With the iPhone 5 looming, and BlackBerry's data 'outage' affecting customers globally in October 2011, is there any hope for Research In Motion's BlackBerry?
According to internet forums, Twitter and tech blogs all over the world, more and more people are taking the leap from BlackBerry to iPhone; the young instant messaging generation and business people alike are looking for a more reliable phone in which to plan their lives.
Of course Android too is an increasingly popular choice, with Samsung now challenging Apple's popularity - but it is the leap from BlackBerry to iPhone that seems to take centre stage in the ever-present phone dilemma of the 21st century.
Surveys and forums across the internet highlight the general feeling of distaste for the fruitfully named mobile phone: as far back as March 2010, long before the RIM crash, studies were indicating a mass exodus towards its competitor: "according to a recent study by Crowd Science, four out of 10 BlackBerry users would be willing to switch to an iPhone," stated Mobile Guerrilla, a mobile phone blog.
If the Crowd Science information was anything to go by, the last thing RIM wanted was a global disaster.
The October crash affected BlackBerry users all over the planet. The problems, as millions of the world's population remember, meant that people could not send BBM messages, receive emails or access the internet. While this was annoying for regular customers, especially young people who often use the BBM service to communicate with friends, it was of course catastrophic for many business men and women across the world.
ZDNet UK reported that "outdated" and "centralised" systems, which were not checked or safely backed-up, caused the widespread melt-down.
A teenager in mobile phone shop Phones 4U, told me: "I've had enough of BlackBerry now. This is my third phone in as many months, it keeps going wrong, and when it works, you can't get half the apps available on iPhone anyway. My contract's up for renewal now so I'm going to get an iPhone."
And it's not just when contracts expire either: shortly after the outage, online tech-product buyer Gazelle recorded a dramatic increase in trade-ins as a result: a startling 80% increase in the number of BlackBerrys handed in.
The outage left over three quarters of all BlackBerry users across almost every continent without data capabilities, and RIM's seemingly lacklustre first attempt at indicating the problem provoked outrage.
Users took to Twitter to try and find out what the problem was, and it was on Twitter that the company released a statement, claiming a "core switch failure" was at fault, amid other technological jargon that most people would not understand. Disgruntled BlackBerry owners then voiced their aggravation in response.
Since then, it seems little has changed. Many people across forums around the world claim that they are simply seeing out their contract before moving over to iPhone, or indeed Android. The release of the iPhone 4S has left many technologically minded people with an easier choice.
A survey conducted by Piper Jeffray in America, underpinned the switch (though this survey was conducted pre-outage): 29% of respondents had an iPhone, to 28% owning a BlackBerry. When asked what phone they intended to get next, 64% said iPhone, and only 11% said they intended to choose another BlackBerry. RIM will have to think fast in order to compete.
But compete it will: the company is soon to release the BBX, a rumoured-to-be vastly superior operating system that will run on all BlackBerry devices - obviously a direct response to declining sales and customer aggravation. It remains to be seen as to whether this bold step forward will come to RIM's rescue. And while the world waits, they will have to hold fast, amidst complaints of being 'reactionary' rather than 'innovative' by many.
Of course while complaints are prevalent, it is sales which will really highlight switching patterns. According to Mobiledia.com, statistics look far from promising for RIM, which now supposedly lies in third behind iPhone and Android. The new BBX system will have to be good then, though RIM is refusing to give too much away.
There is however, still brand loyalty to the BlackBerry, and not everyone has jumped on the band wagon. Many do not forget that iPhone's continually cost more, and while they boast a bigger screen and more applications, the specific specifications in operating speed and processing pale a relative insignificance to the everyday customer; certainly those who simply use their smartphone to check Facebook and video kittens.
The outage and the sales demise have left RIM under much scrutiny; perhaps now the BlackBerry brand has fallen into being the second or third choice of smartphone, and they will just have to live with that for time being.
Anyway, it's not all bad BlackBerry: it's still better than Nokia, surely?
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