In the United States alone, the total number of Blackberry users has slumped from 19 millions to less than 12 millions in the last five years. The scenario is pretty much similar in most other countries. As Blackberry gears up for a revival with Passport, we take a quick look at some information tidbits about the platform.
Will Blackberry survive the constant onslaught from Apple and Android (in particular), and be able to overcome its own recent debacles (read: the flop show of Z 10) – to become a force to reckon with in the global smartphone market once again? The answer depends a lot on the strategies that are being implemented by new company CEO John Chen. One thing is, however, beyond doubt – there is, still, no dearth of Blackberry fanboys/girls out there. For them, we present some fun and interesting facts about Blackberry phones:
- The debut – Blackberry announced itself in the handheld devices market with BB 850 – a 2-way pager – way back in 1999. The initial Blackberry handsets had somewhat boring monochrome displays. Devices with color screens were launched later. The focus was primarily on push-email functions – which is still the biggest USP of Blackberry.
- The lead over iPhones – Till 2009, Blackberry had a healthy 10%+ lead over Apple iPhone – as far as the battle between the smartphone biggies were concerned (34% against just a touch under 24%). Of course, things have undergone a sea-change over the last half a decade. Blackberry is now nowhere near the top, either in terms of market share (Android rules the roost) or profitability (iOS wins this round hands down).
- The Canadian origin – Professional mobile OS analysts and app development experts attribute the early popularity of Blackberry to the proficiency of its parent company ‘Research-in-Motion’ (RIM), based in Canada. RIM has been working on Blackberry projects since 1996, and for many years, did witness great success with its gadgets.
- The ‘Blackberry Thumb’ phenomenon – This one is for the really hardcore BB fans. From the mid to late 2000s, a new concept emerged in medical science – known as ‘Blackberry Thumb’. It referred to the pain/injury caused to the thumb of people, due to prolonged usage of mobiles and PDAs with QWERTY keyboards. Of course, as the popularity of Blackberry waned, this phenomenon started tapering off too.
- The story behind the name – It will always remain a mystery why Google names its Android versions after tasty desserts, or the reason behind Mac naming desktop OS editions after ‘big cats’. The motive behind naming RIM-devices ‘Blackberry’ is much more easily explainable. Almost all initial handsets were black, and the keyboards looked a lot like bunches of fruit seeds. Black and with seeds – that pointed to Blackberry!
- The Blackberry Internet Service user-base – Blackberry Internet Service, or BIS, has one of the most widespread presence among mobile web service providers. People from more than 90 different nations regularly subscribe to BIS plans. Blackberry internet is supported by around 510 mobile operators – a clear indication of its popularity.
- The biggest flops – While Blackberry totally aced with Pearl and Curve (arguably, the most successful line of BB phones) – the company has a fairly long tryst with flop products. Blackberry Playbook, which was hyped to be the next big thing in the tablet market, turned out to be a damp squib. The company’s first rival product to iPhone – Blackberry Storm – came in for scathing criticism due to built-in software glitches. Blackberry’s relatively recent decision to go the touchscreen way with Q10 and Z10 has not wowed anyone either.
- The meaning of Crackberry – If you happen to be a Blackberry-lover or even a general smartphone enthusiast, you must have come across the Crackberry website and/or seen several Crackberry forums and panels online. This term is derived from the capability of Blackberry phones to retrieve emails on a real-time basis anywhere, provided wi-fi is available. The ‘crack’ bit comes from the fact that this functionality of Blackberry is rather addictive!
- The app store – Apple has iTunes, Google has Play Store – and RIM has Blackberry App World for mobile app downloads. Recently rebranded as Blackberry World, it does not even come close to giving the the other two stores a fight. Both Play Store and iTunes have well over one million apps each, while the number of Blackberry apps (till April 2014) is less than 235000. Talks are on about Amazon applications being showcased in Blackberry World from this year – but it will be too naive to think that BB will get a massive boost from that.
- The Blackberry terminology – How many offshoots of the current worldwide buzzword ‘selfie’ are you familiar with? Well Blackberry too (during its heydey) had a number of phrases which referred to the actions/emotions of the device owners. Back in the 2000s, things like ‘Gasp-berrying’, ‘Aack-berrying’, and ‘Whiplash-berrying’ were pretty frequently heard. Oh, and if you forgot to carry your Blackberry phone outdoors, you were likely feel ‘Brax-berries’ (referring to the device’s vibrations)!
- The efficiency – There might be a thousand other problems with RIM Blackberry, but mobile app analysts are still convinced about the general efficiency features of its internet services. On average, BIS subscribers require around 1/3rd less of mobile data for browsing the internet (compared to most other mobile platforms). The browsing speed might not be the fastest, but it is good enough for most users.
- The change in market leadership – 2010 was the year when Blackberry shipped the most units in its history. Unfortunately, it was also the year when Apple iPhone overtook it in terms of revenues and market share. Since then, iOS has galloped ahead, while BB has fallen further and further behind.
- The Academy Award – Nopes, no one bagged an Academy Award for designing a Blackberry device. However, the developer company did get an Academy Award in 1998, for a digital bar code scanner they had created as well. It made, justifiably, quite a bit of splash at the time.
Blackberry Passport, for which pre-bookings are now open, is being looked upon as the device that pulls BB out of its current mire. It is pretty difficult to point out a single factor behind Blackberry’s downward spiral over the last 3-4 years – although the relative paucity of Blackberry apps and the decision to focus more on touchscreen phones (a sector in which Android and iPhone already had healthy presence) would be strong contenders. None of the Blackberry 10 devices have done well till now – but we would love to see a revival from this heavily beleaguered company.