I was meeting with some executives of a half a billion dollar company last week and was struck by how Research In Motion’s reputation was being tarnished due to lack of understanding about the BlackBerry platform’s capabilities. The company employees carry BlackBerry devices and most of the company’s customers carry BlackBerry devices, but the company is creating an iPhone application.
The CEO carries a BlackBerry but he also has an iPhone (for personal use I guess). During our conversation, he explained how he has a whole bunch of applications on his iPhone and uses them all the time. When I asked him if he had any applications on his BlackBerry, he responded by saying that he didn’t know he could have applications on his BlackBerry. Of course, being a BlackBerry guy, I immediately showed him how to install the BlackBerry App World application on his device and how to search for applications, download them and so on. He was ecstatic and apparently played with his BlackBerry all throughout the meeting that followed ours.
After that, I spent some time with the Director of Corporate Communications. As he described what he did and what he expected from us, he (carrying a BlackBerry mind you) explained how he understood that the iPhone really delivered a great user experience. He went on to describe how simple things he needed to do on his BlackBerry were ‘Hooooorrible!’ Of course, being a BlackBerry guy, I waited as long as I could before asking him what types of things he was doing that was causing him so much grief. He explained that when getting his Yahoo! email, performance is horrible and he constantly received a ‘retrieving data’ message on the bottom of the screen while waiting for the mail to load. Of course from hearing that I immediately knew that he was accessing his Yahoo! mail using the browser – and of course he was going to have a poor experience.
I immediately explained to him how he could have one corporate and up to 10 personal email accounts delivering mail into his messaging application on his device. I explained how the browser would always be a horrible way to get his mail on a BlackBerry and that was why Research In Motion was so accommodating when it came to mail. I pointed him to www.att.com/blackberrystart and explained how he could configure his personal mail and interact with it in exactly the same way he worked with his corporate mail, though an application rather than a web browser. I pulled out my device and showed how I had a special Mail folder and listed each of my personal mail icons there. I’m not sure he followed my advice, I sure hope so since it never makes sense to access your mail via the BlackBerry browser.
What’s sad though is how everyone assumes that the iPhone experience will be excellent and how certain that the BlackBerry experience is poor. In reality, in both of these cases it was the user’s lack of understanding of what they could do with the device that was tarnishing their experience. No matter what Apple does, the BlackBerry mail experience will always be superior. BlackBerry was built on mail and security and there’s no way anyone can catch up.