Are you ashamed to show your BlackBerry in public? Does it routinely cause you embarrassment? Do your colleagues, friends, and family ridicule you every time you pull it out to check your email? Has it become a negative stigma, labeling you as a behind-the-times outcast? According to an opinion piece that ran in the New York Times, the answer to those questions is increasingly, "Yes."
The Times spoke with a small handful of people who still use Research In Motion's BlackBerry smartphones to help manage their work and personal lives. The Times did a good job coaxing some great quotes of the few people with whom it spoke. Here are some of the gems:
"I'm ashamed of it. I want to take a bat to it. You can't do anything with it. You're supposed to, but it's all a big lie."
"I feel absolutely helpless. You're constantly watching people do all these things on their phones and all I have going for me is my family's group BBM chats."
And, my personal favorite:
"BlackBerry users are like MySpace users. They probably still chat on AOL Instant Messenger."
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The article argues that BlackBerry users are now "black sheep" and "outcasts" who suffer from public shaming and humiliation.
RIM has certainly made some mistakes in the last few years. It essentially ceded the entire smartphone market to Apple and Google when it failed to recognize them as threats. Consumers and Fortune 100 companies alike are ditching BlackBerrys in favor of iPhones and Android smartphones. Why? They offer better multimedia experiences and let consumers interact with their devices in new and pleasing ways.
RIM is working to correct this gap between its hardware/software and those of its competitors, but I don't think it is fair to brand BlackBerrys--nor their owners--as uncool, unhip luddites.
First, most smartphones are purchased with a two-year contract. Considering how dire the economy has been the last few years, it's reasonable to assume that many people can't afford to break their contracts or pay full price for the newest hardware. People who bought top-of-the-line BlackBerry Bolds during the 2010 holiday season probably still have a month or two left on their contract.
More to the point, I traveled to San Diego last week to attend the MobileCON industry trade show. Though I definitely saw a lot of iPhones and Android smartphones in the hands of attendees, I saw plenty of BlackBerrys, too. Nowhere did I see anyone ridiculing others for their choice of handset.
The smartphone market is a competitive, healthy place that offers consumers and businesses plenty of choice. That's a good thing. Some people choose BlackBerrys because they (still) make the best hardware keyboards around. That's a legitimate purchasing decision for people who need to peck out email after email day in and day out.
Besides, if the Aristo hero phone is the type of device RIM has waiting in the wings for launch early next year, the BlackBerry faithful will have their own piece of bling to show off at parties and in the boardroom.