BlackBerry? Are you kidding me? I converted to the iPhone ages ago.
Except that I've been trying out BlackBerry's newest phone, the Q10, for a week. And guess what? I love it, and my iPhone is going to an old phones home or wherever these things go.
Like a phoenix from the ashes, BlackBerry may actually be making a comeback.
The Q10 went on sale in the UK two weeks ago, last week in Canada, and is planned for release in the U.S. by the end of the month. The company has high hopes for the phone, the only major smartphone that comes with a physical keyboard rather than a touchscreen keyboard. BlackBerry says that so far sales have been spectacular, but it is the U.S. market that will determine if the company has any chance of revival.
As everyone knows BlackBerry was hit hard in recent years as shoppers abandoned the company's products in favor of more innovative iPhones from Apple and new phones from companies such as Samsung that run on the open source Android operating system created by Google.
In January, BlackBerry unveiled the touchscreen Z10 to mediocre reviews with many saying the company had just caught up with its competitors but had not produced a blockbuster. But now the company touts the Q10 as being the key to restoring the company's fortunes. Investors seem interested in the possibility. In September 2012 the shares hit a low of just over $6, but have more than doubled to around $16 currently. This is still a far cry from the high of $148 a share in June 2008.
I'm guessing that a lot of former BB users are like me. We are big users of text, largely email, and loved the old BlackBerry keyboard. But we also wanted to be able to use the web and social media at reasonable speeds. We left the BB not to get the bells and whistles of the iPhone or Android platforms but just to get decent web, social and app access.
But until the new Z10 and Q10, the BB was so deadly slow that it was pretty much a non-starter for web and social media users.
There were reasons for this.
The company was obsessed with power management and so the old BB models were underpowered compared to the 'super-phones' that came out in that era. The lower computer power made web surfing slower than it would have otherwise been. To me this was an example of leaders of old paradigms, in this case mobile email, having difficulty understanding the new, in this case the complete web and social mobile experience.
Another reason for the slowness was that BB was designed as an Enterprise device and was set up to allow corporate CIOs to manage the security of the device. One thing that they commonly did was to employ security software on their BlackBerry Enterprise Server that screened websites for security before allowing them to be accessed and renders. This made Blackberry devices slower in web-surfing than would have otherwise been the case.
These problems have now been corrected, delivering what appears to be the fastest web experience of all devices. The Q10 now has 'super-phone' power and is 4G/LTE.
But most important, it has BlackBerry Balance, a unique capability for any business users to operate the phone as either a personal phone or a corporate phone. So if your CIO wants to screen websites before rendering them, then all you have to do is switch (with one click) to the personal phone operating mode and the browsing will be totally unfiltered -- and blazingly fast.
With Balance, users can also keep personal data and office work data totally separated. You essentially get two phones in one. This means your personal Q10 portion with its apps won't be mangled when corporate IT installs company-mandated apps on the office portion. BlackBerry is the first to offer such a common-sense feature.
So BlackBerry Balance delivers what may be an important competitive advantage for business customers who want a phone for both corporate and personal use.
The keyboard is another important benefit for people like me. The iPhone touch screen keyboard requires the user to look at the keyboard while typing. This is a hassle and not just for crazy people composing emails on the freeway. If your eye can gaze or focus on other activities, on the screen or not, your user interaction can be more productive. Also I could never get the same keystroke speed with a screen keyboard. I noted that others who didn't have large fingers like me were also slower than I used to be.
The new physical keyboard on the Q10 is hands-down the best on the planet and I'm a happy camper once again.
Another potential differentiator is the Q10 user experience, specifically with the Hub and Flow. It's a pretty sweet way to organize your multiple communications activities effectively.
The BlackBerry Hub serves as an inbox on steroids. It brings all of the user's email and social media together into one app. BlackBerry describes it thusly: "All messages, notifications, feeds, and calendar events come into the BlackBerry Hub and no matter what the user is doing with the device, with a simple gesture, they can peek into the Hub at any time." It works great, and I'm sure BlackBerry's rivals will mimic it as soon as they can.
BlackBerry touts the Q10's "Flow," which it describes it as "a seamless user experience which provides full control and flexibility in every moment and every touch. Flow keeps the momentum going so that user goals can be achieved quick and efficiently." What that means is that you can easily jump between apps with little effort and without losing the task at hand.
I'll admit that Flow takes some getting used to. There is no root page when you log on and I'm used to a nice bar along the bottom of my iPhone with instant access to my most used apps. But after a few days Flow is already enabling me to go back and forth between various activities and tools, entering each exactly where I left it.
It BlackBerry is to recover any prominence in the smartphone marketplace, the Q10 has to be a big hit. If my experience counts, it will be.
Don Tapscott's most recent book is Radical Openness -- a TED e-book (with Anthony D Williams). He is Adjunct Professor at the Rotman School of Management, University of Toronto, currently focused on how the Internet changes global problem solving and governance. Twitter @dtapscott