Why BB10 doesn’t compete with Android

by: Simon HillJanuary 31, 2013


It’s been a horrible couple of years for RIM. Job losses, open revolt from staff, service outages, poor software and hardware reviews. Something had to give and a change of leadership was inevitable. Even after Thorsten Heins took up the reins the obituaries kept on coming thick and fast. We weren’t alone in asking whether RIM should have adopted Android, but the company set its sights on a new platform and promised that this time it would not be rushed.

Now BlackBerry 10 is finally here we can size it up. There are definitely things we like about BB10 and there are things we don’t like about BB10. The big question is – can it compete with Android?

The hardware is limited

We think that the depth and breadth of Android device offerings is one of the key reasons for the platform’s success. If you cast your mind back a few months you might remember RIM making noises about licensing BlackBerry 10 to manufacturers and there were follow up rumors about HTC and Samsung, but no actual bites. The fact that BB10 launched yesterday without a single partner for hardware doesn’t bode well for BlackBerry’s licensing plans. Even with lawsuits and licensing deals from Apple and Microsoft, Android is still competitively cheap for manufacturers to license.

That leaves BlackBerry’s own Z10, with the physical keyboard-toting Q10 to follow in a couple of months’ time. When we compare the Z10 versus the best of Android it is clearly not on the cutting edge. Put it this way – if an Android manufacturer released the same Z10 hardware specs as a new flagship Android smartphone it wouldn’t be making many headlines.

If the Z10 was significantly cheaper then we could reevaluate that assessment, but UK pricing, both on contract and unlocked, is in line with the Samsung Galaxy S3 and not far off the iPhone 5. It looks expensive for what it is. Presumably the Q10 will be a much cheaper alternative.


Where’s my favorite app?

BlackBerry was able to highlight the high number of launch apps, unprecedented for a new platform, at over 70,000. That’s an impressive number, but how many were rapidly ported from Android in two weekend port-a-thon events leading up to yesterday’s launch? The answer is around 40 percent. Of course the real problem is not that BB10 has one tenth the number of apps that Android has, or that the majority of them are ports, the real problem is what’s missing.

Fans of Google services and apps, common around these parts, are going to be horrified and completely disenchanted with the lack of dedicated apps for BlackBerry 10. If you’ve already invested in Google’s cloud services or you’re a daily user of Google Maps then BB10 will not be tempting you away from Android. There are also a variety of high profile apps from Netflix to Spotify that have not been confirmed for BB10 and they’ll be deal breakers for heavy users.

What does it do better than Android?

If you can’t answer that question then why would you ever consider switching from Android to BlackBerry? There are some nifty baked-in features with BB10 and it looks smooth and accessible, but it’s tough to put your finger on anything that Android can’t do, especially if you include the additional features that apps bring.


There’s still some value in some of BB10’s best features as native rather than through third-party apps and services. Maybe the unified inbox can be emulated with Gmail to an extent and you can install an alternative keyboard app to improve the typing experience, but there is one area where BlackBerry 10 is liable to score a win and that’s the enterprise. When it comes to secure server connections and corporate email the BlackBerry wins out of the box. The ability to switch between work and personal profiles is also going attract anyone who currently carries two phones around with them.

Is that enough though? We always knew BlackBerry’s base was enterprise users and there are valuable contracts to be had in that space, but it’s not the mass market. For consumers Android has a lot more to offer.

Battling for scraps

We’ve seen BlackBerry users defecting to the iPhone and Android in their droves over the last couple of years. New customers in emerging markets and heavily discounted deals in older markets may have bolstered BlackBerry’s subscriber numbers, but in the desirability stakes the BlackBerry scores low. You know you’re in trouble when the New York Times runs a piece like this one about BlackBerry owners being ashamed of their phones.

BlackBerry 10 should change that. It won’t be embarrassing to pull a BlackBerry out of your pocket anymore. For fans of the brand it provides an excuse to come back to the fold and it’s a no-brainer for the enterprise, but that won’t be enough to make it a big success. We can see it beating Windows Phone 8 to a distant third place behind Android and iOS, despite Microsoft’s superior marketing muscle. It’s just tough to imagine it stealing away market share from either of the big two.

Blackberry CEO Z10 launch thorsten launch

Falling short?

Whatever happens the people at BlackBerry have given it their best shot. The rebranding to drop RIM is a good move, the platform looks slick and it offers some subtle differentiators, they secured as many big name apps as they could, they didn’t forget their enterprise base, and they produced some nice-looking hardware. It should be enough to reverse the decline and secure a niche in the smartphone market.

The initial reaction from the tech industry could be summed up in one word “underwhelmed” and the value of RIM shares is tumbling again, so BB10 obviously didn’t excite investors. Let’s not kid ourselves, with the Xperia Z hitting stores soon and two new Android flagships on the horizon from HTC and Samsung, BlackBerry 10 is not going to compete with Android.

  • Obviously no one saw this coming…

  • As with any new re-branding and product launch, Blackberry are in their infancy. They are in essence, starting from scratch. Sure they have the reputation for security in the enterprise space, but if they want to gain traction in the consumer markets then they will need a lot more that 70,000 apps. The significant test will be how they perform in the next 12 months. If they can survive this period and see an increase in shareholders then I think they will do just fine. Will they make such an impact into Android’s dominant market share or even iOS? I doubt it. What remains to be seen, is if Balackberry can mature quick enough and develop an ecosystem to compete with the two leaders. Personally, I actually like BB10 and the new Z10.. would I swap my already mature Android 4.2.1 with a huge community and developers that work on improving the OS? No. Would I swap over to BB10 from the ever expanding, integrated ecosystem that Android has? No. Until Blackberry matures to a complete package, then I will watch with interest. I will only switch once they have something better to offer me.

    • Simon Hill

      Agreed, I’d like to see them do well, the reboot was entirely necessary and overdue and it looks good, it just doesn’t look good enough to persuade people away from Android.

      • inchhigh5137


  • Zeals

    Well with Blackberry they will always appeal to a niche that require the secure BBM service, which certain individuals may find useful for one reason or another. THe physical keyboard is also a nice addition, because they are better than a touchscreen one, for individuals that spend a lot of time texting, sending messages etc and don’t really care about the extra screen real estate woud also prefer. So basically BB10 is a niche product, but for the wider market I don’t see it competing again iOS, W8 or Android.

  • leonid

    blackberry is secure, that’s its main strength. security.
    but that’s for bb 6 & 7 (I’ve used both in the past).

    for the new bb10 with qnx kernel, I haven’t tried, I don’t know yet if it’s as secure as before. I’ll wait and see.

  • The entire article fails to take into account the majority of BB10’s feature strengths. There wasn’t any mention of the new rewindable photography capabilities. The peek and hub functions weren’t mentioned and the hardware was terribly undersold. The Z10 has a higher ppi than the iPhone 5 or the Nokia Lumina 920 for that matter. There was a time when ios had fewer than 70,000 apps (the same goes for android). Don’t sell BlackBerry short, they were on top once, and they refused to innovate, hence the reinvention. (In my opinion) there is something dangerously comfortable about the top, Apple and Google both need to watch themselves or they will find themselves in a pit of naysayers just like BB.

    • Simon Hill

      I agree BB10 has some nice features, but is there really a killer feature in there? I mean something really good that other platforms don’t offer because I think that’s what BB10 needs for anything beyond niche success. The ppi may be higher than the iPhone 5 or Lumia, but neither of them can cut it against the top Android devices either. If they can get the big apps on the BB platform then they should do well.I like the look of BB10 and I think they’ve done a good job with the new platform, but not enough to tempt me away from Android and that’s the bottom line.

      • You want a killer feature? How about the PHONE feature.. no one ever compares the sound/mic quality of the phones for some reason.

        My brother (owner of Galaxy S3) always tell me how he wish his S3’s speakerphone worked as good as my Blackberry 9810 Torch. That is a fossil phone compared to the S3. I’m not a fan of using headsets.. and I’ve always just put my phone on speaker and placed on my desk or in my shirt pocket if driving… and my brother can barely tell that I’m talking to him on speaker.

        On the other hand.. I always hear an echo when he puts his S3 on speakerphone.

        Do we really need a 1080p screen? How often does anyone ever ever ever load a bluray movie onto their phones?… never right?.. then why does Samsung always boast about how good a movie would look on their phones?…

        Apps is not an issue, when Android 1st came out.. everyone said the same thing about Android apps vs Apple apps… Apps will come with time.

    • Of course! this is an Android site… of course they compare Android’s best features against Blackberry’s worst features…

      Only Blackberry forums have the balls to compare apples to apples rather than diamonds to charcoal…

      Bottom line is that the Z10 is designed as a “communication” device. Androids are designed as toys.. it is a completely different clientele.

      Lets compare BBM to Whatsapp… what a slap in the face that is gonna be..

      Lets compare speakerphone sound/mic quality… another slap in the face
      Lets compare the Blackberry Hub vs the Android’s message bar… SLAP
      Lets compare app switching/closing… SLAP!
      Lets compare keyboard… SLAP SLAP!

      I wish BB10 still had the mute and programmable buttons like the old Blackberrys.. that would slap the crap out of Android. The ability to operate the phone while its still in the pocket is just awesome.

      People just have to realize that not ALL of us use apps.. and without apps.. what is Android?… absolutely nothing. The communication portion of the leading Android Galaxy S3 doesn’t even compare to the Blackberry 9810 Torch.. thats comparing a Porche to Honda.

      And another reason why developers gave up on Blackberry is that they came out with too many different operating systems.. and apps were not compatible which is very annoying.

  • Alu Zeros

    Would be cool if Google just bought blackberry

  • The thing is I havent really read up on blackberry. While windows hasent really picked up it has given nokia new life. All the android lovers said it will never work out for them. If BB is linux based and doesnt work on java then it will have alot less ram requirement which will inturn make this hardware better then most android devices. I always found java strength to be its biggest weakness also and that is that it runs completely on ram. This product might just get bb lovers to make the swtich back to bb.

  • TEERap MoneyGang

    Typical fanboy comment/article, why would the world be like if every one drive chewy and ford.

  • williamworlde

    It’s quite amusing that AC writers have gone on full offensive against the new BB. If it such an underwhelming, under-performing, and any other “unders” you can muster up, why do you think you have a need to “convert the converted”?

    I am CURRENTLY an Android user. I came over from the iOS world just over 2 months ago. I very much like my Android and can’t ever see myself going back to Apple. But you know what they say, never say never. It took actually took me quite a while to buy into Android; I REALLY DON’T TRUST GOOGLE! I still don’t. And this new BB10 is beautiful and amazing, so even though I am quite satisfied with my Android right now, jumping ship is always in my cards.

    I am Canadian and so I may sound bias (I didn’t have to disclose that, but there you go, as we love to say); but I am not. Fact: To date, NO ecosystem can provide security like BB; none. And BB’s new idea of one device for both play and work (I remember toting both my work BB AND personal iPhone a couple years aback!) is brilliant.

    I hope they can keep their servers up and running – not that others don’t go down, but due to their security system, ALL services are routed centrally; so one point of failure. A necessary evil and one they need to work on.

    I know they ONLY have 70,000 apps at launch. It’s a good thing Apple and Android had half-a-million at their launch! The ongoing asinine “number of apps at launch” argument is just that: asinine!

    The various Android forums have been going non-stop at the new BB. I don’t know what the Apple ones are saying because I simply don’t have any interest in things Apple. If BB is such a fly in the ointment, the GOOGLE ANDROID MACHINERY should have no fear. Why does it seem to be shaking so? Hmmm…..

    • inchhigh5137

      GALAXY S3 owner

  • james

    could this be a biased review? i think so