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The Rise and Fall of Blackberry

Published on Monday, November 30, 2015

The Rise and Fall of Blackberry

James Rosewell, Founder and CEO of 51Degrees looks at the rise and fall (and rise again?) of Blackberry.

Until a few years ago, it was rare for businessmen and women to venture far from their trusty BlackBerry devices. In late 2007, BlackBerry took the mobile market by storm with the launch of its 8800 series, which became one of the first widely used connected, ‘smart’ devices. It may have been a far cry from the smartphone as we know it now but the 8800 series generated more than 10 million sales around the world which helped Blackberry hit its highest estimated worth of £49 billion.

However, success was short lived. BlackBerry is on the verge of extinction in the handset business having been pushed out of the running by iPhone and Android devices. BlackBerry failed to maintain its forward thinking innovation, whilst the likes of Apple and Google paved the way for a new type of smartphone.

According to TIME Magazine, “Blackberry failed to anticipate that costumers – not business customers – would drive the smartphone revolution.”

BlackBerry’s new Priv device is equipped with the latest Android software, generous battery for added reliability, the favoured BlackBerry security and renowned pop out keyboard. Could this be BlackBerry’s chance to regain face in the industry?

51Degrees pulled data on BlackBerry’s percentage of web usage in the United Kingdom, South Africa and Asia and measured the top three most widely used devices in each country.

In iPhone-centric UK and Asia, BlackBerry web usage struggles to register 1%. Regardless of the Priv device on the horizon, BlackBerry has a long way to go to entice the average consumer.

However, 51Degrees’ data tells a different story in South Africa. According to a survey carried out earlier this year by Vodacom, BlackBerry phones (8520, 9320, 9300) dominate the top rankings with 23% of the smartphone market. The same applies to Nigeria, where BlackBerry boasts 40% of the market.

James Rosewell,
founder and CEO 51Degrees
Percentage of Blackberry web traffic by region October 2015

51Degrees’ data suggests that the Z10 is the most popular device with the Q10 and 9900 coming in second and third. So what is BlackBerry’s appeal to the developing world?

Previous research carried out by 51Degrees found that over the last 12 months, data from the ten most populous countries in Africa has shown a significant growth in smartphone usage, from less than 25% to almost 40% of all web browsing. Despite the often cited benefits of web browsing on feature phone on the African continent, the data demonstrates that feature phone browsing is negligible (less than 5%).

Percentage of traffic from Smartphone by region October 2015

However, the rate of smartphone upgrade is still a lot slower than other countries – which may explain why BlackBerry devices that are up to three years old are still extremely popular in the continent. Secondly, BlackBerry devices are considered a status symbol in Africa – a strong, corporate, white collar brand that people aspire to own.

It cannot be disputed that the company has, at times, been the most popular device manufacturer in the world. With the launch of the Priv, is this its chance to reignite faithful BlackBerry advocates? Only time will tell…

First published in Mobile Review on November 25 2015

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