3 Things That Still Worry Me About BlackBerry

Despite my interest in BlackBerry's new phones, I'm still worried about the future of the platform, and not merely because it's been off the radar for a while.

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BlackBerry

BlackBerry put on a pretty good show on Wednesday when it revealed the Z10 and the Q10, its first new smartphones in a year and a half. The demos were crisp, and the new BlackBerry 10 software looked clever. At the very least, it seems that BlackBerry has finally joined the modern smartphone era.

But despite my interest in BlackBerry’s new phones, I’m still worried about the future of the platform, and not merely because it’s been off the radar for a while. Looking at what BlackBerry did and didn’t announce, and what reviewers are saying about the product, gives me a few big reasons for concern:

Apps, Both Present and Future

BlackBerry deserves credit for having lots of apps out of the gate–more than 70,000, the company says–including some important ones like Twitter, Facebook, Angry Birds and The New York Times. Still, there are some big names missing from the list, including Netflix, YouTube, Spotify and Instagram. You can’t expect a new platform to have everything right away, though, so I don’t want to judge BlackBerry’s current app count too harshly.

It’s the future that I’m really worried about. What happens when the next Instagram comes out, and becomes a sensation on the iPhone and Android? Will BlackBerry be like Windows Phone–that is, just an afterthought in the minds of up-and-coming app developers? The good news is that Android apps are relatively easy to port to BlackBerry 10 (in fact, roughly 40 percent of those 70,000 launch apps are simple ports, ReadWrite notes), so RIM just has to convince developers to make a relatively small effort. We’ll see if they do.

Never Neglect Maps

The consensus among BlackBerry Z10 reviews is that its Maps app is subpar. The Verge complained about inaccurate data, and said the software couldn’t reliably find local businesses. CNet bemoaned a lack of features, such as walking directions, transit maps and street views. Apparently the software doesn’t even let you jump into the Maps app by tapping on an address or map in the web browser. That’s just basic stuff. At least the Maps app includes voice-guided turn-by-turn directions.

In any case, having a good mapping service isn’t just about telling you where to go. It’s about using your location to deliver useful information. Google Now, for instance, can warn you about traffic before your commute home, and Apple‘s Passbook can call up a boarding pass when you get to the airport. These days, a really good standalone Maps app is only part of the equation, and BlackBerry doesn’t even have that yet.

Voice Commands and Virtual Assistants

BlackBerry has added voice commands in its new phones, but the list of supported actions is paltry compared to what Android and the iPhone offer. You can’t ask for movie times, the weather forecast, directions, or things to do. You can’t tell the phone to start playing music, answer a trivia question, calculate numbers or set reminders.

You may argue that it doesn’t matter, that most people don’t rely too heavily on voice commands to begin with. I think that will change as these virtual assistants become faster and support more types of queries. They’ll also become more useful in automobiles–in fact, some car makers are now starting to integrate Siri–and they may some day play a big role in wearable computing, allowing you to communicate by voice when your phone is just out of reach. It’s still early days for this kind of technology, but Apple and Google already have a huge head start. BlackBerry, by comparison, is just getting started.

I’m not saying the new BlackBerry phones are no good, or that no one should use them. Like I said before, the software has some clever ideas, such as the Hub that combines all communications into one area, and the Balance feature that acts as a separate login for business use. But the smartphone industry moves quickly, and BlackBerry’s period of rebuilding has taken its toll in a few key areas. As with before, it’s going to be hard for the company to catch up.

MORE: Check out a video about the new hardware and features

22 comments
arslan.arsal10
arslan.arsal10

i think blackberry will compete with the other companies like samsung and htc but they need to do much hard work....

BBMarnel
BBMarnel

It would be nice if you iSheep at The Times would report that the Z10 is pretty much sold out in the UK already... You know, since you're so quick to cry DEATH. Maybe you'd like to write some facts instead of opinions... You know, journalism... What you claim to be doing. Evolve, iMedia SHEEP

HaroldG
HaroldG

How come it is alright for Blackberry not to have apps because "You can’t expect a new platform to have everything right away."

Yet you point out in the W510 review: "Windows 8′s app selection doesn’t measure up to the catalogs on iOS and Android, though it does have some of the basics like Netflix, Angry Birds and the New York Times. You might be able to scrape by with what’s available." & "There aren’t even official apps for Facebook or Twitter yet"

Aren't you setting a double standard?



CanuckinGermany
CanuckinGermany

The new Blackberry is awesome.  Why do all the reviewers sound like cranky adolescents?

chokingkojak
chokingkojak

From CrackBerry to SlackBerry...

RIM appears to have "phoned it in" this go around.




roger.antezana
roger.antezana

I see no problem with my phone not having Netflix, or Instagram, If I wanted nice pictures I'll buy a digital camera, the fact of not having this apps means also the market BlackBerry is looking for. I think not having a virtual assistant or voice commands are not a features to determine if a phone is good or not. Does it have good contact management, does it hang up on small tasks?, how many productivity apps does it have how much do they cost?, does it support NFC?

Maybe the title is good "3 things that still worry me", those 3 things don't worry ME.

SusanAntony
SusanAntony

"..Netflix, YouTube, Spotify and Instagram.."

YouTube is on the PlayBook so I assume it will come. The others? Use the browser.

thetigertek
thetigertek

Spotify is already on older BlackBerry phones. Instagram is already in the works TheVerge has already seen it in action. Also noted BlackBerry is in negation with NetFlix.

BBMarnel
BBMarnel

Complete nonsense. The fact of the matter is this... The media will run towards Apple at every chance. I get it, they're the front-runner. When Samsung showcased the Galaxy S3, all the Analyst cried out how much of a fail it was to put out a 5" screen when there was "no market for it"... Fast forward a year and now you're all screaming how the iPhone should have a bigger screen. BB10 presents a GREAT platform. When you think of how much in the now we are as a society, its the perfect phone. Real time notifications all bunched up in one place. multitasking without having to leave a running app... ALL things the iPhone cant do. As for the Siri comparison, there are videos on youtube right now showing how much more accurate BlackBerry's "siri" is to Apples. The apps, lets talk about that. This is a NEW platform. IOS upon release (granted that was 5 years ago) launched with 000000000000000000 Apps!.. Android launched with less than 7,000 and Windows... 5,000. BB10 launched with 70,000 (42,000 of which are DEDICATED apps) apps with a promise of 100,000 by May. Of those 70,000 apps, 95% of the top 650 apps on IOS and Android are available. I'll account the 5% as likely being Skype, Instagram, Kindle and Angry Bird; which mind you, was clearly stated are committecd and ON BOARD to be on the platform in  a few months. I really was hoping that someone would critic BB10 fully and without the iMedia bias you read so much of. Rewinds just a few months ago. IOS6 is released... changing NOTHING... Nothing but taking a black phone and making it charcoal gray, taking the headphone jack from the top to the bottom and simply brightening the retina display and viola... You all scream perfection. IOS is the OLDEST OS on the market. They've dont nothing aside from improved their dedicated apps and added Siri in the past 5years. Why write off BB10 already when it offers SO much at launch already? What happened to healthy competition?... What happened to individuality?... Why should we ALL be sheep to the Apple clique?... I for one give BlackBerry a BIG thumbs up for coming up with an OS that really have something. 

newmanjb
newmanjb

@HaroldG Good question. A few things:

-This isn't a review, and I haven't used the Z10. As such, it's not really fair for me to judge the situation like I would in a former product review, where I could evaluate all the other factors in whether a product is worth buying. This is just me talking about my concerns for the platform in the future.

-And yes, as I wrote, it is a concern. But it's also a little different than Windows 8 because of the ability to port Android apps over. Like I said, we'll have to see how that plays out. Keep in mind that BB10 isn't even out yet.

-Finally, I think having a lot of great apps is more important on a tablet, which is more of a consumption device, than on a smartphone, which is largely about communication and having information handy. In fact, one of the reasons I switched from the iPhone to Android last year was because the superior app situation on iOS wasn't as important to me as some other things, like having a better Gmail experience and (at the time) turn-by-turn navigation built-in. Yet I still used an iPad because having a lot of good tablet apps really made a difference there.

BBMarnel
BBMarnel

@roger.antezana The funny thing is, the voice command on BB10 has been proven to be more accurate than Siri. Did he write that? No... The camera is amazing, granted not to the iPhone standard, but its a GREAT camera on a PHONE! The keyboard; they speak of innovation, yet there's one right there that gets lil to no praise what so ever. I cant help but think if ALL these features made their way to the iPhone 1st, they'd cream their pants with thunderous applause at how "APPLE"S DONE IT AGAIN!!!"... Please, tell me I'm wrong, @newmanjb? The reviews of the iPhone 5 was nothing short of an orgasm in the tech world. When in actuality, you guys got the same 4S with a better camera and shittier maps.THIS is the problem. Because your "opinion", bias as it maybe, COUNTS. People unfamiliar to this platform read this and thing: "Well, if he says its not good enough, then... I guess it must not be". You're a writer/reporter and with that come the respectability to inform the public without bias. Put YOUR phone down and pick up this one for more than 5 mins and write a real review.

BBMarnel
BBMarnel

@thetigertek I dont get the fascination with having Netflix on your phone. If you own a tablet, as most do by now, why do you need it? And are you so board at work that you're watching movies on your phone?. Come on already. As for Instagram, i get it... Its popular with teens and people that have nothing better to do. But BB10 has all the filters LIKE Instagram built in... soooo whats the problem?...  

newmanjb
newmanjb

@BBMarnel The story talks plenty about Android's advantages as well. Also, like I said, the issue with apps isn't so much the initial count but what will happen going forward. People howled when the app situation on Windows Phone was called into question, saying it was still too new to be criticized, and guess what? It hasn't gotten much better since then. I agree with what you say about what's interesting in BB10. Just trying to be realistic here.

BBMarnel
BBMarnel

@newmanjb @BBMarnel Windows lacked apps at launch and current has 175,000  dedicated apps... sooo you're way off on that. Whats realistic is there's a market many style of OS that doesnt resemble the iPhone. Yet, every phone that comes out is compared to it. " But the iPhone does this and this phone does that... me no likey"... This it the only field where their such bias for thing. I LOVE an Aston Martin when I see it. Its amazing, beautiful to look at and has many different features. However, an Aston Martin isn't for everyone is it? Nor do you hear people that review Hyundai say "Well, its not an Aston Martin". The platform of BB10 offer soooo much more than most of the phones out there. There's plenty of room for another competitors. The fanboy, iSheep media lack the imagination to see anything but the iPhone as being successful. THATS my point. 

danielmbure
danielmbure

@newmanjbWell, I think what @BBMarnel is getting at is being realistic without sounding like you have Apple bias. What would have been great would have been to compare BB10 to these other operating systems when they started out. That would have been level ground. Also, talking too much about Apple this, Apple that gets in the way of your article coming off as nonpartisan and objective. I do, however, appreciate that you were trying to put across a point concerning the future of BB10, not lambasting its present. That said, I think BB10 is fresh and different and I plan to ditch Android for it, have a new experience. Isn't that what life is about? Variety! 

BBMarnel
BBMarnel

@newmanjb @danielmbure @BBMarnel If these features were to be introduced on the iPhone6, you'd sing a different tune. Thats my point. Yes, the iPhone is a great phone but its not the only one can be innovative. And i said nothing about comparing it to phones of 3 years ago. It stands toe to toe with many phones on the market, iPhone included. There's reporting and there's opinion. I'm on the side of opinion, you shouldn't be.

newmanjb
newmanjb

@danielmbure @newmanjb @BBMarnel I don't agree with this. Why should I compare Blackberry 10 as it is today with the iPhone/Android as they were three years ago? That's not what people do when they go into a store looking to buy a phone.

Also, it bears repeating, but I talked about both iPhone and Android in the article. So I guess you could say I'm biased toward platforms that hugely popular and well-refined. I get that people love to see Apple bias in everything. The reality is that I've used them all, and I see a few areas where I'm worried that BB isn't ready to compete.

BBMarnel
BBMarnel

@danielmbure @newmanjb @BBMarnel Variety... Yes!... Standing out... Not being clones to a product. Its like you guys are in High School again, fighting to be in the "IN" crowd. STAND OUT!!... Be original... Get out of the iBubble.