RIM's BlackBerry Smartphones Need a Lesson from Apple
The BlackBerry Torch may be RIM's best smartphone to date, but critics agree it's hardly the coolest phone around - which, if RIM wants to dazzle both consumers and enterprise users, it needs to figure out how to make.With the Aug. 12 debut of BlackBerry Torch on the AT&T network, Research In Motion hopes to rekindle the ardor that American audiences once felt toward its super-secure, super-fast e-mailing smartphones - affections that have more recently been turned toward Apple's iPhone and the astounding number of high-end handsets running Google's Android operating system. The Torch features a first-ever in BlackBerry design - a multitouch display plus a RIM keypad - and it will be the first to run RIM's "renovated" new OS, BlackBerry 6. And still, the phone maker may be setting itself up for disappointment, partly of its own doing. While Apple has slowly ingratiated the iPhone to enterprise users, RIM has likewise worked to gain users outside of its well-established enterprise base - which ultimately may prove the harder direction to move in.
"Despite its growing presence in the consumer market, its main claim to fame - and relevance - is as a provider of highly secure and reliable email service," Analyst Ken Hyers, with Technology Business Research (TBR), told eWEEK. "The device itself is almost secondary, and I expect that most buyers of the Torch, at least initially, will be corporate users upgrading from their existing BlackBerry handsets. This means that RIM, more than other handset manufacturers, can get away with products that are not as cutting edge, since the service is the thing, not the device."
In a July 30 research note, Mawston noted that RIM posted the highest year-on-year growth of any of the top-five handset makers, but nonetheless described RIM as "sorely" needing a hit with BlackBerry 6. "The Torch is a sizeable step forward for BlackBerry, but it is not an Android or iPhone killer," Mawston told eWEEK. "The Torch's design lacks the wow factor of the iPhone, while it has a smaller screen and slower processor than many of the Android superphones that are emerging such as the Samsung Galaxy S." For an established player such as RIM, there's still a little time to get it right. "The -Torch 1' is a good start," said Mawston, "but it's going to need to move fast and deliver an even better -Torch 2' in 2011 if it wants to maintain momentum."