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Bold, brave and gutsy

BlackBerry must be a pretty happy company right now. It was able to generate as much hype and noise around its launch as a new iPhone or a new Samsung Galaxy S phone, it had the top seven out of 10 trending topics on Twitter worldwide.

brunch Updated: Feb 16, 2013 19:52 IST
Rajiv Makhni

With the Z10, BlackBerry has bounced back. But is the phone priced right for the Indian market?
BlackBerry must be a pretty happy company right now. It was able to generate as much hype and noise around its launch as a new iPhone or a new Samsung Galaxy S phone, it had the top seven out of 10 trending topics on Twitter worldwide. Facebook was all agog for three days, most reviews were very positive and initial sales have been exceptional in every country it’s been launched. So, has BlackBerry pulled off the impossible? Far from it. Three big questions remain.

While BB10 as a new OS seems great, how good is the Z10 phone?

It’s a war out there. BlackBerry was able to generate as much hype around its launch as a new iPhone or Samsung phone.

This is a critical question everyone is asking. I’ve spent quite a bit of time with the phone and here are some quick observations. Every time I’ve fished out the Z10 the first reaction is “it looks like the new iPhone 5”. BlackBerry went with an understated industrial design with clean lines and none of the flash and colour of some of the new Android and Windows phones. It’s built like a rock and has a great feel in the hand. The screen is exceptional with fantastic colours, an eye-popping resolution and great touch response. The back cover, while thin, is solid and it’s nice once again to see a phone with a replaceable battery. This brings me to the battery life.

Most previous BB phone owners complain about battery life as one of the major issues. On the Z10, you aren’t going to complain too much, or shout from the rooftops about it. It’s just about adequate to last you through the day even on 3G, which isn’t too bad considering how some of the other iconic phones have trouble achieving even that. Still, I wish BB had pumped in a bigger battery and made that a serious USP.

The phone performs very well. It’s fast, hasn’t hung on me even once, can keep multiple apps running live and simultaneously, the camera is great without being exceptional, it latched onto my WiFi in my house even in areas where other phones give up, I haven’t dropped a call yet and the sound quality is excellent. Most importantly, all the whiz bang of the new OS works well on this phone and I’ve never felt that the OS is overwhelming the phone and that the phone can’t keep up with anything that the OS throws at it. Which now brings me to question number two.

Is the Z10 good enough to make people switch from their Androids and iPhones?

This is a very tough one to answer. While the Z10 with its new BB10 OS is like a breath of fresh air and has done enough to make sure that those who are on BB may all upgrade – does it have enough of a compelling feature set to get people to migrate from their fascination with Android and iOS? To make this comparison easier, I’ve taken what I believe are the top five phones in the world today and done a pure feature and specs shootout (see chart below). Thus, it’s pretty clear that the Z10 can hold its own in front of almost any phone out there. BB phones prior to the Z10 had such huge gaps in hardware and specs that it was impossible to even put them into a comparison chart. The Z10 stands tall here and may well be able to pull people from other domains in on the strength of its new OS. But that’s a worldwide perspective. What about the Z10 in India? That’s question three.


India is a huge market for BB. Can the Z10 pull big numbers for them here?

This one is pretty simple to answer. No, it won’t. I expect the price of the Z10 in India to be around R36,000. While companies do sell phones for upwards of even R45,000, exactly how many do they sell? The critical mass for BB in India came when they brought in cheaper priced phones and gained an incredible following and some serious numbers. While the Z10 will sell well in India, it would have been really smart of BB to have had a second phone launch simultaneously for certain markets.

India and Indonesia are two of the biggest markets for BB and they should have had a very clear blueprint with a phone launched for under R20,000 just for these two countries. That would have been a super smart strategy, hit hard, sold in huge numbers as well as shown that BB can out-think and out-gun the competition. At the moment, they will have some good sales for the Z10 while most BB users in India won’t be able to afford to switch at that price. By the time BB comes up with a sub-20K and then a sub-10K BB10 phone – many may have migrated to other platforms.

With BB10 and the Z10, BlackBerry has bought itself some time. Time to do things no one else has thought of doing and shock the competition with some moves that are bold, ballsy and brave! It’s the least we can expect from a company that owned 86 per cent of the smartphone market a few years ago!

From HT Brunch, February 17

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