I have a friend who does desktop support for a major organization in GA. He tells me these stories of some of the users he supports asking for an iPhone. He tells me of how these users say things like: “I want a smart phone, not a Blackberry, but a smart phone”. While I chuckled every time I heard that, I didn’t really believe it. That is, until yesterday.
I was in the playground with my son. While he was playing with his friends, I took out my iPad to browse the web. Almost instantly, the other parents at the playground turned their attention towards me, and one-by-one, they took turns coming over to see, touch and ask questions about it. I have been using an iPad since the first gen, and so I have forgotten that even though millions of these things have been sold, a lot more have not seen one closeup. So for the next 20 minutes, I answered questions on price, carrier availability and data options, apps, camera(s), battery-life, more question on apps, and a lot more that I can’t remember.
While all this was happening, I observed one of the parents with an Android device. I think it was a Droid X for Verizon. So I say to him: “how do you like that thing”? He responds: “I like it a lot. I still don’t know everything about it, but that’s to be expected, I mean, its my first smart phone” So I asked what phone he had before the Droid, and he said, “a Blackberry”.
I was surprised. I may have shown that on my face, because he asked if it was unusual that the Droid was his first smart phone. Obviously, that bit is not unusual. With smart phones becoming popular only recently, and the average smart phone plan being more expensive due in part to the mandatory inclusion of a data plan, they have not been as popular as dumb phones, though going forward, I expect to see a reversal of that trend.
What was unusual was the notion that a Blackberry was not a smart phone. So I asked him what in his opinion was the definition of a smart phone. His response, “Angry Birds”. To this gentleman, apps are what define a smart phone, not the combined features of PDA, email, a capable web browser, GPS, WiFi etc. No, apps are what define a smart phone, as far as he’s concerned.
Now, it’s not like there are no apps in Blackberry’s App store. There are over forty thousand applications in the Blackberry App World. The story changes a bit, once you compare their app count to that of the Android Market and iOS App Store. Some estimates put the count at over four hundred thousand for each of those guys. And while some Blackberry fans would argue that quality is what counts, not quantity, this guy from the playground would beg to differ. A VP at RIM even once said “We don’t need 200 fart apps in App World,” he said, according to Recombu. “Those are apps you’ll use three or four times then never open again. You’re not looking at ads, clicking on ads or buying premium upgrades, and the app isn’t adding any value to your device“.
Look, I agree. A lot of these apps are junk. He is right, that some of these apps get used about three or four times, then never get used again. What he is wrong on is the fact that a large app-count signifies a thriving developer community. When yu have a large number of apps, you’re bound to have a few “fart apps”. But with a large number of apps, you get great apps. But I guess RIM doesn’t need great apps. Why waste your time with a great app when you have a “super app”
While RIM may not “need” 200 fart apps, their users may. Blackberry is losing market-share. According to the latest report from Nielsen, Blackberry’s smart phone market-share is down to 19%. According to the report, future is even grimmer, as fewer people plan to buy a Blackberry to replace their current devices. People are abandoning the platform for Android and the iPhone, and I don’t think that RIM understands what is going on, or how to stop the bleeding and turn things around.