Last week the trackball on my BlackBerry Curve decided to quit on me. The thing couldn’t roll down a hill if it tried and, well, the phone’s dated version of the operating system was starting to make me look like a mobile T-Rex. (I always thought if I were to be a dinosaur, I’d be a T-Rex.)
As a true CrackBerry addict, I had opted to replace my Verizon Curve 88330 with the new Curve 8530. Yes, rather than a Droid, I went with the BlackBerry because I am a Blackberry Messenger fiend, love the speed of the e-mail and my fingers can’t live without the physical keyboards. However, within a few minutes of using the new trackpad equipped Curve, I was just downright disappointed in the Canadian smartphone pioneers. What used to be a groundbreaking mobile operating system a couple of years ago, has been minimally updated with only new skins and a slightly improved interface. The attempts to catch up to the Apple iPhones, Palm Pres and Motorola Droids of the world haven’t been executed correctly.
Take RIM’s shot at its own application store. Deemed Blackberry App World, the application store is not even preloaded on the brand new device! In order to get the application portal on the smartphone I had to search for it via Google, and download the application. Yep, I had to download the application to get applications. Counterintuitive, much? I’m not sure how RIM expects its customers to know this store is even available and that it contains hundreds of applications, nonetheless that it compete with application-centric phones like the iPhone and Android that have simple, preloaded application marketplaces.
Once running, the store is actually quite nice and easy to navigate but its inventory is a different story. I couldn’t find a number of applications for my phone, including TweetGenius and TwitterBerry. And don’t think it is just a coincidence that the two missing applications were social networking based.
Sure, Facebook makes a decent application for BlackBerry, but unlike the Palm Pre or the iPhone it lacks social skills. There is no integrated contact management with the option to fill in your current address book with different social networking information (though the Facebook app does have an option for that it isn't integrated in the OS or within other social networking applications). Even when new and promising features like visual voicemail seem to be preloaded, they end up requiring a download and what feels like a 10-step process to configure. Unfortunately, while RIM is attempting to bring these newer features offered by its competitors and the social Web ecosystem to its own operating system, the implementation is halfhearted.
RIM, what worked a few years ago just doesn’t anymore. Although you may continue to attract enterprise customers with superior security and e-mail, to compete today in the consumer game you need products that add simplicity, engage with Internet integration and offer easy access to compelling third-party applications. Yes, there remains a dedicated group of consumers (eh hem, me) that are still looking for the BlackBerry bread and butter – the strong email support, the speed of services like BlackBerry Messenger and good hardware – but they aren’t willing to deal with lagging features and incomplete experiences. You don’t have to reinvent the wheel (seriously, we don't want the scroll wheel anymore), but continuing to drop the ball isn’t going to work anymore. Please, get it rolling again.