It would seem that BlackBerry have finally found success with their touch screen phones and are increasingly moving away from their QWERTY roots. This follows a rather dissasterous first attempt with the BlackBerry Storm (remember that? probably not!). The biggest change for BlackBerry seems to have been the release of their later operating systems (BB OS 6 onward) which were developed with “touch” in mind.
The BlackBerry Torch was the first BlackBerry to really make an impact with Touch Screen for RIM (using OS6) and was a big seller in spite of its hefty price tag. The torch is now in its thrid itteration and keeps getting better, however, whilst working on the Torch RIM did something rather surprising and released a FrankenPhone in the form of the Bold Touch. Quite what made RIM think users would want both a touch screen and a QWERTY is beyond me, its like serving pickles with custard, not a good mix! I mean, typically users want either:
- A great QWERTY phone
- A great Touch Screen Phone
And the Bold touch is neither really, well, I guess its still a good QWERTY, but the addition of a touch screen makes it over sized when most users clearly want something more compact and lets face it… understandable!
RIM must have learned a lesson or two from the not so succesful sales results from the Bold Touch and have now released the Curve 9380 touch screen, and this time its clear what the phone is!
Apperance wise it is very similar to the torch, only there is no slide out QWERTY, this is the first phone since the Storm that does not feature a mechanical keypad. Last time RIM tried this (with the storm) it went down badly with customers who liked the mechanical keyboard, which I guess is why RIM have been building dual purpose phones since.
So the question is whether this new Curve will hit the right spot with consumers. A lot has changed since the Storm was released and touch screen phones are fast becoming the standard for smartphones. How well BlackBerry can do in this market remains to be seen as this is not really where their herritage or brand identity lies. Furthermore, BlackBerry are very weak on apps when compared to Android or IOS (Apple). Sending mails from a touch screen is a nuisance if you are used to QWERTY, unless you have an Android with SWYPE enabled which works very well indeed.
RIM continue their focus on email and social which you can see from their official page (linked to above), but to be frank, these are some of the very few genuinely good apps available on the OS, that said, what do people really use their phones for? If you want a phone for “communication” be that voice, mail, text, im or social, then this is perfectly adequate. Lets face it, apps are great, apps are clever, but on an incy wincey little screen you are limited to what you can do with the cleverest app. In my opinion phones are… communication devices as opposed to being entertainement centres, publishing platforms etc.
Also let us not forget the fact that BlackBerry still have some things going in thier favour here:
- Solid build quality
- Strong brand
- Unbeatable email integration
On top of which, RIM have no choice other than to compete in this market, it is the way things are heading and no manufacturer can afford to bury their head in the sand where touch screen technology is concernted. It is pretty clear that RIM have the ability to adapt to these changes, the question is whether their customers can!
In terms of value the Curve 9380 is pretty keenly priced being in the same price range as the Bold Touch (but being a much better phone in my opinion), and despite still being “hot off the press”, I have to say I think the Curve 9380 has the best offers to come out of BlackBerry for the money in some time. the previous Curve 3G did little more than add features that should have been present in the 8520, the Bold Touch we have already mentioned, leaving the Torch as the only really solid product to have been released prior to this. It is likely that RIM will continue down this track in future with a dual line in QWERTY or Touch (slide out Torch not witstanding) and there will be more models like this to enjoy in the future!
I hope this wone works out for RIM, they need a bit of luck following service outages and less than great sales over the past couple of years. I have always rated RIM myself and would like to be able to continue using them for a few more years yet, and this is the first handset I have seen that I can both afford which offers a viable alternative to the great green droid!
Anyway, if my ramblings have not put you to sleep yet, you can get a nice walk through from the guys at crackberry in the video below: