Will BlackBerry become the Number One Smartphone OS in 2012?

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Emeka Azuka Okoye is a colleague of mine in the mobile sector. He is a mobile developer and Chief Operating Officer/Senior Application Engineer at Vikantti Nigeria Limited. We are largely agreed on many things. For example, we are agreed about the growth of mobile webs and applications and about certain aspects of the BlackBerry craze.

blackberry craze

However, Emeka has made a prediction that falls apart in the face of available facts, and this is his prediction – that BlackBerry will become the number one smartphone brand in Nigeria in 2012.

We had an interesting debate on Twitter yesterday, and one of my responses to his position was that terrorists would have to be hired to blow up the operations of both Nokia (reperesenting Symbian OS) and Samsung (representing both Android OS and Bada OS) for that prediction to come true.

First things first, I have nothing against RIM and the BlackBerry OS. I have used and reviewed a number of them – and I found them excellent devices. Myself and other members of the Mobility Nigeria crew fought for the opening of the BlackBerry AppWorld to Nigeria. Mobility Nigeria have a working relationship with RIM’s agency here in Nigeria, and I maintain professional contact with Deon Liebenberg, RIM’s Managing Director for Africa. Deon and I met and interacted at the Mobile Web West Africa conference back in February this year.

Having made that disclaimer clear, facts are facts, and here I present simple facts that show clearly that BlackBerry is nowhere near becoming the number 1 smartphone OS in Nigeria in 2012.

Misconceptions about the BlackBerry Craze

1. The BlackBerry Craze Illusion. You hear people make statements that the youth are crazy about BlackBerry. The problem is that some truth has been presented without placing it in its proper context.

The properly stated truth would go something like this – a significant number of young people, especially those in a few select cities, are crazy about BlackBerry. This puts those affected by the BlackBerry craze in the minority – afluent areas and certain higher institutions.

As a rule, when you step out of those environments, you almost cannot find BlackBerry devices anywhere else. And even in those ennvironments, many more people use other smartphone brands than they do BlackBerry devices.

There are millions of other young people across the majority of the landmass of Nigeria that do not know what a Blackberry is, and in many cases do not care.

Mobility Nigeria is currently conducting a mobile usage survey, and the results coming in do not surprise us. This survey is specifically targeted at students of higher institutions across some of the choice schools in the country. Because the survey has not been concluded, I cannot present figures here, but the BlackBerry Craze is not as widespread as many suppose.

Every month, we track mobile web usage here on Mobility Nigeria, and the records show that Symbian (average of 27%) outguns Blackberry (average of 13%) by a huge margin, and that margin is not closing. At least not yet.

Reports from Opera, InMobi and other service providers corrroborate our statistics for mobility Nigeria – Symbian is way ahead of BlackBerry and the latter is not catching up. At least not yet.

InMobi’s latest mobile ad statistics (March 2011) show that in Nigeria Symbian grew from December 2010 to March 2011 to clinch 16.2%. Following at a distant 0.4% is iOS, not BlackBerry. interpretation: BlackBerry mobile ads recorded less than iOS’ 0.4%.

InMobi ng smartphone q1

During our Twitter debate, Emeka presented Symbian as having 25.9% mobile ad share and BlackBerry 2.9%. But he must have mixed things up a bit, because those figures are for Africa, not Nigeria. The Nigeria stats reflect that Blackberry has less than 0.4% mobile ad share on the InMobi network.

2. The Grey Market Factor. My friend Emeka argues that Blackberry devices have become affordable because of the activities of the grey market. But that is true for Symbian, Android and iOS devices as well. Anyone can pick up a fully-functional smartphone running any of the available OSes for less than N20,000.

As such, the grey market factor is not in favour of just BlackBerry but of all others. iOS in particular thrives on the grey market, and is responsible for a significant number of iPhones in use in the country.

3. The Samsung-Android Factor. In my opinion, Android OS stands a much better chance than BlackBerry. The growth of Android is phenomenal, and Samsung have been responsible for a huge chunk of that growth.

While Android is not showing up much on statistics at this time, anyone who has tracked the explosion of that OS knows that its a bad idea to ignore Android. While iOS was still basking in achieving the number 1 spot in the United States, Android was behind it in no time and then in front of it the next moment.

Symbian’s global marketshare and margin ahead of everything else were so huge that everyone was taken by surprise at how fast Android snatched that top spot.

While Android is not showing on any statistics for Nigeria now, past precedence tells me not to underestimate it. In another 6 months, the statistics may be showing Android having an alarmingly significant share.

4. The Cool Factor. BlackBerry smartphones are cool. But so are Samsung’s AMOLED-touting Android phones, Apple’s iPhones, and Nokia’s new range of Symbian phones.

Here on Mobility Nigeria (where we have a sizeable community of phone lovers), on a couple of occassions we have asked readers what phones they would love to purchase if money were not an issue. Surprisingly, Symbian and Android devices were the most desired. In one case, out of the several responses, only one person wanted a BlackBerry.

While that poll does not tell us everything, I think people should stop ascribing the cool factor to BlackBerry in a way that suggests that products from other manufacturers are not found cool. Two of the coolest devices today are the Nokia E7 and the Samsung Galaxy S II. Some people wanted both these devices!

As an side, I have used over 60 mobile phones (including BlackBerries), and none has been as cool as the Nokia E7 that I currently use. Everywhere I go, people gawk, mope at and ogle the Nokia E7. Cool is not exclusive to BlackBerry.

It is a lie to suggest that other devices are not found cool by young people. Sales and usage statistics show that many more Symbian and Android devices are sold globally and locally than BlackBerry devices. Sorry, BB fans, but cool cannot be exclusive to you, seeing that these two other platforms outsell BlackBerry by huge margins.

5. The Data Cost factor. BIS (Blackberry Internet Service) rates have come as low as N2,800 monthly for standard BIS plans, and N1,500 (for Etisalat’s specialised plans), and this has driven BB adoption some more.

Still, those are not the most affordable internet/data plans available in the country. All the networks have N1,000 internet plans that can be used with any standard smartphone. As a matter of fact, both Nokia and Samsung have partnered with various networks to bundle certain internet plans with some of their devices.

I know several individuals who use these generic plans. In my opinion, if monthly internet subscription cost is an issue for anyone, such a one is better off without a BlackBerry smartphone. You can get a Symbian or Android smartphone for less than you will get a BB, and then get lower cost monthly internet access.

Mobility Nigeria consults for several individuals and organisations across the country. I can itemise a number of individuals who have stopped using their BlackBerry smartphones because they needed to tighten their financial belts. They opted instead for a generic smartphone (usually Symbian) with a N1,000 monthly generic internet plan.

Of course, there are others too who have switched from other platforms to BlackBerry because of their peculiar needs.

As I have shown, the monthly internet cost factor can weigh in for or against Blackberry adoption, depending on the specific scenario.

6. The Symbian-Is-Not-Dead-Yet factor. Symbian is not dead yet. As a matter of fact, Symbian has never looked better than it does right now. More devices. More apps being developed (especially in Qt), and more OS updates with superb UI elements. Shame that Nokia is throwing it out the window eventually.

But in the meantime, 150 million new Symbian smartphones will hit the market. A significant number of these 150 million Symbian smartphones will be sold here in Nigeria, a traditional Symbian territory. BlackBerry will have those to contend with too.

The True Position of BlackBerry OS in Nigeria

Yes; there is a cult following among its fans (just like the iPhone cult following). Yes; that following is growing and is expected to grow some more, all things being equal.

Yet, inspite of all the above, BlackBerry use has largely remained a niche affair. RIM can leverage on the growing popularity to push BlackBerry adoption further in the country. More budget devices will help. Lower BIS subscription rates will help even more, as is already evident from the trends since the recent drop in BIS rates by all the GSM operators in the country.

The Nigerian Smartphone Market in 2012?

This is not the place where I will present predictions about the smartphone market in Nigeria in 2012. However, all statistics and indices show that short of the detonation of nuclear warheads on Nokia and Samsung operations, the Blackberry OS does not stand a chance of becoming the number 1 smartphone OS in Nigeria in 2012.

If I were to place a bet on this, I won’t lose any sleep over the outcome.

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25 comments

  1. Blackberry Os is always a make over of the existing version except they come out with something innovative or outside the box.. I doubt if the will make head way.Remember Android and Windows ain’t sleeping.

  2. i dont see blackberry

    bein number one unless they make better devices at budget prices…android is not yet there too..not everyone in naija wants touchscreen…its still gonna be symbian…

  3. Blackberry is simply elitist and as such will not be able to make it to the pinacle os by next year. Amongst my colleagues @ work only four of us use a BB. Nokia rules here and of course china phones not because they cannot afford, but because Nokia meets their voice and data needs. BB is seen as a rather more expensive device

  4. Yeah, I follow both Mobilitynigeria and Emeka Okoye on twitter, and observed most of exchanges yesterday.

    This article completely says it all. RIM has a long way to go if it wants to get a sizable portion of the Nigerian smartphone sector.

    I own the N8, and love this phone. Recently, I’ve been researching on my next phone, and I want a smartphone to complement my ‘darling Nate’.
    I have turned down several offers of blackberry [new Bold2 and 3 at 55 and 62 thousand Naira respectively, fairly-used Bold2 of 34 thousand Naira], preferring instead to wait until the Sony Ericsson Xperia Pro comes out in June [I’m budgeting 90k for it]

    All my research shows that Android will give me a far more satisfactory experience than Blackberry. The only advantage BB might have is that ‘demonizing, addictive’ BBM service, which is useless anyway without a BIS subscription. And from the experiences of my colleagues who have blackberries, BIS services in Abuja are quite frustratingly erratic.

  5. True talk spacyzuma.I too have resolved not to renew my BIS on MTN after it expires tomorrow due to their erratic service. I will stick with Airtel for BIS as for now.I may try out the new Samsung Galaxy S II when it becomes available. In my opinion Android os may overtake Nokia if Windows phone 7 takes eternity to be released.

  6. Since global trend also affects Nigeria, what we would be expecting is that Android OS barring any anomaly would be the number one platform in Nigeria and not Blackberry in 2012.

  7. Well written. And proper analysis with a dispassion for platform but focused on the reality of the mobile OS War in Nigeria!

    Blackberry is a nice smartphone OS quite alright but wether it can break the storm and become number 1 in Nigeria is wistful thinking at best. There is no special function that a blackberry device can do better than Symbian, Android or iOS for instance. Is it BBM?  You have Whatsapp, Pingchat etc which are EVEN cross-platform compared with Blackberry. And because these apps are multi-platform; they even have bigger reach.   They do work equally as good as BBM. Is it Internet browsing, BB ISN’T number one. Now let’s look at multimedia and you’ll agree that BB is the last you’ll pick for that. 

    So what is all the craze about the Blackberry? I believe that it is just the in-thing. And it would soon pass. With lots of innovation in the mobile space and multiple entrepreneurs coming up with social media apps and services coupled with the highly competitive field of the mobile world; only the strongest will survive. This is Darwin’s Evolution theory at work here. Does RIM’s Blackberry have what it takes to survive longterm? Not just what I can refer as “initial gra gra”?

    This Blackberry craze is not new in Nigeria. It has happened before in other countries. But BB has been steadily beaten, slowly and relentlessly. You can see what’s happening in Europe and the US. Blackberry cannot count as number one! I think with time that’s what will happen in Nigeria. Innovation and better platform Will likely win.

    Samsung is doing lots of assault from every front. And given that Nigeria is not supported by apple, coupled with the fact that Samsung has products of different price range, I give it to them to win the Smartphone OS war in Nigeria, come 2012!  

  8. I agree with everyone here. The BB craze in nigeria is overtly hyped and distorted. And also the BBM thing is always overrated, I know busy executives and professionals that no longer respond to the pings, clearly preferring the phone calls to even sms. The BBM is a fad and wears off after a couple of months of usage. people caught on the BBM craze are people with more free time than would admit to.

  9. very interesting. I have seen this topic since like two days now but reserving reading it till a time like this when I can type out my heart and senses. well informed write up as well. hhnnmm bb this, bb that!

    first of will like to thank glo (the 1st)and every other carrier for introducing bb services to this country. we must admit, even amogst the enlightened , bb’s intro helped spread the broad usage of mobile internet . from pinging 1 or 2 people to sending emails, files, pics, and the good old browsing . we all know that all these were very much possible years before the coming of bb , but people just don’t care about using those functiinalities on their phones. all they care is to make calls and send texts messages. I will also like to mention here that those days of free browsing with ‘stolen’ carrier ip addresses also helped spread the use of internet over mobile devices (once you can install opera mini) on several low budget phones. now back to blackberry .

    before we get confused about my statement above on how bb made mobile internet usage more popular, I will like to explain with an example. my wife bought the Nokia communicator (the first release) at a whooping =N=100k but never for once do anything else with it other than make calls and send texts. then she bought another nokia E75 and still with same attitude . then when she heard about bb & all the pinging/ browsing/ emailing e.t.c, she jumped on the bandwagon and started using all these functiinalities for the first time even though they have always been available in the nokia devices she had like 2 years earlier.

    that wouldn’t have been the case if I had met her during that time though. this was the initial drive bb had other than its supposed elite status. more and more people started thinking this is the new and only way to get this functonalities done on the go. the status appeal too attracted more and more people. remember glo advertised bb then ‘for the royals’. it did work for rim and we cannot rule out its heavy success in our country . part of it is the opening of the bb app world to Nigerians .

    unfortunately one of the reasons that will limit the growth and further spread of the blackberry is also what attracted the initial rush, elitist. some people are beginning to identify that they don’t have to pay 3k/month, 9k/a quarter and 36k/year to enjoy same if not better mobile internet functionalities on their less expensive nokia/ samsung or even sonyericsson devices. the bbm facility has alternatives on every other platform with which they can connect to their friends and loved ones. with exchange mail & microsoft communicator for symbian devices and android,they can as well have their office work done anywhere at any time. all within a budget device and data plan. this is for budget people.

    now lets go to those whose budgets have no ceiling. like Yomi said earlier, when it was requested that we name any phone of our choice if money was not a problem on this site, I remember quite well that blackberry was only mentioned once. people were mentioning androids, iphone4 and nokia smartphones. the reasons are glaring. the blackberry devices just don’t cut it! outside the noise about them, they just don’t cut it for people that love their devices to stand out and holds no bounds on money spent getting them.

    I do tell anyone that cares to listen, bbs don’t show signs of wealth, check out the prices of iphone4/ galaxy s2/ the nokia E7 e.t.c and tell me which bb cost as much. those phones are far richer in functionalities than any bb. the apps available for any of them are not just more but with richer user interface. for example, today a colleague that uses bb was with my sgs for a while. she came to me and asked if i can make her twitter notifications display like mine. the way my tweets scrolls at the notification bar trips her. sometimes revealing the content(if a single tweet).I told her I cant, its an android app made for android phones. my wife has decided she wont be upgrading to another bb seeing the huge fun she gets whenever she borrows my sgs. wifi hotspots , richer movie experience with surround sound on wide screen, video calls through yahoo messenger, the games are look so real….the list is endless.

    the blackberry phones have since outlived their times in north America and Europe , that is why they are focusing on Africa and the middle east now where people are still living the fake ‘elitist’ club of bb users.

    Unless the bis plan is at par with the list possible data plan for normal mobile internet and low price tag devices with more functionalities (common radio is not even available), 2012 will be the beginning of their sales drop. they should enjoy now while it lasts.

  10. did a rough read thru of the Post and a few comments.. but in my opinion, Nokia has failed the market and has refused to provide a proper cutting edge solution, especially on the area it booms.. “Realtime social communication”. Social Media is the new, pardon my use, ish!..

    asides the poor self usage yu get from nokia, with the endless series of phones available, every one feels left out once a newer cooler nokia A-Z series comes into the market.. Too many options, offering nothing newer that SMS, MMS, WAP, GPRS and maybe CDMA.. im using Nigeria as the case study.

    RIM’s EDGE brought something new.. faster social community access, a limited range of device (bold, curve and touch screens) and.. my point, the core functions of BB are device inbuilt, Nokia seems to largely rely of third party and ofcourse, ppl need to all download to get equal service, how often do we get that.

    Nuff Said.. think on the rest.. Waiting for my RIM PlayBook to come into the market 😉

  11. Effectiveness and cost of the mobile device is one of the key battle fields needed to conquer the mobile landscape in Nigeria and so far Nokia and recently Samsung do have the clear edge on that . Recently my bro who owns a bold 3 tried to intimidate me with his device thinking my little (in terms of cost) Nokia E5 was not worth considering . and i quietly challenged him to mention what his phone can achieve and what mine can’t . he started off and was met with equal and affirmative replies that my Nokia stood shoulder to shoulder with his device and he just kept mute . .so i decided to take him on with his false BB superiority tag, telling him i did prefer the Andriod devices but preferably can’t wait for the Nokia WP7 device for me to savor the combined sheer power and efficiency of Nokia and the silky fluidity of the WP7 UI. .guess what ? he snapped at me, asking me if i was anti BB and i told him no, i then sheepishly told him that there are better alternative out there if one decide to search and pay for. . though i myself fancy BB devices but it ends there . . and am not among the anti BB crew

  12. lmao BB as #1 os in 2012? lmao very funny…
    I would have said “may be in the year 2020” but am sure Nigerians would have forgotten BB by then lol.
    You guys don’t get it, NOKIA is in our blood its the first thing we think off when we need a phone and besides, Rim is busy trying to gain ground in North America and Europe.
    Also I think this BB craze is overrated, every one I know that has a BB has a Nokia or samsung and of all the peeps I know using BB including my woman, Glo customers seems to be the only ones enjoying it.
    Also its so funny that providers that don’t even have 3G are also wasting their resources on BB

  13. Belushi gave a cAndid opinion on the BB Hype and the facade of it’s capturing the 2012 Nigerian Smartphone market!

    Deoladoctor and I tried an experiment to compare the PUSH message functionality between a Blackberry Device and a Symbian once. We wanted to know which was better at pushing E-mails to their device. We used a blackberry Bold and a Nokia C7 for this experiment. The Blackberry bold used the BBMessenger push email services. While the Nokia C7 had the Nokia messaging services.

    The experiment was simple. I sent some email messages to Deoladoctor’s email address 3 to 4 minutes apart. Deoladoctor doctor already had the same yahoo and Gmail accounts installed in both Devices.

    Our findings? The Symbian device consistently got the sent messages earlier than the Blacberrry device. The mean time difference was about 10 to 15 seconds faster in the Symbian than the Blackberry. Sometimes the difference is even up to half a minute.

    We observed that the Symbian Nokia messaging services pushed Email messages to their devices faster than the BB Messaging system did.

    I believe that next time we’ll compare iOS and BB OS.

    This shows clearly that there is a disproportionate hype about Blackberries. And in some cases they do not deliver as well as comparable devices from other manufacturers!

  14. I beg to disagree with you Afewgoodmen on your last post.I tried the same thing with my blackberry phones (9300 and 9780) and Nokia phones (E72 and E63) with the same email addresses on the Nokia and Blackberry. Low and behold the Nokia E series came short compared with both Blackberries by about 30 seconds to a minute. we need an independent confirmation of this. Yomi over to you for confirmation.

  15. @Afewgoodmen; I won’t believe that untill you post the video, + am sure the bb was using MTN cos everybody knows a china phone using glo will get email faster than an iphone using mtn

  16. @Douglas, I seem to have the same suspicion. @afewgoodmen, you will have to tell what network you used for the BB and the one used for the C7. My experience has shown that when I used the BB phone, I was receiving emails later than Yomi when we are sent the same message. Now I use a Samsung Galaxy Tab and nothing has changed. The culprit is definitely MTN and not the phone I use.

  17. @Arumob, Douglas, Dayo, the Blackberry Bold was running on MTN BIS. I can’t recall which network the Nokia C7 phone was on. I need to ask Deoladoctor.

    Perhaps, next time we’d run the Symbian & BB Device on same network so as to eliminate any bias or any probing questions. Perhaps also compare with several networks too! However, where I reside, MTN does well!

  18. Men. i really enjoyed reading through your comments and its good we are facing the fact now.

    Nokia – Symbian is a good OS for the Nigerian market.it can do a lot of things but it lacks the “waoh user experience”.

    BB -BB OS ..a very good phone but its too overpriced and money milking machine for our greedy operators but a very good phone.

    Apple Iphone… highly overpriced , beautiful and sweet user experience , but less functional unless you jailbreak it and you may not be able to send or receive files from your friends unless you buy another apps to do that from their apps store…

    Google – Andriod… very expensive , highly functional and also has the user “waoh” factor when you use it just like the SGS and SGSII ..

    so in my conclusion …

    stick to the phone that you love and that does your job very well beautifully…

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