Tag Archives | RIM BlackBerry

TechHeads: The BlackBerry Situation

Here’s another TechHeads.tv segment. This one features Sharif Sakr of Engadget and me talking about the past, present, and future of BlackBerry. (We recorded it last week, which is why the biggest news in the phone business in years doesn’t come up.)

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Help Me Help My Mom Pick Her Next Phone

My mom, sans BlackBerry.

My mother isn’t the sort of person who craves the latest smartphone just because it’s the latest smartphone. Actually, she remains smitten with her BlackBerry Curve 8900, which she’s had for a couple of years. But it’s developing an odd shadow effect on the screen, and so she rightly thinks she may be in the market for a new phone soon.

She asked me for advice on what to buy. And now I’m asking you for advice.

When it comes to decisions like this, I’m not a missionary. I don’t instinctively want to steer mom off the BlackBerry platform, or onto a particular OS. (For the record, I use an iPhone 4 most of the time, and a Verizon Fascinate some of them time.) I just want her to own a phone she’ll like at least as much as her BlackBerry.

Here’s what’s important to her:

  • She does a lot of e-mail on her phone.
  • She loves reading Kindle books on her BlackBerry. Very important to her.
  • She’d use a browser if she had a decent one.
  • She might dabble in Facebook.
  • She might take photos if her phone had a respectable camera.
  • She might well make video calls on Skype if she could.
  • She might listen to music if someone showed her the ropes. Video, probably not. (Unless it’s of her grandchildren.)
  • She’s not going to play games, do any social networking other than light Facebook use, or install apps willy-nilly.
  • I don’t think she’ll detect much of a difference between 3G and AT&T’s “4G”
  • As far as I know, she has no desire to leave AT&T. (I think she’s nearing the end of a two-year contract and might be able to wangle a new handset at full discount.)
  • I don’t think she has a specific price in mind. But when I mentioned phones being available for a penny on contract, she sounded happy. And when I talked about the iPhone 4 costing $199, she sounded alarmed.

I don’t think mom has had real hands-on experience with any modern smartphones. But my dad has (and likes) an HTC Aria, so she has some sense of the world beyond the Curve. And she told me she’s intrigued by touchscreens. She’s not adverse to trying something new.

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A Harvard Professor Puts Smartphone Usability to the Test

[UPDATE: Upon further reflection, this seems to be a student project created for the class, not research by Galletta himself. And as I said, it’s not clear how serious a test it was or what the methodology was. (I do note that the end credits list a “cast.” My bad for jumping to conclusions after reading this story.]

Professor Dennis Galletta has been teaching a summer course at Harvard on Human Factors in Information Systems Design. As part of it, he conducted some usability testing of the iPhone 4, Samsung’s Windows Phone 7-based Focus, HTC’s Android-based Thunderbolt, and RIM’s BlackBerry Storm. He had people who hadn’t used any of the phones try to make a call, add a contact, and send a text message, and videotaped their attempts to do so.

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BGR on the First QNX BlackBerry Phone

BGR is full of rumors that are uncannily accurate–and ones that turn out to be false alarms.  So take this story with a jumbo-sized grain of salt for now. But it says that RIM’s first BlackBerry phone based on its QNX operating system will come out in the first quarter of next year, will sport a single-core processors, and won’t support today’s BlackBerry Enterprise Server.

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RIM’s Osborne Special Edition BlackBerries

AT&T is going to get three new “4G” BlackBerry models: a Bold with a touchscreen and two Torches, including one Torch with a large-ish 3.7″ display. They’ll run the new BlackBerry 7 OS, which RIM says offers “a much smoother and faster BlackBerry experience.”

I wanna give the phones and BlackBerry 7 a chance–and a BlackBerry with both a big display and a slide-out keyboard could be cool. But the new models have a whiff of the Osborne effect about them: RIM is already talking about even newer handsets that sport dual-core processors and software based on the potent QNX-based OS that debuted in its troubled-but-has-potential BlackBerry PlayBook tablet.

BlackBerry fans who remain largely happy with the platform might get excited about BlackBerry OS 7. But I suspect that everybody else–phone shoppers who are at least as likely to consider an iPhone, an Android, or even a Windows Phone or WebOS handset–is reserving any potential BlackBerry-induced excitement for the future QNX models. Which aren’t available yet. (At this point, 2012 seems likely.) Why get too emotionally attached to a next-generation platform that we already know will become a last-generation platform before too long?

My personal barometer remains simple: We’ll know that RIM is in solid shape when there’s a new BlackBerry that Lance Ulanoff is enthusiastic about.

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At Last, Slacker Gets On-Demand Music (and a Neat iPad App)

Way back in March of 2010, nifty Internet radio service Slacker began demoing features for on-demand listening, putting it more squarely in competition with Rhapsody, Napster, and other all-you-can-eat subscription services. Today, it’s finally launching the service. It’s available in its browser-based version and iPhone/iPod Touch, Android, and BlackBerry versions–and also in a new iPad version.

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Question #1 for RIM: Will the New BlackBerries Make Lance Happy?

One memory sticks in my mind from the Dive Into Mobile conference that All Things Digital held in San Francisco last December. It was when my friend Lance Ulanoff of PCMag.com waved his BlackBerry Torch at RIM co-CEO Mike Lazaridis and asked, basically, why RIM couldn’t give him a BlackBerry phone based on hardware as potent as a current iPhone or Android handset.

Lazaridis didn’t really have a good answer for Lance. Actually, it was hard to tell exactly what his response was, but it sounded like it involved RIM opting out of the current phone hardware wars and waiting until it can build BlackBerries that incorporate dual-core processors and run a version of the QNX-based operating system that’s on the BlackBerry PlayBook.

Well, RIM made a gaggle of announcements today at its BlackBerry World conference in Orlando, and among them are two new BlackBerries due this summer–the Bold 9900 and 9930–that come closer to being the phone that Lance was asking about than any BlackBerry to date. (They don’t run QNX, but do have BlackBerry OS 7–a new version of RIM’s old platform that isn’t backwards-compatible with earlier handsets.)

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