BLOGOSPHERE: RIM brand loyalty under fire

Given the opportunity, four out of 10 BlackBerry users would leave their current phone contracts and switch to an iPhone, according to a recent survey by Crowd Science Inc.


The research firm, which has offices in Mountain View, Calif., and Toronto, asked 1,092 mobile users, including Android, iPhone and BlackBerry customers, which smart phone they would likely purchase next. The survey included 159 BlackBerry users, with 39 per cent of those respondents saying they would “definitely or probably” switch to iPhone, and 34 saying they would likely switch to an Android-based phone.


In addition, the report found that 92 per cent of surveyed iPhone users and 87 per cent of surveyed Android users would stick with their current brand for their next purchase.


At least one industry observer said the news could be of interest to enterprise IT shops, many of which could be seeing an influx of iPhone and Android-based phones if these polling results become a reality.


Mark Tauschek, a senior research analyst with London, Ont.-based Info-Tech Research Group Ltd., said the consumerization of IT in the smart phone market has already driven many companies to let individuals choose the devices they want.


“IT might say, ‘as long as your mobile device works with ActiveSync or BlackBerry Enterprise Server, then you can use it for business,’” he said.


“The onus is on IT to support heterogeneous environments with mobile devices.”


While it isn’t time for Research In Motion Ltd. to panic just yet, Tauschek said that the company needs to keep up its efforts to simplify its software development kit as well as the process of uploading apps to AppWorld.


He also expects the company is either planning or working covertly on a revamped OS, similar to the project Microsoft Corp. has undertaken with its Windows Phone Series 7 OS.


The survey results were also a huge talking point for many tech bloggers this week, with many of Tauschek’s opinions also being echoed in the blogosphere.


“Can you blame ‘em?” wrote MobileCrunch blogger Devin Coldewey. “If you bought into a two-year contract a little more than two years ago, possibly because of shortcomings in the first iPhone (a perfectly reasonable decision), you would have been watching with jealous eye the introduction of the 3G, the 3GS, and the launch and growth of the App Store. I wouldn’t blame you if you wanted to change horses.”


Coldewey said that while BlackBerry has made some excellent handsets in the past, the company has failed to progress over the last couple of years when compared to Apple’s smart phone device. “And really, even if you love BlackBerry, if you want a versatile touchscreen phone, are you really going to go with a Storm?” he added.


Andrew Munchbach, a blogger with Boy Genius Report, said that even if the Crowd Science survey had a 10 point margin of error, the numbers paint a bleak picture for RIM’s future customer base.


“RIM’s title of communicator extraordinaire and business companion is unparalleled at the moment,” he wrote. “But as users begin to demand a greater mix of work and personal uses from their phone, RIM may find itself in a tough spot.”


Tom Barlow, a BlackBerry Storm user and a blogger with Wallet Pop, said that a big reason Apple and Google are gaining brand loyalty is because of the apps.


“We BlackBerry users look on in app-envy as iPhone users play games, look for restaurants, tune in a radio station, watch a painter paint, manage a project and find a date,” he wrote. “I can play solitaire, or browse the Internet at glacier-like speed. And while I slept, Blackberry stuck a Bing app onto my phone, and I can’t make the damn thing go away.”


The Next Web blogger Alex Wilhelm said that the survey results should prompt any mobile vendor to celebrate just yet. A lot could change, he said, as Microsoft (and perhaps Palm) roll out new phones over the course of the year.


“That is when all of this gets even more interesting,” Wilhelm wrote. “With iPhone, Android, Windows Phone 7 Series, the n900, Blackberry, and WebOS all fighting for the same user base, smart phones are going to get better, quickly.”


“Buckle up, Android and iPhone won this round, but it’s the next that is really going to blow your mind,” Wilhelm said.