Why Everyone Hates RIM’s BlackBerry

By February 27, 2012

Whether you’re working in technology or you’re a gadget-head (or both!), you probably hate RIM’s BlackBerry phone. Not only is RIM falling behind in the mobile game, RIM is also struggling internally with leadership turnover and late product releases.

Even the biggest advocates of BlackBerry usage, American corporations, are now hating on RIM. Companies are now responding to the requests of employees who want the freedom to use iPhones or Android phones for work. According to a Bloomberg poll, out of 200 US companies polled, 83 percent now let their employees use devices other than a BlackBerry. This comes with the recent announcement that employees of Gannett, Haliburton, and even the US Government are now allowed to choose alternative smartphones.

Despite all of the obvious reasons why everyone should hate RIM’s BlackBerry, many people don’t know exactly why they cringe when they see a biz dev guy tapping away on his Blackberry at the local pub. I had a moment like this happen to me last summer when I was at a wedding. One of the guests pulled out a BlackBerry and started dazzling the other guests with how he could check his email on his phone, and why he thinks Apple is evil. That was a lot to pack into a compound sentence, and both my software developer husband and myself immediately went on the defense by offering counterpoints for the rest of the table. Although it wasn’t a very tech-savvy crowd, it made me think about why tech folks hated BlackBerry phones so much.

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Here are some clear reason why both consumer and developers hate BlackBerry. Feel free to use them at your next awkward dinner party or happy hour confrontation:

Consumers hate BlackBerry because:

Companies don’t build BlackBerry apps.

Popular consumer utilities and entertainment apps like Netflix, Yelp, and Hulu are not building apps for RIM’s BlackBerry or Playbook. Apps are a form of media that are increasingly part of our popular culture. Caring about our favorite apps is the new caring about our favorite soap opera. If you don’t have access to apps that are captivating the collective imagination like Spotify for example, you are missing out on a common cultural experience.

BlackBerrys are “all work, not play”.

When BlackBerry was introduced to the market, the ability to send and receive email on the go changed the way that workers operated in the new 24/7 mobile workplace. Workers could suddenly work at all hours, and some bosses abused this new capability. But now the mobile workplace has changed again. Employees now use devices and computers for a mix of entertainment and work. Tablets for example make excellent devices for delivering presentations during out of office meetings. But what makes the iPad even more valuable is that you can close the presentation and then watch a movie via your Netflix app on the train ride home.

BlackBerrys cause image problems.

We live in a time where pulling a BlackBerry out of your pocket and placing it on the desk during your interview could cost you the job at startup or tech company. The popular image of a BlackBerry user is that they are out of touch with contemporary technology. In short, it makes you look like a dinosaur. People hate BlackBerrys because they don’t want to be associated with tech pariahs.

Companies don’t build BlackBerry apps because:

Developing for BlackBerry is painful.

Ask any mobile developer about building apps for BlackBerry and they will roll their eyes. Building BlackBerry apps is notoriously hard. According to a letter from an anonymus RIM employee published in Boy Genius Report:

Developing for BlackBerry is painful, and despite what you’ve been told, things haven’t really changed that much since Jamie Murai’s letter. Our SDK / development platform is like a rundown 1990′s Ford Explorer. Then there’s Apple, which has a shiny new BMW M3… just such a pleasure to drive. Developers want and need quality tools.

If we create great tools, we will see great work. Offer shit tools and we shouldn’t be surprised when we see shit apps.

The letter that the writer refers to can be found here. The letter begins with:

You win. I concede defeat. I no longer want to attempt developing an app for the Playbook. Are you happy now? Surely you must be. Considering how terribly designed the entire process is, from the registration right through to loading an app into the simulator, I can only assume that you are trying to drive developers away by inconveniencing them as much as humanly possible.

If no one wants to develop for RIM devices, then the consumer loses out.

There is no financial gain in developing for BlackBerry.

Because the BlackBerry marketshare is dropping rapidly, there is no financial incentive to build BlackBerry apps. The process is so painful (see above), that any potential profit to be made is not even worth it. Instead, companies are focused on building top apps for iPhone and iPad.

There is a glimmer of hope for Canadian-based company RIM. Canadians love their BlackBerrys! In the Canadian smartphone market, BlackBerry users account for 32.6% of total smartphone users. iPhone accounts for 31.2% and Android accounts for 27.9%.

The next time you find yourself in a showdown with a diehard BlackBerry fan, don’t justify your anti-BlackBerry arguments with the phrase, “because everyone thinks so”. Everyone does think so, but facts make for better ammunition.

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