BlackBerry 10: Americans Are Impressed, Says Poll, but Will They Buy?

RIM's BlackBerry 10 smartphones may be feature-rich and gorgeous, but will that be enough to get consumers to buy them? Some data says no.

RIM's BlackBerry 10 smartphones are already on the shopping lists of a few Americans, according to a poll of 1,127 adults performed by YouGov and commissioned by mobile app development shop Bite Interactive.

Known features of RIM's upcoming handsets were explained to those being polled, and according to Bite, nearly half the respondents found at least one new BlackBerry feature to be compelling, one in eight said they'd consider buying a BB10 device, and one in 100 said they have firm plans to "get one immediately."

Research In Motion will introduce its BlackBerry 10 platform and new smartphones—along with promised surprises—Jan. 30, in a long-awaited moment that will be make-it-or-break-it of sorts for the company. For RIM to steady its market share and begin growing again, it will need to sell phones, and lots of them.

"RIM's challenge is compounded by the fact that Google and Apple have already built up huge mobile user bases who, for the most part, have invested lots of time and money learning and using their platform of choice," Joseph Farrell, executive vice president of operations at Bite, said in a Jan. 29 statement.

"To switch to any new platform, even between the two," Farrell continued, "means a new investment of time and resources that many do not wish to spend, let alone taking a perceived risk on the new BB10 platform, no matter how impressive some of the new technology is."

Jan Dawson, chief telecom analyst at research firm Ovum, expects RIM will see a brief increase in handset sales, but that "its glory days are past, and it is only a matter of time before it reaches a natural end."

Dawson, in a Jan. 28 report, explained that his reasoning for this is twofold.

"RIM continues to face the twin demons of consumer-driven buying power and a chronic inability to appeal to mature market consumers. There is nothing in what we've seen so far of BB10 that suggests it will conquer the second of these demons, and the first is utterly out of RIM's control," he wrote.

Ovum's research suggests that BB10 will be something that appeals to RIM's dedicated user base, rather than tries to convert users from other platforms.

"We can't fault RIM for wanting to hold onto its 80 million existing subscribers," wrote Dawson.

According to Ovum data, roughly half of BlackBerry purchases have come from new customers and half from current customers updating their devices. When BB10 arrives, customers who have been waiting to refresh will do so, and this will help RIM, though momentarily.

"There is little in the new platform that suggests it will have the compelling apps, content stores or the broader ecosystem that consumers have come to expect in a competitive smartphone platform," Dawson said.

Bite's Farrell also believes that apps will play a key role in how RIM fares in the months ahead.

"The key chink in RIM's armor remains its apps ecosystem. RIM has made great efforts to catch up with iOS and Android in this regard, but it, like Microsoft, is likely to find this far easier said than done," Farrell said. "A lot of eyes will be on the new BlackBerry World from day one, as its success is pivotal to that of the BB10 devices as viable mainstream consumer handsets."

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