Friday, July 9, 2010

It May Be A Fruit But It Ain't An Apple

My opinion, on the matter of the Blackberry, is a day late and a dollar short to say the least.  But, to be perfectly honest, I had neither the opportunity nor the desire to play with one until recently and to say that I am less than impressed, is the understatement of the century.

Earlier this week, I came to be in temporary possession of a Blackberry Storm 2.  I've been wanting to blog about the experience for a few days now but I'm glad I waited, because now my opinions can be expressed in a Sangria-fueled rage, which will, no doubt, be quite a bit more entertaining for you, the reader.

Let's talk about marketing strategy for a moment, shall we?  I've been in more than a few marketing meetings and I'll tell you about how the naming of the "Blackberry" came about:

Boss:  We need our product to have a catchy name.
Lackey #1:  "The e3000"?
Lackey #2:  "The Matrix?"
Boss:  No, let's take a page from someone who's doing well already?  Like the iPhone?
Lackey #1:  The "ePhone 3000"?  (you see, his claim to fame is putting "e" in front of everything and a 4 digit number at the end)
Lackey #2: Maybe it should be a FRUIT!  How about "The Pear"?
Lackey #1:  Or "ePear 2000"?
Boss:  No no.  Pear is too similar to apple but I like wear this is going.
Lackey #2:  "The Orange"?
Boss:  Too different.  Leaving ourselves open for the "comparing apples to oranges" schtick.
Lackey #1:  Melons are different than apples.  Or berries?
Lackey #2:  "The Blueberry"
Boss:  There was a Blueberry iMac...
Lackey #2:  Raspberry... or Blackberry...
Boss:  Blackberry.  Hmmmm.  I like the sound of that.
Lackey #1:  What about "eBerry 5000"?
Boss:  You're fired.

That's my assessment of how the naming went on.  Don't get me started on the versions.  There's literally zero sense to make of it.

  • "Pearl" - Already a tampon
  • "Curve" - Already woman's fitness franchise
  • "Storm" -  Already a way cool X-woman
And their logo looks like a small pile of rabbit poop.

But enough about marketing-FAIL, let's talk about the device itself.  Maybe I'm spoiled by my contact with relatively seamless UIs like that on the iPhone, iPad and iPod touch but I find the Blackberry UI completely unintuitive. (and psssst, I work in IT!  If I stumble, how do you think Joe User is going to fare)

First and biggest UI fail.  Why, for the love of all that is good and pure in this world would you deploy a screen interface that is a moving part? It feels like a loose tooth for Christ-sakes!  Physically pushing the screen / button / lever... whatever... is fail with a capital F.

Second UI fail.  The fact that the Blackberry saves the last place you were in its labyrinth-like navigation structure might be DANDY if I know the menus in and out but for a FTU (first-time user) you are stuck in no-man's land trying to figure out where to go.  Three of us (all technology professionals) were huddled around the thing trying to figure out how to turn the ringer back on (which was off by default for some stupid reason).

Now, for performance.  My first attempt to download an app was met with "The Blackberry Server could not be reached".   Most actions surface a progress bar.   Progress bar smogress bar.  When I touch (touch, not click) something on an iPhone it just "HAPPENS" (except for 4.0 upgrades on 3Gs but that's a topic for another blog).

In short,  I seriously can't wrap my mind around why someone would buy a Blackberry when there are other things out there that just work and work well.   These smartphones should be simple to use.  My cat (if I had one) should be able to launch an app.  (Actually, I've seen it!).  The design, interface and general function should be, well, SMART.  I don't think that's too much to ask.

In reply to my proclamation, "Why do Blackberries suck so much?" my very wise friend replied "Because of all the annoying little seeds."  I think that says it all.