We’ve been charting the downward spiral of the BlackBerry brand here at Bright Hub and asking Is BlackBerry Dead? Personally I think that BlackBerry is doomed and will soon be edged out of the smartphone market altogether, but RIM isn’t willing to lie down just yet.
As their market share has been slowly evaporating, and criticism in the media has been getting stronger and stronger, RIM has been ignoring the critics and focussing on their new range of BlackBerry smartphones. They finally announced them officially this month and there are multiple entries in the Bold and Torch series, all running the BlackBerry 7 OS. The line-up also includes a couple of touch screen only smartphones, in the shape of the BlackBerry Torch 9850 and 9860.
Let’s take a closer look at the new smartphones and discuss their prospects.
BlackBerry Bold 9900 and 9930
The Bold is what people picture when they hear BlackBerry – the classic form factor with a relatively small screen and a full QWERTY keyboard beneath.
The new Bold smartphones definitely represent an evolution of this original design. They have been refined and there’s no denying they are attractive and solidly constructed. They are thinner than ever, they now feature touch screens and the build quality is very high.
BlackBerry Torch 9810, 9850 and 9860
The BlackBerry Torch 9810 offers a 3.2 inch touch-screen display, but retains a slide-out QWERTY keyboard. It’s essentially a slightly improved version of the original Torch.
The 9850 and 9860 are full touch-screen devices with 3.7 inch displays and no physical keyboards. Once again they offer high build quality and attractive designs.
So what’s the problem? Well there are quite a few.
The BB 7 OS and the App Market
The new version of the BB OS is a definite improvement over the old. It outperforms OS 6 significantly but the problem is BB OS 7 is competing with Android and iOS. Once again it represents a refinement of the platform, but it doesn’t offer anything innovative. In terms of accessibility and performance it lags behind the market leaders.
The major driver behind the adoption of smartphones has been the app market. Apps and games offer apparently limitless new sources of functionality and entertainment. The iOS platform offers nearly 500,000 apps and Android is approaching 300,000. This compares to 35,000 apps in BlackBerry App World and some of them don’t even work on the new version 7 OS.
RIM is planning a new OS, but recent reports suggest that a BlackBerry smartphone running QNX won’t be available until next year. The new QNX platform should offer significant improvements in terms of speed, and it is also much more developer friendly than the current BB OS, which could lead to an explosion in app numbers. The fact that QNX is on the way is just another reason that these recent BB releases are dead on arrival – why buy a BlackBerry now when the next major leap is just a few months away?
Playing Catch Up
While the new BlackBerry range does represent a major jump in hardware specs compared to old BlackBerry devices, RIM is playing catch up. For example, the BlackBerry Torch 9850 is comparable to the iPhone 4 in terms of hardware, but the iPhone 5 is just around the corner. The newest Android smartphones also completely blow the new BB range out of the water when it comes to hardware.
Multi-core processors, 8 MP cameras (and higher), 1080p video recording, front-facing cameras for video chat – these are all missing on the new BlackBerry releases.
The new displays are nice and the new Bold models feature NFC which is set to take off in a big way, but overall they don’t measure up to the competition. The one area where the latest BlackBerry releases outperform the latest Android smartphones is battery life and that’s not enough. Not by a long shot.
A big potential nail in the coffin for the newest BlackBerry smartphones is the pricing. You could possibly accept lower specs than the latest Android releases if the price was right, but at $250 for the Bold on a two year contract and around $200 for the Torch after a mail-in rebate (again on a two year contract) these are not cheap phones.
Don’t Buy a BlackBerry
Even if you are a die-hard BlackBerry fan you should wait for the QNX range to hit the market. If you buy one of these BB smartphones now you will be paying a premium for dated technology. There will be people who talk about the greatness of BBM and the business email support and if these are vital to you then perhaps you’ll be tempted.
The truth is there are better smartphones out there. The Samsung Galaxy S II is streets ahead and the iPhone 5 is sure to offer something new. BlackBerry has had its day and RIM has fallen too far behind to ever catch up.