It seems like nobody has anything good to say about BlackBerry maker Research In Motion these days.
Analysts, bloggers, journalists, rival device makers and gadget geeks, even RIM shareholders and employees, all seem to have turned a cold shoulder to the struggling Canadian handset maker. Indeed, it's mostly doom and gloom in the tech press when it comes to RIM and BlackBerry today.
The negativity isn't without reason. RIM is seeing its North American market share drop sharply, as smartphone users jump ship for better waters around the Apple/Google/Microsoft/whatever camps. The BlackBerry maker has toughed out some particularly ugly product launches over the past couple of years.
RIM recently cut as many as 200 jobs in and around its headquarters. And a number of key staffers, including a former chief marketing officer and senior product manager, have turned tail, leaving RIM shorthanded in its time of trouble.
These things certainly haven't been good for RIM or the BlackBerry brand. And it's easy to focus on the negative in difficult times. But such a focus only paints one side of the story. I think RIM and its BlackBerry customers still have grounds to remain positive and upbeat.
What follows is a quick list of reasons why I still keep a BlackBerry in my pocket, and why I don't see that changing any time soon:
Love that BlackBerry QWERTY keyboard
First up, the number one reason I still use a BlackBerry as my "main" smartphone, or my "daily driver", that QWERTY keyboard.
I love the BlackBerry "Bold-style" keyboard. And though I've used a variety of handhelds from other manufacturers with similar keypads over the years, I've yet to find one that works better.
I can practically hear a collective groan from iPhone users who would unequivocally swear they can type just as well on their touchscreen keyboard as I can on my BlackBerry's QWERTY keyboard. Perhaps, but I have found after much experience that I can't type as fast and effectively on any touchscreen keyboard as I can with my BlackBerry keypad.
Make no mistake, I have given touchscreen keyboards a fair chance, I own an iPhone, Motorola Atrix, Samsung Focus and a number of additional handhelds with no "physical" QWERTY keyboards.
I use my BlackBerry almost exclusively for messaging, so the ability to type rapidly and with as few errors as possible is extremely important to me. RIM still makes the best keyboard on a mobile device, and as such it offers something its rivals can't or at least haven't yet. Until that reality changes, folks like me who want the best messaging device on the market will stick with RIM and BlackBerry.
BlackBerry battery life can't be beat
BlackBerry battery life differs with each specific model of RIM handheld. For sure, some BlackBerrys get much more life than others. And some specific software builds provide much more battery life than others when installed on the exact same device. So it can be difficult to accurately quantify BlackBerry battery life.
But one thing is certain. In general, the average modern BlackBerry battery life is superior to the average battery life of RIM rivals, including Apple's iPhone and Google Android handhelds.
Just how long your mobile device lasts depends on a variety of factors, including the strength of your wireless network at a given time, the applications and services running on your device, screen brightness and timeout duration and much more. But I've yet to use any smartphone that offered better battery life than my BlackBerry Bold 9780.
For example, I'm constantly sending and receiving mail on my BlackBerry and updating my various social networks. And though I carry either my iPhone or my Motorola Atrix too, I mostly only use those devices to listen to music during my morning and evening commutes, or access a few apps. Yet my BlackBerry easily outlasts both of these devices day in and day out.
My example may not exactly be "scientific," but the fact is that my experience with many modern smartphone tells me that in general, most BlackBerry smartphones offer significantly better battery life than many of today's most popular handhelds. And all current BlackBerry smartphones have removable batteries, as well, so you can always swap out a dead one for freshly charged power pack. Not so for the iPhone and other popular handhelds.
BlackBerry enterprise security and manageability
RIM's near dominance in the enterprise mobility space is slowly eroding, but BlackBerry is still the king when it comes to enterprise security and manageability. That's because BlackBerry smartphones are literally designed to work along with RIM's BlackBerry Enterprise Server, which offers hundreds of IT security safeguards and management features in the form of "IT policies."
RIM even offers a free version of BES, called BES Express, for organisations who don't want to pay the pricy licensing fees for the full version.
Sure, many BES-like products and services are available to help secure and manage non-BlackBerry devices, and some of them offer many of the same or similar features found in BES. Many of the most popular non-BlackBerry smartphones can connect to Microsoft's Exchange Server using ActiveSync, as well.
But since BlackBerrys were designed with security in mind, they're generally easier to manage and control. And they offer the highest level of security, for organisations that may want or need it.
For example, connecting a new BlackBerry to BES is a breeze, even for newbie administrators. And RIM's web-based BES management console makes it simple for BlackBerry admins to monitor, manage and wipe BlackBerrys from wherever they have Internet access.
In other words, BlackBerry smartphones are IT friendly. Unfortunately, or fortunately for RIM, the same cannot always be said about the other smartphone platforms including iOS and Android. As long as security remains a priority for organisations and government agencies, and as consumers increasingly become aware of smartphone security threats, RIM's BES will continue to be a much valued enterprise solution.