Photo: Reuters
Photo: Reuters

BlackBerry’s one final chance to bounce back

A full-blown Android phone may give BlackBerry one final chance to bounce back, writes Rajiv Makhni.
Hindustan Times | By Rajiv Makhni
UPDATED ON OCT 10, 2015 08:39 PM IST

Just to make sure that the rest of the column is taken seriously, let us get some of the BlackBerry jokes out of the way.

* iPhone theft accounts for a lot of crimes. BlackBerry’s new campaign thus starts to make a lot of sense: “Our phones may suck but nobody will stab you for them”.

* BlackBerry is debuting a $549 phone with free accessories. Unless one of those accessories is a Samsung Note 5, not interested!

* BlackBerry may stop making phones. If that happens, how will I be able to say, “I can’t believe they’re still making BlackBerrys”.

* Ed Miliband, the British politician, switched from an iPhone to a BlackBerry. The reason? He was too involved with his cellphone addiction and apps, and thus with a BB “it’s harder to do those things”.

Now that we’ve got that out of our systems, let’s get really serious.

The BlackBerry OS is actually a great mobile operating system.

Yes, I know! The last statement made you laugh far more than all the other jokes. Yes, you LOL-ed and ROFL-ed and LMAO-ed. But bear with me for a second. I come to praise BB, not to bury it.

What you didn’t know

Even if I tone down the rhetoric, BB OS 10 is really pretty good. Unknown to most, the BB OS has actually won best OS awards, the BB Z30 and the BB Passport have landed on best-phone lists all across the world. Nobody can touch BlackBerry when it comes to a keyboard on a mobile phone and BB Security is, by far, the best in its class. Nobody knows this because nobody uses a BB anymore. That may well change shortly.

The makeover

BlackBerry finally went and did what it should have done a long time ago. It is bringing out a BlackBerry Android phone. Not just support for Android apps but a full-blown Android phone with a real Android operating system. On top of that, they are adding their superb BB keyboard, bringing in that tank-like build quality, most of the good stuff from the BB OS and that Fort Knox-like security, which is missing on all other phones. This may well be BB getting its mojo back.

New hero

BlackBerry always made good phones with solid hardware, the OS has always been a step ahead, using a BB with one hand is an intuitive experience and emailing and messaging is unparalleled. What they really suck at is apps. And in today’s world, if your app ecosystem is weak, it is pretty much all over for you.

Customers want each and every app that they are used to using, and if they don’t get it, they move on. That’s exactly what has happened even with the most loyal of BB users. Some stick to their BB phones but have a second iOS or Android phone and most have abandoned their BB completely. Enter the BB Priv!

You name it

Yes, the name is truly ghastly (when you’re trying to resurrect a dying company, it may be best not to call your phone something that sounds like ‘perv’). However, the phone is anything but. With a 5-inch-plus super-high-resolution screen, a slider, full-size QWERTY keyboard, a top-of-the-line Snapdragon processor, great optics, 3GB RAM, a MicroSD slot, all Android apps plus the Play Store and all the good stuff from BB, this could be the best of both worlds in a single awesome package.

Shooting for the Stars

Yes, this phone has all the chops and it seems like it may just give BlackBerry the last chance it truly deserves. It could give Microsoft a run for its money. The upcoming Windows 10 phones still grapple with a serious dearth of apps. It could also bring back a lot of BB loyalists that had abandoned the company; it could get a surge of new sales from those that still continue to swear by the prowess of a BB.

But this phone also has the rather daunting task of getting people to give up their iPhones, their Samsungs and their newfound love for top-of-the-line phones at bottom-end prices (like Xiaomi, Gionee, OnePlus, Lenovo and a dozen others). Not an easy feat to pull off.

Berries gone bad

But then, BlackBerry is notorious for really screwing up a good thing. They were the world number one in smartphone sales at one time and they did have the best instant messaging system ever (the BBM). It takes a special kind of talent to destroy all of that so brutally. Of late, they’ve been pricing their really good phones wrong (way too high) and not publicising the really good stuff (the BB Passport had a tracking pad on the entire surface of the keyboard).

With the BlackBerry Priv, they have one more shot at not shooting themselves in the foot.

Rajiv Makhni is managing editor, Technology, NDTV, and the anchor of Gadget Guru, Cell Guru and Newsnet 3

From HT Brunch, October 11

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