Tim Green: "Who still loves BlackBerry?" | Mobile Devices | Mobile Entertainment

Tim Green: "Who still loves BlackBerry?"

Tim Green:
Tim Green


Devices / Blackberry / January 31st 2013 at 2:00PM

Be warned: this column could get a bit racial.

It always amazes me when I get a response to one of these outbursts of self-indulgence that masquerade as industry analysis. Who's reading this shit?

Well, some of you are. And I genuinely love you for it.

Thing is, you can never second guess which columns will generate the most interest. You guys.

One of the most responded-to was a piece I wrote almost exactly three years ago about the growing mania for BBM among the wealthier kids of North London. That consisted of an interview I did with a friend's daughter, who was among the first teens (in my direct experience) to be totally obsessed with BlackBerry.

Of course, in the years since, that obsession infected most youngsters. This culminated, as we know, with RIM senior management personally causing the London riots of 2011.

Yesterday's press conference from BlackBerry (RIP RIM) made me go back to this piece, and think about what's happened to the firm's younger users.

I did this by doing some extensive research over a pea risotto at the dinner table yesterday. The interviewee? My 15 year old daughter, Lois.

So, here's the background. Three years ago, she didn't even have a phone. Now, she has a BlackBerry.

But she is looking forward to not having one.

Why? Because they're 'unreliable and ugly' and most of her mates have iPhones. In fact, of the 15 or so friends in her close social circle, all had a BlackBerry 18 months ago.

Now, only two do.

There are four main reasons for this. Two of them I just mentioned: ugly, unreliable. The third relates to BBM. Kids have slowly realised that they don't need BBM to stay in touch, they can use WhatsApp et al just as easily.

All of a sudden the umbilical cord is cut.

The fourth reason is apps. Specifically Instagram, which seems to cast a powerful spell on teens right now and is not on BlackBerry (and yes, I know that Instagram is a big part of BB10).

So who is still keeping the faith with Bolds and Curves?

Interestingly, there are two groups. One is younger kids. 12 to 13 year old girls remain fixated on BBM because, Lois thinks, they still see BlackBerry as 'grown up' and because they are in the first flush of the peer-group obsession that BBM feeds on.

The second group is black kids. Lois only has one black friend with an iPhone. The rest without exception have BlackBerrys. She couldn't offer any real explanation for this. But it's not financial. She says white kids of all social groups are migrating to iPhone (and to a lesser extent Android).

Now, be warned everyone, I'm going to get even more ethnic now.

Lois goes to a very mixed state school comprising pupils of all colours from all over the world. So I asked her, what about the Eastern Europeans?

Apparently, none have BlackBerrys or iPhones. Instead they have 'cheap Samsungs'. She reckons they just prefer to spend their money on clothes, usually with Holister written in massive letters across the front.

The most interesting group were the Turks. They seem to be the only group that have BlackBerrys and iPhones – often at the same time. Maybe it's a 'conspicuous display of wealth' thing, but they will often switch to a new phone yet still carry the old one with a SIM in it.

"Oh, yeah, I always have two numbers for Yusef," she says.

It's going to be fascinating to see what impact BB10 has on teens. Can the world's 12 year old girls, black kids and Turkish youth turn around BlackBerry's fortunes? It's alarming that Thorsten Heins didn't mention them at all yesterday.

Maybe he hasn't got Yusef's number. Either of them.