Ottawa, Sept. 29: What is a BlackBerry user to do?
After teaching the world to type on tiny buttons, BlackBerry could soon be leaving the business of making phones — leaving fewer options for a vocal minority still committed to phones with its once popular physical keyboard.
“It’s not good, not good at all,” said Gord Rosko, the president of GR Communications, a consulting firm in Edmonton, Alberta. Rosko said he had used BlackBerrys for about nine years. “What I call my fat Polish fingers have a hard time with touch-screen keyboards. So I’m going to keep using this thing until I can’t anymore.”
The possibility that BlackBerry would exit the handset business was only reinforced on Friday, when the company announced disastrous financial results, including a quarterly loss of nearly $1 billion. BlackBerry had warned last week that the results would be bad, heightening expectations that it would put less focus on handsets.
In the last few years, most smartphone users have switched to touch-screen models, like the iPhone, with virtual keyboards that appear on a glass screen.
That has left few good alternatives for people like Rosko, especially beyond BlackBerry. Charles Golvin, an analyst at Forrester who tracks the handset market, said most phones with buttons were inexpensive models aimed at teenagers. Most use slide-out keyboards, but those add extra weight and heft.
He offered simple advice for people sticking to a physical keyboard. “The way you now interact with phones is through touch screens. Get over it,” he said. “Maybe the message isn’t just get over it; it’s give touch screens a chance.”
Still, the chances that some company will try to pick up BlackBerry’s single-digit market share are good. Ted Schadler, Forrester’s vice president and principal analyst, said he expected some companies to experiment with keyboards.
“Then there’s a big question mark of whether people will go for them,” he said. The experiments may actually come from the companies that overtook BlackBerry in smartphones.
Samsung Electronics, whose Android-based phones are a leader in smartphone sales, has already offered phones with physical keyboards. But more important, it is aggressively going after professionals, who were the first adopters of the BlackBerry and who appear to disproportionately remain its final users. This year it introduced Knox, a set of security features for Android aimed at government and corporate users.
Motorola Mobility, as it rebuilds itself under Google’s ownership, might also re-enter the keyboard phone market, too.