RIM BlackBerry 7 Smartphones: Who Should Buy Them?

RIM is delaying the launch of BlackBerry 10 and will focus on upgrading users to BlackBerry 7 devices, which won't be upgradeable to BlackBerry 10. Still, they're a good fit for select users.

BlackBerry maker Research In Motion, after telling users to hold tight for the fourth-quarter release of its brand-new and absolutely fabulous BlackBerry 10 platform, last night announced an €œupdated timetable€ for BlackBerry 10. The first commercial launches, RIM CEO Thorsten Heins said during the company€™s fiscal 2013 first-quarter earnings call, will now occur on a global scale during the first quarter of calendar 2013.

Heins told analysts and media on the call, €œI will not deliver a product to the market that is €¦ anything less than an outstanding user experience with the quality I expect a BlackBerry product to have. There will be no compromise on this issue.€ He added that the functionality of new features wasn€™t to blame, but rather the time required to €œmanage the integration of such a large volume of incoming code.€

BlackBerry 10 is, after all, not simply a new handset but an entirely new platform. So, understood. But where does that leave users and whole enterprises that have been waiting to refresh their devices?

Heins said that, regarding the need to make it between now and then, €œwe are still upgrading our enterprise customers toward BlackBerry 7 and making good progress with this. I expect us to be successful in bridging this gap and in protecting our installed base for those measures.€

Anyone not wanting to wait six-plus months for a new phone should, then, if they€™re not already using one, upgrade to BlackBerry 7. Although, these devices are not upgradeable to BlackBerry 10€”which is, remember, a new platform. BlackBerry 7, it seems, will eventually find themselves in a boat similar to that of Nokia Lumia users€”in possession of newish smartphones with not much of a future.

That said, BlackBerry 7 devices are, by many accounts, very nice phones. Many include near-field communication (NFC) technology, and so can take part in many of the perks shown off by Samsung€™s new Galaxy S III. They€™re said to have the smoothest user interface and most seamless browsing experience of any BlackBerry devices, and OS 7.1 enables them to act as mobile hotspots to up to five devices, among other features. Though they won€™t be able to take advantage of the perks and dazzles of BlackBerry 10, they surely still make sense for some users. But which ones?

€œThe BB7 devices still are among the best for those who want a touch-typeable keyboard and very granular control over email, combined with good security. The initial BB10 devices will be touch-only. So it would make sense to buy a BB7 device if the attributes above were your priority for the long term,€ Ken Delaney, vice president and distinguished analyst at Gartner, told eWEEK. €œBut if you are planning on changing to a touch-screen device, there would be no way to justify the purchase of a new BB7 device today, even the touch screen Torch devices.€

A RIM spokesperson suggested first-time smartphone owners and anyone compelled by a bargain could be a fit.

€œWe plan to continue to aggressively incentivize sales of BlackBerry 7 smartphones through further implementation of programs that drive upgrades from older BlackBerry products to BlackBerry 7, as well as €˜onboard€™ feature phone customers to BlackBerry 7 for their first smartphone experience,€ she told eWEEK.

Analyst Ken Hyers, with Technology Business Research, conceded that RIM€™s customers €œare a little more forgiving than standard consumers about dated device and OS designs,€ though he added that €œmodern products, from Apple, Android and Windows Phone will be better choices for most people (and yes, I even include Windows 7.x devices in that category).€

Roger Kay, principal analyst with Endpoint Technologies, said he can€™t imagine first-time smartphone buyers choosing BlackBerry 7 phones, though €œanyone who needs a new piece of hardware for less than a year might buy one.€

RIM€™s Heins acknowledged the challenge ahead, telling listeners on the call, €œI want to assure you that we€™re not standing still and that we are continuing to accelerate our focus on our key initiatives.€

Kay, following his BlackBerry 7 thoughts with a more sweeping prognosis added, €œReally, this minutia is deck chairs on the Titanic.€

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