This weekend I was talking to a guy with church who recently upgraded his phone. He went from the Palm Treo to the BlackBerry Curve 8550. Of course I was asking about what influenced his switch to the BlackBerry and he said, “I love it and they were offering it to me for like free or $50…so I couldn’t say no to that.

To me, that is a shocking answer that raises a lot of questions:
– Is BlackBerry only being looked upon as cheap alternative to “real smartphone”?
– Is the only reason RIM (Research In Motion, the maker of the BlackBerry) is in the top 5 of global mobile device manufactures because its phones are “cheap”?
– If an Android device, BlackBerry, and iPhone were all given away for free which device would regular customers choose?

Now to me the choice is simple: BlackBerry, because it is the ultimate on-the-go device. Sending and receiving messages (email, text, mms) is straight forward. Adding events to a calendar and marking items off of a task list is quick. If I want to call someone, I can simple start typing their name from the main screen using my always available full QWERTY keyboard. Battery life on my BlackBerry is amazing (especially for how I use a device). There’s native voice controls which is awesome for all of the rules and regulations that are passing about using a phone while driving. Playing media (doesn’t matter if its Slacker Radio or music from my memory card) is simple and unobtrusive. So while I’m on the go, BlackBerry is awesome…but then I get home and its another story. Even though I love my BlackBerry and have found ways to make it work in all situations, it can leave a lot to be desired for those who aren’t as tech savvy. This is where BlackBerry fails in being a top of the line smartphone.

When thinking about what makes something a top of the line phone, there are 5 factors that can be used to determine a top of line smartphone:
1) Ease of use (do I need to read the owner’s manual to know how to use it?)
2) Can easily entertain and distract me (whether it be games, music, videos, books, etc)
3) Advanced tasks are quickly accomplished
4) Able to quickly browse the web and have websites appear as if on a desktop or laptop
5) If I were stranded on a island, this would be device that I’d want with me

CrackBerry Kevin's Hierarchy of smartphone needsKevin (from CrackBerry.com) uses the Hierarchy of Smartphone Needs to express his view on what are needs of smartphone users. While the BlackBerry covers the bottom 4 levels quite admirably it fails to reach the top (“An App For Everything”) as well as browse the web as on a desktop, and these are what keeps it from being a premier phone in the eyes of regular consumers. Regular consumers want those 5 factors I stated earlier. Regular consumers want a long lasting battery. Regular consumers want to be able to show off their devices to their friends. To be a premier phone a device needs to be able to do ALL of those things and BlackBerry is failing to do that.

Will the release of BlackBerry 6 (the next generation of their operating system) help them climb the ranks to become a premier phone? I somewhat doubt it unless there is a lot of backend work that allows developers to easily create applications for it. I seriously doubt BlackBerry 6 will help RIM climb the ranks of smartphones unless the new OS is even simplier to use for the regular consumer. BlackBerry has a lot of ground to make up, and hopefully they’ll be able to make up the ground before it’s to late.

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