BlackBerry Torch Won't Convert iPhone, Android Customers: 10 Reasons Why

By Don Reisinger  |  Posted 2010-08-04

BlackBerry Torch Won't Convert iPhone, Android Customers: 10 Reasons Why

RIM is facing more pressure than ever in the mobile market. When it first started competing in the space, it had one major platform to worry about: Windows Mobile.

Today, Windows Mobile is on the decline, but Apple's iOS and Google's Android operating systems are proving to be extremely difficult for RIM to handle. In fact, the company is being forced to develop solutions that match the iPhone or Android-based devices, rather than set its own standard.

On Tuesday, RIM revealed its latest mobile products. The company showed off BlackBerry OS 6, the highly anticipated follow-up to BlackBerry OS 5. But it was the BlackBerry Torch, the latest smartphone from the Canada-based company that stole the show. The device features a slide-out physical keyboard and will run BlackBerry OS 6 when it's released on August 12 for $199 on AT&T's network. During the announcement, RIM tried to paint the Torch as the device that will increase its user base and effectively take on the iPhone and Android-based devices.

But it was wrong. The Torch doesn't have what it takes to steal Android and iPhone users away.

Here's why:

1. It's not leading on price

RIM's BlackBerry Torch will retail for $199 when the phone is released next week. That's not a good thing. The Torch shouldn't have the same price as the iPhone 4. In the mobile market, consumers either want the phone that will give them the most for their tight budget, or the device boasting the most features. The BlackBerry Torch offers neither. Its features can't match the competition's and it's price is equal to the iPhone 4. Realizing that, why would the average consumer looking for their first smartphone pick the Torch over an iPhone? RIM certainly doesn't have the answer. 

2. A physical keyboard - Really?

If RIM wants to be the chief competitor to Apple and Google, the company needs to stop relying on slide-out keyboards to get the job done. Enterprise customers might want the physical keys and some folks can't work well on a virtual keyboard, but touch screens are the new must-have in "next-gen" phones. The physical keyboard didn't help the Palm Pre or even the Motorola Droid against the iPhone; the Torch won't be any different. 

3. BlackBerry OS 6 doesn't have it

Blackberry OS 6 is admittedly a fine upgrade compared to the previous iteration of the software. But after seeing what RIM has planned for the OS, it's clear now that it lacks the features that will make consumers want a BlackBerry over anything running iOS or Android. The software is too similar to BlackBerry OS 5. The new options, including contextual menus, make it abundantly clear to consumers that RIM's software design is still light years behind the competition. 

4. The display is a major issueWhen RIM unveiled the Torch and said that the device features a 3.2-inch display with 480 by 360 resolution, most consumers tuned out. If nothing else, Apple has shown that a display means the difference between success and failure in the market. The iPhone 4, for example, boasts a 3.5-inch Retina display, which easily bests RIM's alternative both in size and quality. The Motorola Droid X, one of the most popular Android-based phones ever released, features a huge 4.3-inch screen. There is nothing so unique in RIM's display that would make consumers immediately want the Torch. That's not a good thing.

RIM Fails to Present BlackBerry as a Compelling Alternative


5. The specs are poor

Besides the display, the overall specs of the BlackBerry Torch leave much to be desired. The phone boasts just 4GB of internal storage - much less than the iPhone 4's minimum of 16GB of memory - as well as a measly 624MHz processor. Considering most other top smartphones on the market feature a 1GHz processor, RIM is putting itself behind before the Torch even launches. Simply put, there is nothing unique or compelling about the Torch's specs that can't be found elsewhere in a more desirable device.

6. It's running on AT&T

The biggest mistake RIM made was bringing the Torch to AT&T. Although the carrier might have millions of subscribers, it's also the home of the iPhone. And when consumers go to AT&T and look for their next phone, they will be choosing between the iPhone and Torch. Given the fact that both phones are priced the same, and they will cost about the same per month on a two-year plan, the chances of customers choosing RIM's device over Apple's seem slim. The Torch might have been more successful on Verizon at launch.

7. Only the core is in love

RIM's core user base would buy the new BlackBerry no matter what it offered. But the rest of the space won't be so quick to jump on the bandwagon. As mentioned, there are several outstanding options available to consumers today. It's RIM's job to prove that the Torch can provide a better experience than the alternatives. Based on what's known about the Torch right now, RIM hasn't done that. Look for RIM to have some trouble selling the Torch to customers other than those in its core following.

8. The departing customer base

RIM finds itself in a dangerous position. As the market continues to grow, its user base continues to fall victim to Apple's allure. In fact, a recent study from Nielsen found that as much as 50 percent of current BlackBerry owners are planning to switch to either an iPhone or an Android-based device when their contracts are up. RIM's hope with the Torch was to not only compete against the competition, but to make all those future defectors think twice about leaving. It failed. Now, it will be forced to deal with the fallout from its decisions with Torch.

9. It's being marketed as a direct competitor

RIM is doing everything it can to prove to consumers and enterprise customers that the BlackBerry Torch and BlackBerry OS 6 are direct competitors to the iPhone and Android-based devices. The company says that its new products are designed specifically to carry the BlackBerry banner forward. But by saying that, RIM is undermining its ability to sell smartphones. If the company says the Torch competes directly with the iPhone and Droid X, customers will believe it. And in that scenario, they will almost certainly opt for one of the alternatives to the BlackBerry. But if RIM says that the Torch is an alternative to the iPhone or Droid X that's not meant to compete directly with those products, the company will have a far better chance of being successful. After all, it will be targeting a different set of consumers with different desires.

10. There is too much to like elsewhere

It doesn't seem that RIM did a good enough job at evaluating market factors before it developed the Torch. The company failed to realize the importance of apps, it misunderstood what consumers are looking for in their next smartphones, and it didn't realize that the competition would deliver more-capable alternatives. By doing so, RIM finds itself in a precarious position. On Monday, prior to the Torch's announcement, the BlackBerry maker had a chance to beat back the iPhone invasion. Just 48 hours later, post-Torch, it's clear that it doesn't have what it takes. There is simply too much to like (and desire) elsewhere. 

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