14 July 2012
Believe it or not, there are still people who love the BlackBerry. I know, right? Unfortunately for them, they better switch. And fast.
Despite popular thinking, BlackBerry fans are not gray skinned corporate zombies who all used to work for Bain Capital. In fact, they tend to be people who have lives outside technology and don't want to give that up. Their Bold and Torch devices are handed to them by their corporation so they don't spend hours deciding which carrier, which plan and fighting those stupid companies over ridiculous charges. (Seriously - who buys the same ring-tone every month, Sprint?) The devices also "just work" and tend to have battery life lasting twice as long as an iPhone or a thousand times longer than an Android so they aren't searching for power outlets in airports or carrying a charger wherever they go. Email, SMS, calendar, contacts and making phone calls all work as well or better on a BlackBerry. Plus, debate it all you like but the bottom line is that anyone can type nearly twice as fast on physical keys than an onscreen keyboard given the same amount of practice using it. Finally, thanks to the encrypted and secure BlackBerry network, their devices use very little data and customers know their communication over cellular networks is completely secure.
Unfortunately, RIM is in critical care and about to flat line. They have enough cash to make it until the end of 2013 and, unless someone comes to their rescue, their organization will cease to exist. What that occurs, that wonderful secure network becomes the feature that will brick every BlackBerry in operation. The data that once was so carefully managed will stop being delivered because the pipe will cease to exist.
While I completely understand the advantages of these devices and sympathize with anyone who enjoys carrying the device, it is mobile suicide to buy another BlackBerry right now. Any company or government agency limited to only the BlackBerry had better start considering other options quickly. Unless you have the petty cash to buy out the good folks in Waterloo, you should force your staff to find another option.
Some day in the next couple of years there may well be a headline that the BlackBerry network is permanently down and thousands of phones suddenly will not work. You probably do not want to be part of that select group.
08 July 2012
A Benjamin a month or more can be quite a motivating factor to learn more about cellular options, and there are millions of potential students looking to discover a smarter way to carry their phone. Looking ahead to the cellular wavelength future, it seems entirely possible that some Americans may learn how expensive subsidized phones can be, and companies like Virgin Mobile are our professors attempting to educate us. The question is whether we are paying attention or fell asleep through their course.
Virgin Mobile just entered the American market in force with zero contract service for a handful of phones including the beloved iPhone 4S. The geek world is aflutter with affection for any option that can easily cut 25% off your total cellular cost over two years, even when you factor in the cost of the phone. Sure, you pay $650 up front, but you then pay only $35 a month for service and can quit at any time. Unless you are a Verizon shareholder, it would be lunacy not to consider switching to their service when your contact expires. Concerned about coverage in your area? Their piggyback on the Sprint network has a 30 day money back guarantee to backup if things go awry. Apple gets their money and you save yours, so we cannot lose!
In a way, we still are. The brilliant people in Cupertino do not want you to open your calculator app to find you could save 50% off your bill over two years (a thousand bucks) if you pick up a different smart phone. An HTC One V is a $200 smart phone running Android's latest Ice Cream Sandwich interface and having comparable specs in nearly every way. Maybe you need a device that is iPhone 5 with 4G LTE service? That device is only $300. Less than half the price for a device that will do the same cartwheels of an iPhone that has not even been announced. Even better - these great Android devices come out every month and since you are outside a contract, you can buy a new $100 to $300 device whenever you like.
Do not misunderstand me - this is not a Virgin Mobile commercial. That is the scary part. There are other players in the space, like Cricket, and even some cheaper options that rely on cellular only when WiFi is unavailable that bring the bill down to $20 a month. The reason I focus on Virgin is because they are pushing this concept mainstream and, when you add this to the already suffocating cost of subsidizing Apple's equipment, it is easy to envision how someday we might see AT&T or Verizon consider abandoning contracts themselves.
This presents a significant paradox for the children of Jobs. As many of us move away from cellular contracts and the curtains are pulled back from the subsidy cloak we will finally see how Apple prints their cash: They charge a bloody fortune for their phone. No doubt, there will always be those that worship at their altar, and rightfully so since their products are near technological perfection. Those true believers can still purchase their favorite device and save $500 during a typical contract, or save only $250 and have the option to buy a the latest iPhone annually. But the reason more people carry Android is a feature set on par or better. When customers start to see the actual cost of the phone this divide could get much worse. Unless you are going to mass at the Church of Apple every Sunday, it is impossible to ignore saving hundreds of dollars.
We will see how this shift to contract-less cellular service works out, or if Yanks even buy into the concept. It certainly is popular in Europe and maybe that fact alone will keep us from following those silly snail-eating, toothbrush-hating liberals. Maybe we are so affectionate of our cell carriers that paying a hundred bucks a month for Siri services that we cannot be blinded by the light of lower prices. But if we do see the light .. If some preach the iPhone as a false idol .. Well .. Let's just say that Apple may need to change the cost of entry to their cathedral or the mass might move elsewhere.