BlackBerry Torch Somewhat of a Downer

It’s clearly summer in some parts of the world, since news has been particularly slow the past few days. In other words, I have to scrounge up something to talk about, so let’s talk about another apparent victim of Apple’s and Google’s success in the mobile space. RIM launched its Torch mobile phone to much fanfare not too long ago, but early reviews were negative, and now sales aren’t really stellar either. What more can RIM do?

It’s hard for me to write about Research In Motion’s BlackBerry, since up until quite recently, it wasn’t a particularly popular platform here. I’m seeing more and more of them recently, but still haven’t used one, sadly.

In any case, RIM’s been seeing some decline in its market share, mostly due to Apple’s iOS and Google’s Android. The BlackBerry OS was seen as outdated and from a bygone era, and the recent revamp of the operating system, version 6.0, accompanied by new hardware, the Torch, was supposed to turn the tide.

Well, things aren’t going so well, it seems. The Wall Street Journal talked to two analyst firms, and both of them estimate the sales figures for RIM’s new flagship device at only 150000 units sold in the first three days – compared to the iPhone 4’s 1.7 million. The BlackBerry is still far more popular than the iPhone in the US, so you’d think the Torch would sell a lot better than these mere 150000 units. Sure, the HTC EVO 4G also did 150000 units, but hey, HTC’s market share and brand recognition are miles below those of RIM.

Further illustrating things aren’t going well is the fact that the price of the Torch has already been cut in half, from $199.99 with a two year contract to just $99.99. Gizmodo argues that the only one to blame is RIM itself, which set insane expectations for the Torch – iPhone-like sales figures included.

I’d say RIM faces two big challenges – both of which are not easy to overcome. First, the BlackBerry OS is outdated, despite the 6.0 revamp. RIM’s acquisition of QNX Software Systems might play a role in this one; could they be working on a brand new operating system based on QNX?

The second problem is probably a lot harder to overcome: brand image. I’d say the BlackBerry is seen a boring device for boring men wearing boring suits driving boring cars. Company-issued, that sort of thing. RIM clearly wants to appeal to the average customer as well, but the Torch, a device that is at least two generations behind everyone else, surely isn’t going to draw anyone away from the latest Android phones and the iPhone 4.


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