When the world of Blackberry collapsed in October during a widespread 3 day service disruption, there was a hilarious tweet that went something along the lines: the worst part of the Blackberry outage is that I have to admit I have a Blackberry. And I couldn’t agree more with that sentiment. It’s an odd feeling to have, especially when you’ve developed brand loyalty over time. I got my first Blackberry about 6 or 7 years ago. Back then the phone was just starting to make its transition from an unsexy brick made for bankers and consultants into something everyone could use. Its practicality was unmatched, from push email to the free messenger service.
The early adopters who weren’t professionals could show off with their Blackberries with pride. They made them seem important, like they were receiving so much important email that they absolutely had to have it in the palm of their hands at all time. Of course, most interactions for the mere mortal were trivial. Mine revolved around forwarding jokes, and figuring out where afterwork drinks were.
But somewhere along the way Blackberry became the preserve of teenage kids sexting eachother frantically to avoid astronomical SMS fees, and the brand, as well as the hardware itself, started to lose its veneer. The products became less sexy in an increasingly innovative market, and RIM seemed to be treading water. Then the iPhone came out in 2007. And the RIM products suddenly looked seriously old and clunky. They were slowly relegated to the confines of drawers alongside decaying Motorola StarTACs.
We live in a world where the devices we keep in our pockets help us manage our day. They help us with productivity as well as entertainment. But beyond that, they also say something about who we are, whether we like it or not. They tell people if we care about design, functionality, innovation.Over the same stretch of time, what it actually meant to be a phone changed drastically. In a way, calling it a phone is grossly inaccurate. The telephony app, if one can call it that, has become a rather secondary function on what is essentially a multimedia device, fed by a rich ecosystem of applications. And that’s where iPhone, and later Android-based devises, excelled. They opened up their platforms to innovation in a way Blackberry never did.
So I find myself today clutching a phone that is anachronistic, a machine that costs about as much to purchase and run on a monthly basis as an iPhone or Samsung Galaxy, but provides you none of the functionality. And now, besides the fact it makes me look about as technologically savvy as my aunt, we’ve found out how vulnerable the internal architecture of its network is.
What does the future hold for Blackberry? If I had to venture a guess, I’d say not much. About a week ago, the company unveiled their first phone ever that actually has an interesting design. And they’ve slapped a USD 2,000 price tag on it. That pretty much sums up how little they understand the current market.
A friend of mine just got an iPhone 4S, so I decided to have a chat with Siri. After I’d asked her the meaning of life, or if she’d like to get down and dirty with me, I asked her what the best phone in the world was. Her reply was simple and to the point. “Wait, there are other phones?”