After a very long engagement, BlackBerry 10 has finally been released to the masses. Well, the masses in Europe, anyway. The full-touch BlackBerry Z10 went on sale in the UK yesterday, and will launch in Canada, China, and a few other locations on February 5th, and will finally make its way to the US in mid-March. The QWERTY-toting Q10 won’t hit retail until April (or later), meaning those who’ve held out through thick and thin for BlackBerry devices are either stuck with the full-touch experience, or have to hold out another few months for their QWERTY BlackBerry 10 solution.
So was there enough in BlackBerry 10 and the Z10-Q10 combo to alleviate those ringing the death bells for
Research in Motion newly-renamed BlackBerry? The major tech sites have had their hands on the Z10 for a bit of time now, and published their reviews alongside the BlackBerry 10 launch event. Overall, the consensus was that the Z10 and BB10 took great strides to rival offerings of industry-leading Android and iOS, but failed to come up with a solid argument that would compel a consumer to choose a BlackBerry product over the competition.
The Z10 itself is an interesting device, though as most early reviews have pointed out, the Z10 is more of a mid-range device than something that can compete with better offerings by the competition. The Verge‘s Joshua Topolsky rightly concludes that:
“The Z10 is a fine device, well made, reasonably priced, backed by a company with a long track record. But it’s not the only device of its kind, and it’s swimming against a massive wave of entrenched players with really, really good products. Products they figured out how to make years ago. Products that are mature. The smartphone industry doesn’t need saving.” – Joshua Topolsky, Editor in Chief, The Verge
Engadget’s Tim Stevens offers a similar take on the Z10, noting that:
“BlackBerry’s BlackBerry Z10 is genuinely a pretty nice phone [...] and overall there’s really a lot to like. But, tragically, there’s really nothing to love. Nothing in the Z10 stands out as class-leading and, while the BB10 OS does have a lot of charm and brings all the best productivity-focused attributes of BlackBerry to bear in a much more modern package, the app selection is poor and the gestures here aren’t so good that they make up for that major shortcoming. Will more and better apps come with time? Absolutely, but after waiting this long (and then making Americans wait another month yet) BlackBerry really needed to make a huge impact out of the gate. Unfortunately, it hasn’t.” - Tim Stevens, Editor in Chief, Engadget
These are damning words for a smartphone trying to make it in a crowded marketplace, though both reviewers offer an air of sympathy for BlackBerry. Both seemed to want BlackBerry 10 to succeed at least in some way, and were genuinely disappointed that the company couldn’t offer up something better, something just a little bit more.
Of course, the Q10 offers some promise to BlackBerry enthusiasts who’ve fallen for RIM’s hardware keyboards, though given the limited market adoption of physical-keyboard smartphones in recent years, even the beloved Q10 could have an uphill battle in store for it when it launches later this year. Physical keyboards have largely fallen by the wayside to make room for larger screens more suited for content consumption, though devices with keyboards have largely been underwhelming products more suited for the low-end of the market than anything else. The Q10 could buck this trend, though we’ll hold our breaths that this will actually happen. We’ll know more once the Q10 gets in the hands of the general public, currently slated for Q2.
So will BlackBerry 10 be successful? Will it emerge as a true viable alternative to Android and iOS? Earlier this week, we looked at a few ways BlackBerry (and, by default, Windows Phone) could strengthen its position in the market. We argued that if BlackBerry could win over early adopters–the friends, family members, and trusted individual reviewers on sites like Amazon–, price at least one of the smartphone offerings at a competitive price point in emerging markets, and come up with key differentiating factors in either the smartphones, OS, or both, that company would stand a fighting chance at taking market share away from the duopoly that is now Android and iOS.
As mentioned above, at least the full-touch BlackBerry Z10 smartphone is off to a rough start. It’s seen a few mediocre reviews from the trusted names in handset reviews, and failed to create the wow factor design-wise that RIM was hoping to create. On the software side, there are several cool features which bring feature-parity with Android and iOS, and even a few ways BlackBerry arguably outshines the competition such as the camera technology which allows you to pick the best picture on a per-person basis so you always have everyone looking at their best.
But the negatives from the software experience seem to outweigh the positive. In a first impressions piece on BlackBerry 10 OS, Todd Haselton of TechnoBuffalo reported that the experience, specifically BlackBerry 10′s notifications hub left him more anxious than when using the notifications system on competing smartphones, with BlackBerry seeming taking the more is more mentality to notifications as opposed to the less is more functionality in Windows Phone and, arguably, iOS.
As far as the pricing goes, BlackBerry paradoxically priced the Z10 like a flagship device, at $199.99 for 2-year contract ($149.99 for 3 year contract in Canada), and at around $600 unlocked based on the UK prices. That’s certainly not going to win over too many fans in the developing markets, which tend to adopt low-cost Android devices. Again here the Q10 may win over some BlackBerry enthusiasts if the price is right, but at this point at least it seems the Z10 won’t be widely adopted in developing countries.
We won’t really know whether BlackBerry 10 was sufficient enough to stop BlackBerry’s decent into irrelevance until around this time next year. BlackBerry 10 is certainly good enough to appease those who’ve waited…and waited…and waited for a next-generation platform from the enterprise’s beloved handset maker. But it isn’t great enough to win any current Android, iOS, or Windows Phone owners over from their current ecosystems, and it’ll likely have a tough time gaining new smartphone customers unless the early adopters of these phones are loud with their reviews early on.
Sadly, I think we’ll continue to see sub 10% market share numbers for both BlackBerry and Windows Phone at best, and we’d rate the chance of continued combined market share below 10% as a strong possibility. I’d love to be wrong here, as the duopoly currently enjoyed by Android and iOS needs to end, but the market just isn’t quite there yet.
Image credit: The Guardian
This article was written by Anthony Domanico
Anthony is the Editor in Chief of Techgress, and a big mobile and gaming geek. He's covered mobile technology for the better part of three years, and gets excited about shiny, new things. He currently uses an iPhone, iPad Mini, and Nexus 7, but Windows Phone 8 and BlackBerry devices are never too far away.