June 8, 2011, 2:57 PM

Bye bye, BlackBerry

Bill Siwicki

Managing Editor, Mobile Commerce

Lead Photo

The iPhone (above) and devices using the Android operating system have been eating away at BlackBerry's smartphone market share.

It was inevitable: Research in Motion’s BlackBerry operating system has finally dropped to third place among mobile operating systems in terms of smartphone market share. BlackBerry used to command well over half of all smartphones in use; now it’s down around a quarter and continuing to sink.

Both comScore Inc. and The Nielsen Co. just released new smartphone market share numbers, and both companies are very much in agreement. ComScore says Android commands 36.4% of the market, Nielsen says 36.0%. ComScore and Nielsen say the iPhone accounts for 26.0% of the market. And comScore says BlackBerry has 25.7% of the market while Nielsen says only 23.0%. ComScore says BlackBerry has dropped yet again, this time 4.7 percentage points from January 2011 to April 2011. Nielsen says BlackBerry has sunk again, this time 4.0 percentage points from December 2010 to April 2011.

BlackBerry has been dropping for more than two years. It’s a smartphone designed for businesspeople, individuals who keep calendars and contacts and check e-mail. They’re not going crazy with apps or browsing the mobile web. My question is: Why bother focusing resources on this dying brand? That’s not a rhetorical question, I’m asking you. Please post comments below.

I don’t see how anyone can defend giving time and effort to BlackBerry when it’s so clear Android and the iPhone are the only games in town. They’re growing, they’re powerful, people love them, and they have far more apps than BlackBerry or also-rans HP WebOS (formerly Palm) and Windows Phone.

To date retailers have been following this trend. I’ve written many stories on merchants debuting iPhone apps and Android apps, but not BlackBerry apps. Gigantic players like Amazon.com Inc. have BlackBerry apps, but I think that’s because they have money to burn. Sure it would be nice to have an app for everybody, but most retailers have limited resources.

The bottom line: Most smartphone owners do more web browsing than using apps. So it’s important to first have an m-commerce web site. Once that is up and running and in peak condition, then a merchant should consider whether an app is good for them. If it is, I believe they need to focus on Android and the iPhone and forget about the rest. No offense to the other players. It simply comes down to the fact that numbers don’t lie.

Comments | 5 Responses

  • Apart from handset design, it sounds like a case where Blackberry needs accelerate migration to- or option of- Android to stay relevant and stop the rot - even business people want functional or distractive apps. The case against Blackberry app development would be even more acute in smaller markets, such as here in Australia. David Cumming Sydney

  • Sounds like you're saying BB users don't shop online. I use a BB and one it right now typing this. My priorities are email and calender, that's not all I do though. Since downloading Amazon's app, I must have shopped an increase of 25% since not having it. Its not a waste of money to focus on BB. Besides, do you want to target kids with iPhones or wealthier businessmen?

  • I agree with the Editor, BB is losing relevance. Good point made by Cumos - yes, business people want functional or distractive apps. I think the question put forth by docj is misleading; the question is not whether to target kids or wealthier businessmen. I believe we will see strong marketing efforts to target both, because today's kids will become tomorrow's wealthy businessmen, and the strong base already created for Android or Iphones with today's kids will cause them to see out similar device in future as long as they keep building on that foundation. You have to plan well ahead of the trend to ensure that trend's success; BB has not done this. One additional point about what I see with BB is there are many business environments in which the users largely limit the use of the device to company oriented use; many business environments monitor the use of the devices, so the same user will sometimes revert to their own personal device for web browsing because they may prefer to keep that browsing activiity more personal on their device. What is that device that they use for non-company related searches? It usually is not a BB, or as the Editor suggested, the numbers would reflect this. So the short sightedness of BB marketing has essentially reduced their own relevance. They lost sight of what I said earlier - today's kids are tomorrow's business people.

  • Here's another reason for their declining popularity. I have a Bold that is barely 15 months old and the OS has become corrupted with lots of Error Handling problems when I try to use e-mail or other function. Take it to the AT&T corporate store and they tell you to fix it yourself by using a cable to download the OS from the BlackBerry website. Don't have a cable? Buy one and return it. Call BlackBerry and they'll walk you through the process but if you don't have a cable or time to do it yourself, tough luck. The OS is screwing up my phone and either the carrier or the device maker need to fix it, not me!

  • Agree with almost all of the comments here. RIM will have a dead Blackberry brand in 5 years unless it dramatically changes it's strategy, like launching phones on Android. There're a couple reasons, and NO, RIM should not keep investing money in this brand unless they do something major: 1. The hardware SUCKS. Blackberry phones are cheaply built and finicky. To start, let's just leave the "trackball" alone, ok? Ok. Aside from that, my dad has a Bold that's about a year old and it calls random people - repeatedly - ALL the time. Of course that might be because the... 2. OS is like swiss cheese. Blackberry OS is probably the most insecure platform in phones yet (I offer that anecdotally). BB owners had viruses WAY before any other smartphones did. Which might be forgivable if you you had access to more than... 3. Effectively ZERO apps. Friends of mine that have Andriod phones can usually find the Apple apps that I like in the Android app store. Not so with my BB peeps. Apple has going on .5 million apps, and Android has half that many. RIM had 20,000 early this year. Point. Made.

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