NEW YORK – For BlackBerry fans, these are dark days. Research In Motion is losing market share to Google and Apple. New Chief Executive Officer Thorsten Heins has even said he would consider a sale or partnership. That has BlackBerry devotees fretting over their favorite phones future.
Like fans of many iconic products, BlackBerry loyalists love the design of their phone. They praise its fast messaging features and, perhaps most of all, the tactile pleasure of typing on a real keyboard. BlackBerry loyalists come from all walks of life, from high-powered CEOs to freelance artists and students. They all have one thing in common: They cant imagine a world without BlackBerrys.
As long as I stay involved in this type of job, Ill need a BlackBerry, said John Yester, 31, a firefighter near Pittsburgh who started using his BlackBerrys instant messaging service three years ago to coordinate with fellow firefighters when responding to emergencies. He likes that its fast, with a notification system, and easy, with a physical keyboard.
BlackBerry is reliable in my line of work, especially with the dispatch center and in any emergency, Yester said. I tried Android last year and the email capabilities were actually very frustrating. I switched back.
BlackBerry phones arent likely to go the way of the Palm Treo, Kodachrome film, or Saab cars any time soon.
Fortunately for RIM, there are more than 75 million others out there like Yester, including President Obama and Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez.
While Waterloo, Ontario-based RIMs BlackBerry has lost its top spot in Canada and U.S. to the iPhone, it continues to grow in emerging markets.
The company still has seen its stock slide 74 percent in 12 months, and the challenge for CEO Heins is to recover the magic in North America before its too late.
Kevin Michaluk, who founded fan site Crackberry.com after crackberry became Websters 2006 word of the year, says traffic has stayed level as international users replace those in the U.S. RIM outshipped Apple by a margin of more than 3-to-1 in the Middle East and Africa last year and BlackBerry outsold iPhone in Latin America 5-to-1, according to research firm IDC.
Michaluk said he likes that a BlackBerry allows him to be more efficient, by emphasizing fast messaging, as opposed to helping him waste time with games.
Peoples priorities are so messed up because if they actually knew the BlackBerry experience and how much faster it is, they wouldnt use the other phones, he said.
Thats all that investor Michael Hayes, 32, says he needs. As he works from home in Tampa, Fla., he can step outside and run errands, staying connected to work to the extent that he has calluses on the hand where his phone sits.
I dont use my phone to play Draw Something or Angry Birds or anything, he said, referring to the games that take advantage of touch screens on iPhone and Android phones. If Im doing something, its pretty important.
Some customers are hanging on for BlackBerry Messenger, a system that comes loaded on the devices which allows any two people to communicate instantly for free. BlackBerry continues to thrive overseas. In Saudi Arabia, teenagers have embraced RIM because they can flirt using its encrypted and free BlackBerry Messenger, which allows them to avoid local religious police who restrict interaction between unmarried men and women.