Can the new BlackBerry fight back as Apple prepares cheaper iPhone

Can the new BlackBerry fight back as Apple prepares cheaper iPhone
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The imminent global launch of Research in Motion’s new BlackBerry 10 operating system is the “last hurrah” for BlackBerry according to mobile experts.

RIM will unveil two new BlackBerry 10 smartphones on January 30, a move Graham Christie, group commercial director and partner of BigMobile, labeled critical.

“They must get this right and they must stop the decline in their share of the market,” Christie told B&T.

“They have about 6% market share globally but only about 2% in Australia.”

Paul Haenel, BlackBerry technical lead for Tigerspike Asia Pacific, said RIM will have a lot of difficulty coming back if the launch falls flat.

“RIM knows this and that’s why they are working on making things right,” Haenel said.

“After a less than successful Playbook launch, this is now RIM’s opportunity to gain back some market share.”

However, Zeus Unwired’s founder Rob Marston believes it is “too little, too late” for BlackBerry.

“They failed to innovate at the speed the market wanted them to. They needed more impressive products; they focused on incremental developments instead of revolutionary launches.”

RIM has “started from the ground up” with the new phones to create a contemporary user face, according to Christie, who said the company was clearly inspired by iPhone and Android.

Marston is more blunt and describes the new operating system as the “love child” of the two dominant smartphone players.

“They have done the smart thing and taken the best of the smartphone and tablet world,” Christie added.

“From a software point of view I would say 85% of the operating system and the user interface is really pulling up to what Android and iPhone users are already enjoying in terms of gesture-type controls, navigation and how the directory bars have been organised.”

Haenel said the new operating system will be extremely fast.

“This operating system is based on QNX which is a Unix like real-time operating system,” he explained.

“ONX is based on the idea of running most of the operating system in the form of a number of small tasks which makes it very fast and responsive for the user to interact with the device running such an operating system.

“Currently the platform is used in cars, airplanes and medical diagnostic equipment,. which gives BB10 users the ability to communicate with such devices seamlessly.”

BlackBerry specific features will include the ability to switch between professional and personal profile’s which can separately house services and applications used for work and fun.

The new operating system will also feature a full web browser, an important move for mobile marketing.

“This is good news in the sense that it has always been slightly limited by the weakness of its browser capability,” Christie said.

“In this particular operating system the browser is HTML5. This basically means the graphically rich features that people will be used to on tablets, iPhones and Androids, will in theory be able to be replicated on BlackBerry – and that has been difficult to date.”

There has been no talk of NFC surrounding the two new phones, according to Christie.

The lack of NFC, near-field communication, in the iPhone5 was lamented as “hugely disappointing” by digital marketers in September.

Christie said it is likely the new operating system will feature some NFC compliant software but nothing of note. He expects BlackBerry will plan to build full NFC capability into one of their four other devices due to be launched later in 2013.

Of the handsets to be launched at the end of January, one is expected to be a touch screen while the other will feature a physical keyboard.

Overall, Christie said the new BlackBerry devices will be “pretty solid units but whether it is going to be enough to address the decline in users remains to be seen”.

Marston does not believe the BlackBerry will be able to fight back against Android and iPhone which both have a strong foothold in BlackBerry’s traditional enterprise market.

But Haenel feels they have potential.

“You can’t compare it to Apple and Android as RIM is after a specific type of user,” he said.

“Apple and Android are after the mass market and BlackBerry is after ‘doers’.”

Meanwhile, Christie said Apple’s reported move to develop a lower-end iPhone for emerging markets is a good move.

“In emerging markets their penetration is very very modest. For instance, in Indonesia they have single digit penetration – they are nowhere.”

“That is because it is very price lead. There is a lot of appetite for Apple products but people just can’t afford them.”

If Apple’s shift is successful in fighting against the price-competitiveness of Android handsets the effect on Apple’s consumer base will be interesting for marketers to watch, Christie said.

“If you are driving brand campaigns or mobile marketing and Apple consumer is always going to be more attractive than an Android user,” Christie explained.

“And that is because they are probably more affluent and slightly older.

“It will be interesting to see – if a cheaper iPhone does come to bear – and it attacks different segments of consumers, whether that mantle of the premium base is diluted.”

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