Does BlackBerry stand a chance anymore?
Let me preface by saying I got my start in the tech industry by being a die-hard BlackBerry fan. And the last thing I wanted to do when I got my hands on the latest batch of BlackBerrys was write another “end of BlackBerry” article.
As I explained in my Pocketnow Insider bio, I ate, slept, and breathed BlackBerry back in the day. I wrote about BlackBerrys between and even during my classes and two other jobs. And even after trying webOS, iOS, and Android, it was hard to cut ties and drop the platform altogether. I had spent the better part of three years using nothing but BlackBerry, and I loved literally every second of it.
And to this day, I have a special place in my heart for the company that builds those fantastic mobile keyboards. I have a deep-seeded love for the platform and company. And, deep down, I want the company and platform to succeed.
One week ago, I explained that I initially had no desire to own the BlackBerry Z10 or Q10. But as more and more colleagues were testing out the Q10, I got antsy, and I just had to have one. I couldn’t wait. I actually felt an excitement I don’t usually get anymore when Michael emailed me to tell me there was a Q10 headed my way.
And despite how busy I was the day it arrived (finishing up the Galaxy Mega 6.3 review … two days late), I couldn’t wait to tear into the box and see what this BlackBerry 10 hotness was all about, how the Q10 differed from BlackBerrys of yesteryear.
At that point, I still fully believed had a fighting chance at competing with Windows Phone for the spot as the third ecosystem alongside Android and iOS.
Fast forward just a few, short weeks, and what little hope I had is nearly gone. Trust me, that’s saying something.
I hate to beat a long-dead horse, but the app selection is pitiful. Even with 120,000 apps, there are a ton of vital applications missing – Google+, Spotify, Instagram, etc. But that’s not the brunt of the issue. It’s that no one is confident the platform is worthwhile, and that creates a vicious catch-22 scenario. The user base is already small. But those users are hesitant to spend a lot of money on applications, so the performance of applications in BlackBerry World leaves much to be desired, so developers are hesitant to devote their time to the once-again-budding platform. Thus, users are hesitant to purchase applications … and so on, and so forth.
Beyond that, after over a year of delays, the platform brings nothing truly new, useful, or inspiring to the table.
BlackBerry, in a nutshell, spent the last few years playing a major game of catch-up. And instead of putting its own spin on mobile once again, it took several pages from every other mobile operating system’s playbook (pun most definitely intended, and R.I.P. PlayBook). It gives me no reason to drop Android, iOS, or even Windows Phone. And once BBM is available on Android and iOS, people will have one less reason to join the BlackBerry fold.
From all the BlackBerrys I used through the years, there was only one thing I missed: the universal inbox. That was the one feature I’ve yet to find an alternative to, the one feature I had a terrible time giving up. And you could say Hub is just a modernize version of the universal inbox from before. But, in truth, that’s an insult to the legacy inbox.
With the exception of BBM, the BlackBerry has lost everything that made it a BlackBerry. While that’s good in one regard (the platform was going nowhere, it was time for a fresh start), the company brought forth nothing compelling. And it takes only a few minutes to discover that.
The BlackBerry 10 interface is a hodgepodge of different, inconsistent gestures. And the UI is, at the very best, confusing. Every time I open BBM, I have to pause for a second to take everything in and figure out what I’m actually looking at and how to get where I need to be within the app. The same for Hub. Sometimes gestures work, but in some apps they don’t. Sometimes a swipe down from the top brings down your notifications, sometimes it reveals a Help button, and other times it does nothing.
The newness wore off after a matter of hours, and although I’ve carried it with me most days, I can count the number of times I’ve reached for it for something other than BBM (with one of four BBM contacts) on a single hand.
I still wish BlackBerry the very best. I want the company and platform to succeed. I wanted to fall in love with the Q10 and with BlackBerry once again. But if BlackBerry 10 is the extent of what the company is working with, if it thinks BlackBerry 10 is enough to compete with the likes of Windows Phone, much less Android or iOS, the Waterloo-based company has a long, rocky road ahead.