Doth We Bid Adieu to the BlackBerry?


Andrea Vallone

Once there was a time when BlackBerry was a sought after symbol of wealth and connection. BlackBerry Messenger PINs were posted in place of personal descriptions all over our youth’s social media sites. Ari Gold, in any given scene, would be clutching his precious “berries” (which he would openly state were as precious as his beloved manhood) in front of millions of viewers. Even the term “CrackBerry” littered the media. But now the numbers are in and one is forced to ask the question, is it time to say goodbye to the Blackberry? Has the new world of Android, Microsoft, and iPhone swallowed it whole?

In 2003, (which may in reality be only a decade ago but in technology speak is approximately an eon ago) Research in Motion or BlackBerry was introduced as the pioneer in the “smart phone era” as we observe today. It was a device that is not only a functioning mobile telephone, but is additionally able to send and receive email and text messages, as well as browse the web. This was a necessary progression at the time judging by its exponential growth in popularity—a phone with a QWERTY keyboard? Our 2003 selves were shocked and intrigued.

But the lesson with all good ideas in technology is that a progressively better idea is biding its time to strike down when least expected and take over the spotlight. BlackBerry’s first most contended competitor was Apple’s iPhone introduced in 2007 to drooling geeks all over the world. A touch screen phone compatible with my computer? Our 2007 selves were on the edge of our seats. Then, BlackBerry and the iPhone let out a collective sigh with the advent of the Android. A faster operating system than the iOS? Our 2008 selves were floored. And now, lo and behold, the Microsoft 8 Windows phone. You mean I don’t even have to touch the screen to scroll or flip?! People are passing out left and right.

Everyone and their LuLu Lemon donning grandma has a smart phone nowadays, but you don’t see many BlackBerrys around. So, why can’t Blackberry hang? From BlackBerry Curve, to Storm, to Torch, BlackBerry has released 19 smart phone models in the past six years. But here are some reasons that people are making the famous “switch”: BlackBerry has catered itself to the entrepreneurial or business audience, not the privileged 13-year-olds who think having a phone as a different device than your iPod is of the utmost inconvenience (or in other words, the modern consumer). Moreover, BlackBerry only (yes, only) has about 700,000 apps while its competitors have around a million. Further, RIM’s new platform for the BlackBerry 10 does not support a home button—still. Why? Well RIM’s Donny Halliwell explains that the BlackBerry 10 is about “moving forward,” not backward. So keep that in mind as you press the back button eight times to get back to the home page you were on five minutes ago.

Unfortunately, today BlackBerry holds less than 10 percent of the U.S. market for smart phones and overall sales continue to fall. The Blackberry 10 model, released this past January, was predicted to justify RIM’s recent suffering, but unfortunately the Microsoft 8 Windows phone has eclipsed it in media attention.

Luckily for BlackBerry, though, brand loyalty is real, and there are diehard fans that will never let go. Eric Jackson, the founder of IronFire Capital, a hedge fund that owns shares in RIM, said, “Last time I checked, 80 million subscribers wasn’t nothing.” You’re right Eric, it’s not. Maybe it’s not time for BlackBerry to throw in the towel, but it’s going to have to accept its permanent spot on the bench. One can almost hear Ari Gold chanting, “Long live the BlackBerry.”