I started using a Blackberry in 2012 courtesy of a loaner-phone from the company. It was an interesting time and I was looking to replace a Nokia E-72 and was considering a Nokia E6, and then Blackberry came along – at a time when it seems most of the corporate and developer world sees the future as being either with Android or Apple phones.
It’s true that both Blackberry & Nokia are on the decline in terms of sales, market share and most important in terms of coolness or the wow factor (now the domain of Samsung and Apple) but both the former companies remain strong in certain markets of the world like China (Nokia), and Africa (Blackberry in South Africa and Nigeria) with millions of core customers who have a long history of staying loyal (mainly due to BBM).
About the phone: The Blackberry 9860 Torch is a wonderful phone, that makes you wonder what is wrong with the company. Moving from a qwerty keyboard phone (Nokia E-72) to a touch screen (BB 9860) phone was not the challenge I expected. In fact, it has made life better, as with a qwerty, you’re pushing the boundaries of safety and good taste e.g. tweeting while driving, walking the streets of Nairobi, or in a business meeting (none of which are advisable).
Office Assistant: For mail, it works, very well for office mail, and multiple other accounts with which you can view attachments & documents, reply quickly or mark messages for later action. The calendar is also very easy to update and sync with the office one and a personal one for all meetings and events. You can back up contacts and messages with blackberry protect for recovery in case you lose your phone.
BBM: What more can you say about blackberry messenger (BBM)? It cuts across phone networks & country borders for seamless chats, photo sharing, instant group chats. It’s like a super secret cult of your friends to share quick, private messages.
Camera: Billed as a 5MP camera with a 4X digital zoom, it works very well and takes excellent pictures, even at a distance. The quality is excellent and adding to the office assistant qualities, the phone also doubles up as a fax, scanner or photocopier to snap pictures of cheques, receipts, bank statements, and other documents for instant emailing or archiving. I’ve stopped carrying a digital camera on trips as the BB one alone is perfect to snap very good pictures. It’s also very easy to share pictures on Facebook, twitter, Bluetooth or BBM and a recent update also allowed for one to have multiple twitter accounts.
Connectivity Cost & Service: Blackberry service costs Kshs 1,000 (~$12) per month from Safaricom or Airtel for data, browsing, email and messaging. With voice calls as extra, it’s cheaper to operate a blackberry (about Kshs 1,500 per month) than any previous phones (~2000 per month) because (unlike users of Android phones) you don’t have to worry about the extensive data pulling by apps that run in the background. Also for travel to other countries, it’s been super to check ahead for a local mobile company with Blackberry and buy a local SIM & data package (for one week or month) and stay fully connected without incurring costly roaming charges (doing without voice and SMS)
Battery life: The 9860 is a smart phone problem with a large screen (3.7 inches) and like, many smart phones, it’s a drain on battery life. The phone would sometimes go a half day before going flat, but since I turned off 3G and use EDGE exclusively, it’s able to get through a full day. The advertised 6 hour talk time of the phone, is often 6 hours of total battery time before having to recharge.
Apps: Waze, and Blackberry Maps work quite well for finding places and driving navigation, and are very accurate in Nairobi, Accra etc. However there are not enough apps, and few new ones being created and marketed.
No radio? This is Africa and radio is better than podcasts and song files. But at least radios features on other phones like the curve 9320/9220 models
OS 7: Too often you see the spinning clock when the phone is trying process several commands.
Overall: It’s an Android versus Apple world, e.g today the New York Times discontinued support for its blackberry app but maybe Blackberry (and Nokia) can discover what they are missing in terms of wow, and reach out to more developers on creating new versions of their apps.
That’s half the equation, and on the company side, there’s been little that’s new and compelling in terms of wooing new phone buyers to choose Blackberry to be their next phone. Still, I’m hooked and can’t see myself going back. What’s next Blackberry?