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Offering commentary and analysis from Washington, Oregon, and Idaho, The Cascadia Advocate is the Northwest Progressive Institute's unconventional perspective on world, national, and local politics.

Sunday, September 4th, 2011

More proof the knives are out for RIM: New BlackBerrys getting unfair reviews

Reg­u­lar read­ers may remem­ber that back in June, I wrote a post tak­ing the pompous “tech press” to task for char­ac­ter­iz­ing the mak­er of the Black­Ber­ry as head­ed for extinc­tion (Earth to the tech pun­di­toc­ra­cy: Research in Motion is still very much alive). That post end­ed up being very well-received. Though The Advo­cate is not a busi­ness blog, the post got a men­tion from Forbes and was cir­cu­lat­ed by investors on mes­sage boards, which gave it a wide audience.

Sev­er­al months have elapsed since that post was pub­lished, and as I and many oth­er defend­ers of RIM had hoped, the com­pa­ny has final­ly suc­ceed­ed in push­ing out its new line of smart­phones to mar­ket, in part­ner­ship with its many car­ri­er part­ners in the Unit­ed States and Canada.

In my view and that of oth­er Black­Ber­ry users, these new devices more than live up to their expec­ta­tions. Unfor­tu­nate­ly, some tech writ­ers are unfair­ly giv­ing them lack­lus­ter reviews. Rachel Metz of The Asso­ci­at­ed Press decid­ed to try out three of the new Black­Ber­rys at about the same time. Rather than offer­ing an unbi­ased dis­cus­sion of strengths and weak­ness­es, her review con­sist­ed of a series of ran­dom obser­va­tions and impres­sions — most­ly negative.

Take this tid­bit, which was not only neg­a­tive but uninformed:

I did notice, though, that at least with The New York Times’ web­site, the old­er Torch [last year’s mod­el] would load entire arti­cles on a sin­gle page while the new­er phone [the just-released Torch 9810] only gave me the first chunk and forced me to click for the rest.

Metz implies that this is RIM’s fault. But that’s not the case.

The New York Times Com­pa­ny has opt­ed to forcibly redi­rect Black­Ber­ry users who type in nytimes.com in their browser’s address bar to the New York Times mobile site (prob­a­bly using user-agent sniff­ing). And bizarrely, they don’t pro­vide a link on their mobile site to switch to their full site — as many oth­er web­sites do.

The full New York Times site does load by default on the Black­Ber­ry PlayBook.

Metz also did­n’t like the voice search on the Black­Ber­ry — and devot­ed three para­graphs to cri­tiquing it. Her prin­ci­pal com­plaint is that voice search isn’t a hands-free expe­ri­ence. Admit­ted­ly, this func­tion­al­i­ty could be improved (and it sure­ly will be). But most peo­ple don’t buy a smart­phone expect­ing to get an auto­mat­ed dic­ta­tion assis­tant. Voice search is a nice-to-have fea­ture, but it’s not some­thing that will make or break a smart­phone for most users.

Per­haps the most aggra­vat­ing part of Met­z’s review, though, was this:

Anoth­er prob­lem is the lack of apps. The Black­Ber­ry App World includes more than 40,000 apps — a smidgen of the more than 250,000 apps avail­able in Google’s Android Mar­ket and 425,000 apps avail­able from Apple’s App Store. And many of those 40,000 have yet to be updat­ed for Black­Ber­ry 7 phones. I could­n’t get one for the review site Yelp when I checked the oth­er day.

As far as appli­ca­tions go, qual­i­ty is more impor­tant than quan­ti­ty.  I and many oth­er users have no use for a hun­dred thou­sand appli­ca­tions, let alone the avail­able mem­o­ry to store and run them all. I’m sick of read­ing review after review that obsess­es over com­par­ing the grand total of appli­ca­tions that are avail­able for one plat­form with those avail­able for anoth­er … as if that were all that mattered.

I get the impres­sion that Ms. Metz does­n’t use a Black­Ber­ry as her pri­ma­ry phone. I do, and I dis­agree with her con­tention that there are a dearth of appli­ca­tions for Black­Ber­ry. I’m quite hap­py with the exist­ing appli­ca­tion selec­tion (though I would­n’t mind see­ing more improvement).

Sev­er­al of my favorite appli­ca­tions are actu­al­ly made by Research in Motion, which does­n’t seem to get any cred­it for step­ping up to the plate to sup­port its own plat­form with a line of well-designed Black­Ber­ry apps.

For instance, nowhere in her review does Ms. Metz say any­thing about Black­Ber­ry Trav­el, which can auto­mat­i­cal­ly scan emailed trav­el itin­er­aries, assist users in book­ing hotels or car rentals, con­vert cur­ren­cy, and track flights, among oth­er func­tions. Of inter­est to Ms. Metz, it also includes Yelp search func­tion­al­i­ty built-in.

Also unmen­tioned by Ms. Metz is Black­Ber­ry Traf­fic, which works with Black­Ber­ry Maps to help users find the smoothest com­mute to and from work (or some oth­er des­ti­na­tion). All it needs is an address to start cal­cu­lat­ing the best route, iden­ti­fy alter­na­tives, and pro­vide ETAs for every option.

It’s an extreme­ly use­ful appli­ca­tion. And, like Black­Ber­ry Trav­el, it’s free… a gift from Research in Motion to its users.

Then there’s Black­Ber­ry Mobile Con­fer­enc­ing. This appli­ca­tion — anoth­er good­ie from RIM — makes par­tic­i­pat­ing in con­fer­ence calls easy. It allows users to auto­mat­i­cal­ly join calls with­out dial­ing any tele­phone num­bers or punch­ing in access codes. Users can also recon­nect with one click or tap if they’re dropped from a call. Recur­ring calls can be saved to a pro­file on the phone for easy access.

In addi­tion, RIM dis­trib­utes apps for Twit­ter, Face­book, Win­dows Live Mes­sen­ger, and Yahoo Mes­sen­ger, besides BBM, its own stel­lar instant-mes­sag­ing solution.

Some of the best appli­ca­tions made by oth­er devel­op­ers include Bing Maps and Bing Search (from Microsoft), Score­Mo­bile (handy for check­ing stand­ings, scores, or upcom­ing games), Nobex Radio (for stream­ing), Word­Press (for blog­ging), Poynt (for find­ing restau­rants, ser­vice sta­tions, and movie times), and The Weath­er Chan­nel (for perus­ing fore­casts and check­ing cur­rent conditions).

There are a hand­ful of nifty tools that are avail­able for the iPhone that I wish would be made avail­able for Black­Ber­ry (Card­Munch comes to mind, though a Black­Ber­ry ver­sion is forth­com­ing), but I get by quite well even with­out those.

The end­ing of Met­z’s review is actu­al­ly pret­ty funny.

It’s evi­dent to me that she went out of her way to find some­thing wrong with each of RIM’s new Black­Ber­rys. The Bold 99009930 “is so expen­sive”, she says. The Torch 9850 “seemed to lag behind”. And the Torch 9810 “looks tired”.

I find these crit­i­cisms to be unwar­rant­ed. If the Bold (RIM’s flag­ship phone, priced at $250) is expen­sive, then so is Apple’s iPhone 4, which costs $200 if you get the 16 GB ver­sion and $300 if you get the 32 GB ver­sion. The Bold actu­al­ly will cost Ver­i­zon cus­tomers who have a New Every Two upgrade left to use only $200.

Three of the four nation­wide car­ri­ers have now released the Bold (Ver­i­zon, T‑Mobile, and Sprint), and sales appear to have been extreme­ly brisk, with T‑Mobile and Sprint sell­ing out their stock.

Only AT&T has held back from releas­ing the new Bold, prompt­ing the cre­ation of an online peti­tion that already has more than a thou­sand sig­na­to­ries.

The new Bold is per­haps the best Black­Ber­ry RIM has ever made. I got it as soon as it became avail­able, and it’s just amaz­ing. It’s fast, respon­sive, and jam-packed with use­ful fea­tures that were miss­ing from my pre­vi­ous Black­Ber­ry. It also pairs well with the Black­Ber­ry Play­Book, RIM’s ground­break­ing tablet.

RIM has real­ly hit a home run with this phone.

I have not had a chance to play with either of the new Torch­es (one is a slid­er, the oth­er is touch­screen-only), but I’ve heard good things about those phones, too, which sug­gest Met­z’s crit­i­cism is off-base.

Like the Bold, they have sol­id specs and run the Black­Ber­ry 7 OS.

One of the best things about Black­Ber­ry OS 7 is the improved web brows­er. It sup­ports tabbed brows­ing (unlike Apple’s mobile ver­sion of Safari, which won’t get that func­tion­al­i­ty till iOS 5 is released) and is capa­ble of faith­ful­ly ren­der­ing web pages very quick­ly. The book­mark­ing inter­face is also smoother.

In just a few days, the lat­est incar­na­tion of RIM’s Black­Ber­ry Curve will go on sale, also sport­ing the Black­Ber­ry 7 OS. Sprint will sup­pos­ed­ly begin sell­ing the Curve 9350 this Fri­day for only $80 after rebate. The Torch 9810 (the slid­er ver­sion) is arguably a bet­ter deal since AT&T is let­ting it go for only $50, though.

The sud­den avail­abil­i­ty of all these new Black­Ber­rys is great news for Black­Ber­ry enthu­si­asts and any­body who has ever wished that RIM’s devices offered more than just excep­tion­al mes­sag­ing capabilities.

It’s too bad these phones are being unfair­ly knocked by review­ers who seem to think Apple and Google’s offer­ings are all that mat­ters. RIM has a future, and ana­lysts or review­ers who sug­gest oth­er­wise should­n’t be tak­en seriously.

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9 Comments

  1. very well said.….I am shocked at the bias report­ing that I have seen on the net. They should actu­al­ly be ashamed of themselves…really low-brow report­ing and actu­al­ly shows their total lack of matu­ri­ty in report­ing skills. They are so eas­i­ly swayed and no doubt they car­ry their imma­tu­ri­ty into their per­son­al lives as well

    # by doug :: September 4th, 2011 at 4:35 PM
  2. Ms. Metz com­ments are ter­ri­ble. Peo­ple are to biased on these phones. Kids and teenagers love the flat screen typ­ing brb, lol, lmfao, and chat like that. I have per­son­al­ly typed a three page let­ter on my Black­ber­ry with no word sug­ges­tions. Peo­ple need phy­i­cal key­board just to be dif­fer­ent from the Apple Ifun and Itoy. I am get­ting my Bold Tomor­row after demo today. BB for now.

    # by JennyTailya :: September 4th, 2011 at 7:51 PM
  3. Let’s face it, they feel the need to write the neg­a­tive issues because it dri­ves traf­fic to their garbage arti­cle. Regard­less even if RIM does make a spec­tac­u­lar come­back, at this point these jour­nal­ists will keep on press­ing the neg­a­tiv­i­ty towards RIM.

    # by Yves C. :: September 4th, 2011 at 9:35 PM
  4. You must real­ly hate Mrs. Metz, you basi­cal­ly wrote an entire arti­cle of how bad­ly she sucks.…I could see you men­tion­ing her and point­ing out she had a biased review.…but after the 8th para­graph of rant­i­ng about Mrs. Metz.…I grew bored of hear­ing how she sucks. Not to men­tion you sup­port every claim she makes in right after you defend your side of the argu­ment, “I’m quite hap­py with the exist­ing appli­ca­tion selec­tion (though I wouldn’t mind see­ing more improve­ment).” If you want to see improve­ment, your not COMPLETELY hap­py. I use RIM prod­ucts for email, text and phone call’s.…that’s what they were designed for…if you want the fan­cy stuff go to android or apple…not RIM…they don’t make fan­cy phones with a lot of bells and whis­tles, nev­er have and nev­er will. Oh the main rea­son RIM real­ly is alive is not me and you as a cus­tomer, its from gov­ern­ment agen­cies world wide. The U.S. Gov­ern­ment has bil­lion dol­lar con­tracts with RIM. With out those RIM would be dead.

    # by Preston :: September 5th, 2011 at 7:45 AM
    • Pre­ston, there are a lot of com­pa­nies that have lucra­tive con­tracts with the Unit­ed States gov­ern­ment. In fact, if it was­n’t for the Unit­ed States gov­ern­ment, the Amer­i­can econ­o­my as we know it could not exist. 

      Every day, cor­po­ra­tions take advan­tage of the infra­struc­ture and pub­lic ser­vices paid for by the tax­pay­ers. The Inter­net began as a gov­ern­ment research project, for exam­ple. There would­n’t be such a thing as “smart­phones” at all if not for the Inter­net. Our com­mon wealth also pays for our court sys­tem, patent and copy­right sys­tem, high­ways and bridges, pub­lic health insti­tutes, schools, and many oth­er ser­vices that cor­po­ra­tions depend on. 

      Of course RIM’s gov­ern­ment con­tracts help sup­port its bot­tom line. But many of RIM’s com­peti­tors also have gov­ern­ment con­tracts… some­thing you neglect­ed to acknowl­edge in your comment. 

      There is a dif­fer­ence between dis­lik­ing a per­son and dis­lik­ing some­thing they wrote. I dis­like what Ms. Metz wrote about RIM’s new line of Black­Ber­rys. I have noth­ing against her as a per­son or even as a writer in gen­er­al. She cri­tiqued three phones… and I cri­tiqued her review. That’s what the free exchange of ideas is all about.

      You did­n’t read this post very care­ful­ly if you inter­pret­ed my com­ments as “rant­i­ng about Mrs. [sic] Metz.”

      # by Andrew :: September 6th, 2011 at 3:24 PM
  5. You peo­ple are nuts if you think RIM has a chance…at work we’re final­ly mov­ing away from those ter­ri­ble phones. Glad the good ol’ days are behind us. The final RIM strong­hold is enter­prise and that’s slow­ly with­er­ing as con­tracts cycle. Research In Motion? should change their name to dis­as­ter in the mak­ing. If peo­ple are smart they’d take their mon­ey elsewhere.

    # by sulfide :: September 5th, 2011 at 1:23 PM
  6. I agree that there is a bias against RIM/BlackBerry on the part of the ana­lysts. As a long­time Apple user (since 1989), I per­son­al­ly find the Play­Book to be much bet­ter than the iPad 1 and with the lat­est soft­ware updates a wor­thy com­peti­tor to the iPad 2. As for the phones, I bought my first Black­Ber­ry this year (an old 8800) and out­side of not being able to use Black­Ber­ry Bridge, I´m very hap­py with it. One rea­son being I have thick fin­gers, and on top of that, broke sev­er­al of them play­ing foot­ball which meant with my old phones I had dif­fi­cul­ty in typ­ing in my info. And my old­est son who always dreamed of an iPhone after using it (and espe­cial­ly Black­Ber­ry Mes­sen­ger) went out and got a pack­age and is extreme­ly hap­py with it. At eigh­teen years of age he miss­es the iPhone apps but is find­ing that he only real­ly uses 25–30 apps on a reg­u­lar basis.

    Com­ment edit­ed to cor­rect for­mat­ting errors

    # by Terrance Brown :: September 6th, 2011 at 1:14 AM
  7. Andrew,
    My point was that the only phone used by the U.S. Gov­ern­ment for OCONUS and CONUS is the black­ber­ry, I am all to aware of the out­ra­geous con­tracts the gov­ern­ment has to “keep amer­i­ca going”. If you take away the gov­ern­ment sales, and not just the U.S. gov­ern­ment, I think black­ber­ry would like­ly go under. Its the sim­ple things like using a faster proces­sor and lengthy menus to com­plete sim­ple tasks that make the expe­ri­ence for the every­day “Joe Blow” user shy away from them. If they made all of their phones “MILSPEC” rugged like the Casio phones I think they would be bet­ter received being the non-spiffy­ness kind of phone they are. All in all I love the black­ber­ry, how­ev­er I am a rar­i­ty now a days, with only the “work” phone being a black­ber­ry and most not using them as an every day mul­ti-func­tion­ing device.
    As far as hat­ing Mrs. Metz, it was not the con­tent but rather a per­cep­tion based opinion.

    # by Preston :: September 9th, 2011 at 6:32 PM
  8. All I will say is that I wait­ed, I got a Bold 9930 as soon as it came out, and I absolute­ly love it.

    # by GEA :: September 10th, 2011 at 1:27 PM

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