Thursday, April 1, 2010

Despite bells and whistles, the device misses the 'fun factor.'

Call it a matter of touch-screen envy, but many BlackBerry users are starting to feel the 24-month-contract itch.

And they're willing to switch to Apple Inc.'s (AAPL) iPhone or Google Inc.'s (GOOG) Nexus One, according to a recent study.

Conducted by the online market researchers Crowd Science, the survey results show that Research in Motion (RIMM) BlackBerry users are more likely to abandon the brand than iPhone or Android users. When asked of the likelihood of buying a particular brand of cell phone or smartphone if the purchase was made the following day, 39% of BlackBerry owners said they "definitely or probably would" nab an iPhone. And roughly one-third of the participants claimed they'd snatch up an Android phone.

Crowd Science Chief Executive John Martin addressed the study in the company blog. "These results show that the restlessness of BlackBerry users with their current brand hasn't just been driven by the allure of iPhone." He added, "Rather, BlackBerry as a brand just isn't garnering the loyalty seen with other mobile operating systems."

iPhone, Droid and BlackBerry.

So what's the allure of the competitors? Why are BlackBerry users more willing to jump ship?

BlackBerry has long been the choice of tech-savvy executives who are wirelessly tethered to their jobs. But as evidenced in the study, only 7% of BlackBerry owners still use their device exclusively for work. For years, the smartphone has ceased to be merely associated with work -- an evolution that Apple played a large role in influencing. However, the BlackBerrys, the Palm Treos, and the Windows Mobile devices never successfully adopted the veneer of "recreational smartphones" nearly as well as Apple or Android.

Put simply, iPhones, Droids, and Nexus Ones just look like more fun. And as the "fun factor" became a significant reason why smartphones became as popular as they did, any manufacturer still focusing on the business aspects fell out of favor with users.

What's the appeal of a physical keyboard if the iPhone can remember where you parked? Why use Microsoft Exchange when the Droid works seamlessly with Gmail -- a service more businesses are using anyway? Is there a point to waiting for a BlackBerry version of an app that has dozens of variants available in the App Store or Android Market?

Unless a new BlackBerry device sheds the brand's stodgy work image, RIMM is going to miss out on all the fun -- and customer

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