Blackberry and I

The market share of Blackberry smartphone (carrying Blackberry’s inhouse mobile device OS) is almost zero for 4Q2016.

I remember my first impression of a Blackberry device when I was doing my 2L summer intern in Taiwan. Back in 2006, Taiwan did not have localized Blackberry mail service, therefore the IT department of the firm I interned with had to engage Hong Kong-based service for roaming in Taiwan. This means the monthly bill would be expensive. A lawyer must be senior enough to get a permission to carry one, so that the benefit of finding that lawyer any time and from time to time would outweigh the hassle of maintaining a roaming device and the costly monthly bills.

Then, in late 2008, Taiwan Mobile began to offer localized Blackberry mail services. One afternoon, a senior corporate counsel in the firm barged into a conference room full of junior and mid-level associates and demanded (with a grin) that everyone in the room should apply for a Blackberry device, so that “you will be ready for the client demand all the time” as the device and the monthly would be reimbursed by the firm.

For an young aspiring law student 10 years ago, carrying a Blackberry device was a token of prestige. It is a magic wand which would connect to the international corporate world. When I received my first Blackberry (a Curve 8300), I felt like having passed the “Bar Mitzvah” and now is a member of that mysterious world of deal-makers and corporate professionals, albeit a most junior one.

My Curve 8300 lasted about four years — I replaced the trackball after two years of use — and then I switched to Curve 9350 in early 2012, which I bought from a T-mobile outlet in Taipei. For more than two years thereafter, I was the only one using Curve 9350 in the firm, when everyone else was using Storm, Torch or Bold offered by Taiwan Mobile.

As iPhones and Android phones were getting popular, some time in 2013, people began stopped getting a new Blackberry, and opted to install Good for Enterprise app on their iPhone or Android Phone instead. We were also told that while Taiwan Mobile was still supporting the Blackberry mail service, Taiwan Mobile no longer offered any new device purchase plans. Instead, we were told that we had an option to buy new iPhones, iPads or Android counterparts instead.

To be honest, I have never liked Blackberry. Indeed, it was more handy to type email messages on a physical QWERTY keyboard. What troubled me most is how a Blackberry device displays email attachments, especially PDF and Microsoft Word documents. It’s already a pain to look at the smaller screen, and Blackberry would almost disregard the original formats of the documents. If my attention is required to review long legal documents in the email attachment, at least such attachment would be displayed more correctly to facilitate my review.

I suspect that the ultimate reason of Blackberry’s failure is its brand image — electronic tether for corporate professionals. It’s not fun, and people in Blackberry didn’t really bother to make it fun. This may have hampered their judgments and led to the demise of the once-great smartphone brand.