You might be wondering how these two are even in the same sentence anymore. Truth is I was pretty frazzled myself when I put two and two together. But the fact is that these two actually share a similar smartphone journey, and might even share a similar fate.
See, Blackberry was the talk of the tech world around 10 years ago. Everyone I knew owned a blackberry and they were truly the first to introduce the modern smartphone to the mainstream. They were also pretty much the first that made us to look down instead of straight forward.
Anyway, their golden age didn’t last, and this was mainly due to other great inventors like Apple entering the market. Blackberry went through several uninspiring releases and the iPhone completely obliterated the playfield. This tale however is much all too familiar, and I wonder if they will also share a similar future. Sure, it might not be the exact same storyline, but they do have some common denominators.
Despite the fact that your iPhone X is extremely slick with some cool features, it still represents incremental improvement over the last device. It isn’t exactly a product of innovation anymore that puts Apple ahead of the game. And even though the iPhone still is great, it’s just another phone. Apple is recognized as a market creator, but this isn’t reflected in their recent iPhone game. Rather, they have taken a safe path instead of the risk filled rollercoaster ride, where the lows are low, but the highs are super high.
Blackberry was at its peak also a great innovator. But similarly to Apple, they took a slow turn to just deliver phased improvements rather than take risks. Being the all-knowing smartphone god, they probably didn’t feel like they even had to take risks. But when iPhone came into the picture, it all changed. Even though the first iPhone was pretty glitchy and had awful battery time, the “safe” recognized with BlackBerry soon got replaced by being wowed by a company. This ultimately put Blackberry in a position they probably never imagined – in survival mode. This is ultimately what happens when you get too comfortable, but the question is if Apple is heading the same direction.
The cool factor
Remember when everyone used to camp out for the latest iPhone? I honestly can’t recall the last time someone slept outside a store for a recent release. Looking back, the Mac, the iPod, the iPhone – were all vital innovations. But now we have a continuous iPhone loop of 1,2,3,4,5…. The X came with some cool features, but nothing groundbreaking as compared to their other inventions. The sales were also pretty disappointing, and that if anything, is saying that the crowd is no longer willing to pay for the Apple cool-factor. So, they’re still cool, but as a smartphone innovator, they were probably cooler 10-ish years ago.
Blackberry was in its prime, the coolest by far with their sleek, battery-efficient powerhouse of phone. Everyone talked about Blackberry, and celebrities praised them. Even I used to praise my beloved Blackberry like no tomorrow. But as time went on, iPhone and Android took the lead and left Blackberry hanging around as an afterthought. Blackberry had lost its cool factor and once lost, it’s pretty hard to regain. They tried to catch up with the touchscreen and failed. They tried to implement software and apps but failed due to their primary feature of security. These fails were ultimately the last push in putting them in the un-cool box.
A similar smartphone feature
One of the reasons why everyone still sticks around with their iPhone is the iMessage feature. But given the fact that there are countless apps now with similar functionality, it makes things a little tricky. Blackberry was in a similar position with BlackBerry Messenger (BBM). It had the exact same pull on users including myself. But just like iMessage, its strength lies in the number of people using it. When Apple and Android entered the market, Blackberry came to a point where they figured they needed to make BBM multi-platform to survive. But this was only after people had already started converting to Android or iPhone. It’s not certain if iMessage as multi-platform will do much, as there are countless of other options like Telegram and Whatsapp. Both in which are arguably just as good. iPhone de-converts are also bound to get used to these new options pretty fast.
So, where to next?
Some pretty major and innovative players have entered the phone market during recent years, including Google and Samsung. The technical aspects are more similar than ever, but what ultimately sets Apple apart is still their brand. They have some of the best marketing game in the field, and the vast majority of smartphone users still heavily rely on their iPhone. We can assume that some will probably switch from iPhone like they did with Blackberry due to similar reasons such consequently releasing similar phones with feature. But one reason that is exclusively related to Apple is price. With only incremental improvements, prices haves still managed to sky-rocket. And I hear more often than ever that people just aren’t willing to spend 2 months’ rent on a device that has the same functionally than the last 3 predecessors.
I myself won’t be switching anytime soon because I’m an avid Apple product user. But maybe I’m not the right target group as I’m a loyal brand devotee. I was probably the last one I know that switched to iPhone due to my love for Blackberry, but I ultimately did make the leap. If we look at history, we know that no product nor company, no matter how powerful – is completely untouchable. During BlackBerrys golden era, no one probably imagined that they would control 0% of the global smartphone market in the future. Yet here we are.
On another note
Ok I know, this started out a little somber. But truth is that the future for Apple actually looks pretty bright, and even complex. Maybe the smartphone market has already reached its innovation peak, and it’s time to look beyond at the next innovation. When Apple became the tech giants they are today they helped define what a smartphone truly is. But the innovation has merely moved from smartphones, and has excelled in areas such as apps and smart homes, both in which apple is a prevalent player. Google and Apple both play core players in the extensive app library we have today. One that is still under much development with fancy new apps every day.
The next big thing is unarguably IoT and smart homes. The market is still fairly new and holds a lot of room for Apple to be a market innovator. We already see an ongoing battle between our dear Alexa and Siri, and both Google and Apple are consistently working to develop new gear to make your home all the smarter. Another interesting aspect here will be to see who excels in making smart homes the most secure. Because if we do choose to connect our homes online, it poses greater risk as it has the ability to get even closer to our personal lives. And maybe, Apple will come to play a big role in how we make sure to avoid another Facebook fiasko, only now in our homes. Only time will tell and I look forward to see their next move.