BlackBerry is a company that has had a bumpy road the past few years. Although known for its loyal followers, BlackBerry’s overall success has not been that great in terms of selling smartphones. However, the recent spat between BlackBerry and T-Mobile is not good for either company.
The roots of the problem probably go back to a perceived lack of success on the part of BlackBerry. In 2013, the company was fourth in smartphone market share, coming in at less than two percent. In terms of total number of devices sold, it came in at over 18 million.
While BlackBerry has struggled somewhat in selling physical devices, there is some cause for optimism. Most of the optimism is centered around BlackBerry Messenger (BBM). Facebook’s recent purchase of messaging app WhatsApp gives some hope that BBM can also be successful. The idea is apparently that more attention will be drawn to the usefulness of mobile messaging apps. BlackBerry’s recent boost in shares has been attributed to the WhatsApp deal.
It is difficult to predict if WhatsApp’s success will have any long-term benefits for the competing BBM. For one thing, WhatsApp has substantially more users than BBM. According to a Forbes article, BlackBerry Messenger has around 80 million users, while WhatsApp boasts 450 million.
The apparent problems for BlackBerry have continued in the form of a recent spat with service provider T-Mobile. T-Mobile made an offer to BlackBerry users to trade in their old devices and get $200 towards an upgrade. The problem is that participants in this program are not restricted to another BlackBerry when they get a newer phone. They could potentially get a different brand altogether.
While T-Mobile’s strategy is probably meant simply to get people to switch carriers, it has been met with outrage by BlackBerry. John Chen, CEO of BlackBerry, recently wrote a blog post expressing his frustration. One of his main concerns was that T-Mobile did not clear the promotional idea with BlackBerry before it was proposed to the public. He also expressed his gratitude to loyal BlackBerry users, and hinted at an offer to BlackBerry users who are on the T-Mobile network.
T-Mobile, on the other hand, responded by talking about the importance of customer choice. Of course, having options and not being tied down are certainly advantages. More consumer choice is generally a good thing. Nevertheless, it is easy to see why John Chen might be annoyed.
It is hard to determine which side (if any) is in the right in this controversy. The feud between BlackBerry and T-Mobile is probably bad for both companies. For one thing, it is never a good idea to alienate a business partner, even if unintentionally.
BlackBerry does not need anymore negative attention, and it certainly would not want its T-Mobile users to switch to a different device. On the other hand, T-Mobile risks angering some of its users. It does not really need negative publicity either.
It is not very realistic to expect the two companies to “just play nice.” They both have a stake in the current controversy. Still, the feud between BlackBerry and T-Mobile is a negative for both companies. It is probably in the best interests of both sides for this public relations mess to get cleaned up as soon as possible.
Editorial By Zach Kirkman