Blackberry: How my smartphone became a ‘dumbphone’

On: October 31, 2011
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About Philip Breek
My name is Philip Breek, I am 23 years old, come from the Netherlands and am currently following the New Media MA program at the UvA. I got my BA in New Media at the UvA last year and am now continuing my research through the MA program. I wrote my BA thesis on digital music distribution and hope to continue on this topic, however I might expand or rethink my research to also look at the creative industries and the impact of digital media and culture in a broader sense. Alongside my studies I am a music producer & DJ primarily focused on Dubstep, Electro and Next Level.

   

I remember when I had my first mobile phone, a bulky Nokia with no color or internet or any of the fancy features today’s smart phones have. This phone always worked, the battery lasted an incredible amount of time and no matter how many times I dropped it I don’t ever remember having to reset the phone. Now I have a Blackberry. This means I that wherever I go, I know it would be wise to bring my charger and in case I can’t find a power outlet, the wire that allows me to connect it to my laptop which also charges it. As many of us have Blackberry’s I’m sure many people go through these same issues which shouldn’t be necessary.

Early this October many people also suffered from Blackberry’s ‘outage‘ which entailed that millions of users worldwide were unable to send/receive emails and instant messages for up to four days. For some users this meant they weren’t able to joke with their friends on BBM however for others this was a serious issue that disturbed business related communications. Following an outrage of the global community of Blackberry users, ‘RIM‘ the manufacturer of Blackberry smartphones offered users a compensation of $100 worth of ‘app’ downloads from Blackberry app world.

Being a Blackberry user myself, the outage was actually a mere addition to my ongoing Blackberry issues. Having a contract length of two years for my Blackberry, I am eligible to select a new device in january at the earliest. I have however had problems with my device for the past 3 months if not longer. First the software started malfunctioning switching buttons so that when I pressed the main ‘Blackberry’ button it would type the letter ‘P’ followed by other buttons such as the green ‘phone’ button becoming an asterisk. Not having time to go past the phone shop that week I let it be and a week later, the phone was functioning normally again. Perhaps two weeks after that, my main ‘scroll’ button was giving me troubles and eventually, I wasn’t (and still am not able) to scroll down. This means that in any menu (that I can still access) I have to use the spacebar to jump down in pages and then scroll back up to get to where I need to be.

This is obviously massively irritating and many have told me just send it off for repair. I have sent my Blackberry off for repair at least twice before and last time I was without a phone for at least 5 weeks. At the store they asked me if I didn’t have some old phone I could use in the meantime. As annoying as this was, I was forced to use an ancient device for those 5 weeks whilst still paying for my Blackberry and Internet services. Therefore, this time I’m very reluctant to send my phone off for repair because I know that again I will be stuck without a proper phone for at least 5 weeks and will pay for services I don’t have. So, rather than sending it off, I figure I will keep the phone for the last few months until I can select a new device and essentially I just have to put up with it.

While I was already having software issues, hardware issues, and almost any issues I could have with a phone (especially the battery life), I now have the ‘dumbest’ smart phone which I practically only use for BBM (Blackberry Messenger) and phone calls, and these things are only possible through the various shortcuts I had to devise in order to still use it. So this Blackberry service outage left me with nothing but the option to call people (texting does not work because the spacebar method of scrolling I devised for BBM does not work in a text message because I remain stuck on choosing a recipient). When Blackberry then offered its users a compensation of $100 worth of ‘app’ downloads, this was of course useless to me considering I cannot even access ‘app world’ anymore on account of the ‘scrolling’ problem. So as Blackberry boasts about new features and the quality of their devices, I found my thoughts expressed on CNN where a report read,

“If service problems continue to plague RIM, it will undercut any positive moves on the device front. Customers won’t care how good the hardware is if the phone simply won’t work.” (CNNMoney)

So as I considered my options of what to do with my ‘dumb’ phone, I was reminded of my first bulky phone which never ever suffered any issues. Although I didn’t have any of the features such as Internet, apps or BBM on my old phone, I don’t have those features now although I’m still paying for them! So rather than enthusiastically introducing yet another new feature that should ‘revolutionize’ communication, it seems to me that RIM should spend a bit more time on making what it already offers actually work.

So as I write this, I am still facing the dilemma of whether or not to send it off for repair yet again and be left without a phone for 5 weeks (which they claim only takes 2 weeks). It seems to me that smart phones and companies such as RIM have lost sight of what’s important and are purely concerned with sales rather than selling devices that work as they should. Another interesting story concerning this relates to my girlfriend’s Blackberry. She, just like me had problems with her Blackberry and had to send it off for repair due to software errors. When she got her phone back she re-added me to BBM as the phone came back empty. Following this, I had her in my contact list twice. I always messaged the new contact obviously but one day I sent a message to the old contact in my list by accident. To my surprise I got a reply from another girl asking me who are you and why are you pinging me. I was confused and asked her who she was and told her that I accidentally messaged the old contact in my list. I asked this girl who suddenly had my girlfriend’s old ping adress how this happened and she said she had bought the Blackberry ‘new’ in the store. As it turns out, Blackberry simply took my girlfriend’s old broken phone, repaired it and then re-sold it claiming it was ‘new’.

As my contract runs out in several months I am now faced with choosing another device which I will do very carefully to make sure I won’t get stuck with another disaster phone. So to conclude, I suggest that smart phone providers (specifically RIM) take a step back to re-evaluate what they’re doing and to focus on their product reliability rather than worrying about what flashy new feature they’re going to introduce in order to stay ‘competitive’, because for me a phone that works will beat any new feature they come up with.

Cited

Julianne Pepitone, ‘CNNMoney’ <http://money.cnn.com/2011/10/13/technology/blackberry_outage/index.htm>

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