’ BlackBerry cameras are deactivated. But the good part is that data is backed up on the BES server. Besides, if a BlackBerry on BES is misplaced, IT Managers can remotely wipe it, etc.
But now RIM offers some of these tools to individual consumers as well. There’s BlackBerry Protect, which can help you protect your data by backing up and securing it in the Cloud. You can also protect your smartphone–with BlackBerry Protect, you can locate your misplaced BlackBerry smartphone using GPS or remotely turn up the ringer for an audible notification if your handset is close-by. If you’re not on BES, then BlackBerry Protect is an app you definitely want to have.
So there, two peeves and two positives. Tell us about why you love or hate your BlackBerry and if you’re switching after the outage.