Talking Blackberry

We had a bunch of people over yesterday for thanksgiving and at one point my daughter and a friend of ours started talking about their Blackberry Bold phones. They like them but sort of miss their older blackberries. My friend Phil misses the raised buttons of his old Curve. My daughter misses the feel of her even older 8700.

I’ve been using one blackberry or another since the original pager style Blackberry that I got in 1997. I’ve made a few detours along the way. I’ve tried the iPhone twice, the Sidekick (which I really liked), a windows mobile phone (which I really hated), and the Android-based G1. But I keep coming back to Blackberry, largely for the keyboard which I am addicted to.

I didn’t even think about getting a Blackberry Storm. David Pogue’s comment about the Storm is exactly how I feel about it.

Hello? Isn’t the thumb keyboard the defining feature of a BlackBerry? A BlackBerry without a keyboard is like an iPod without a scroll wheel. A Prius with terrible mileage. Cracker Jack without a prize inside.

If I wanted a touch screen phone, I’d get an iPhone. I certainly don’t want a touch screen Blackberry.

My Blackberry Curve recently died on me and instead of getting a Bold, I got another Curve. I think the Blackberry Curve is the perfect phone for me. Other than the lack of a decent twitter client for Blackberry, it does everything I need.

So when I saw the news today that there’s going to be a new Curve coming soon, called the Blackberry 8900 (fka the Javelin), I got very excited.

It’s basically my beloved Curve with a faster processor, a better screen, and a better camera. I’m getting one of these as soon as they are available on T-Mobile. Until then, my curve will do me fine.

#VC & Technology

Comments (Archived):

  1. pedalpete

    I have to completely disagree with your and David Pogue’s comments regarding a blackberry without a keyboard.I love my pearl, love that I can buy canadian. Love that it is the best product on the market for what it can do.The pearl is a very successful product for blackberry, and yet, my brother said ‘it doesn’t have a full keyboard’, and that is why he bought a curve instead.An ‘ipod without a scrollwheel’ is an ipod touch. The scrollwheel no longer (and some would argue never did) define what an ipod was. Will the standard ipod with a scrollwheel exist when the iTouch can hold 150gb?A ‘prius with terrible mileage’ does that mean that GM shouldn’t build the volt? because they are known for building gas guzzlers?These are all the reasons why blackberry MUST build the Storm. They have to learn for themselves what their customers think they want. If the storm is a flop because it doesn’t have a keyboard, then Blackberry learns that. I suspect it will be a flop (relatively speaking) because of an inconsistent interface, rather than the lack of a keyboard.Credit to Clayton Christensen here, but it isn’t your customers who will tell you how to grow your business, it is the people who WANT to be your customers who expose the potentials for growth.Blackberry needs to respond to the strengths of the iPhone, and I think they have taken a good first step (with the clickable screen), this is still an immature market and apple once again managed to secure a very strong lead by both understanding consumers needs, and seeing the opportunity far enough in advance that they took a few years of testing to ensure the product was ready for the masses.I find it unfortunate that the Storm will be percieved as a bit of a ‘me too’ product, and I think the G1 is suffering the same fate, as the quality in both products just doesn’t seem to match the iPhone. But thankfully for Google/htc and Blackberry, the phone market is a fickle one. How long ago was it that everybody HAD to have a Razr? 48 months?Blackberry needs and I believe will take what they learn from the Storm, and come out with some exceptional products enabling them to extend their line beyond just ‘Blackberry a cell-phones with a keyboard’.

    1. fredwilson

      i sure hope you are right. i love blackberry and am rooting for them. but i’m very happy with a keyboard based phone

      1. Taylor Davidson

        I remember reading Pogue’s review and thought it was spot-on about why a dedicated Blackberry user would not switch to the Storm: but then, isn’t the Storm more about providing an alternate, not a replacement, to the Curve and the standard Blackberry keyboard / UI ? Wasn’t that the strategy behind the Pearl, to create a product that could serve a different market? To go beyond the pure business market? My guess is RIM knows the keyboard is engine behind the cash cow and isn’t planning on the Storm to be a replacement for existing Blackberry users…… which is why I would focus more on why the strategy was bad rather than the excution. I don’t know enough about RIM and their product development process and cost structure to really know whether slicing and dicing is an efficient strategy (as Howard mentioned in his comment). But my guess is that Blackberry would have been better served to focus on creating their market and evangelizing their product rather than attempting to steal Apple’s and create a me-too product like every other manufacturer.

  2. Ryan Holiday

    Fred,I agree with you but have to raise a constant issue I have: the trackball. I am on my 4th blackberry having completely worn out the trackball. I had at 8830 with the trackwheel that never had any problems and when I was upgraded, I got stuck with the trackball.Being that I’m not 40 years old, I can’t wear a pda holster and have to keep it in the backpocket in my jeans. I can feel it on this phone that I’m about a month away from having to replace it (topping out at about 2 months usage). I only use blackberries because of the keyboard but the trackball is forcing me to have to reconsider.

    1. fredwilson

      i can’t wear a holster either. try the front pocket. that’s what i do. sitting on the phone might not be so great for it!

    1. fredwilson

      i’ve tried twitterberry twice, original version and the recent upgrade. i can’t use it. it just doesnt’ work for me. i want something like twitterific on the iphone.

  3. curmudgeonly troll

    but Javelin doesn’t have that sweet, sweet 3G or WiFi…I guess if it did that would make it a Bold

    1. fredwilson

      it does have wifi with UMA, just like my curve

      1. curmudgeonly troll

        sweet!I think Verizon wants you to use 3G and cripples WiFi on the Pearl and Curve (just like Storm has no WiFi)… at least WiFi doesn’t show as a feature on their Web page. Lame…Curious how well UMA calls work over WiFi, if it’s just like making a regular call, if you can receive calls… will start Googling..

        1. fredwilson

          UMA works greatI’ve had it on my two curves and I use it all the time in my house where Idon’t get good cell reception

  4. 419onscene

    Twitterberry works fine for me. I think the report on the NYT was a little hypercritical of the Storm. At least RIM is creating options with the device, and increasing it’s consumer appeal with nifty new toys. The iPhone is a great handset if you like the way it is, and Apple won’t be letting you change anything major any time soon. The touchscreen option will draw in a lot of consumer users, and that’s a good thing. Some things will work very well for certain people, and some won’t.. But at least you have the choice to get what works for you. I too, have a Curve and think it’s one of the three best handsets on the market, along with the iPhone and Nokia E71. I tried a touch screen LG Dare for a bit, and where the phone really fell short was in the things that make the other handsets work well. The address book was lousy, and the email was not integrated into the handset, but was an external client. There were a few other areas it was weak, but excelled at IM, and had a great mp3 player, camera, and VZNavigator experience. The keyboard itself on the Blackberry is a big part of the draw of the device, but what really makes it shine is how well everything else works to create a highly usable device. If the LG Dare ran Blackberry software, and kept it’s keyboard, it would be just fine for me. They’ll work out the kinks in the Storm, and it will be just as usable as a Curve in the future. But, the option is yours, and therein lies the true value of the Storm

    1. Mike Su

      The Nokia E71 is the best phone I’ve used so far…slick packaging, keyboard, email….doesn’t have the iPhone app store, but for business use, I’m totally happy with it and think it’s worth checking out for any BB user.

  5. Judson Collier

    I completely agree with you. Let blackberry have their staple (the keyboard). I bought the 7290, albeit ancient, sometime in 2004. Really had no use of it except for text messaging, but man, you can type a decent paragraph in short of a minute or so. I loved it just for that.I now have an iPhone, and immeadiatley I felt the pain of not having that keyboard there. Yes, it is better than a regular phone, but no contest to the old fashioned keyboard from blackberry. Function really kills form in this area.I do like my iPhone better than my 7290 for obvious reasons, but for a lot of people, that keyboard is just right for them (and then again, nowadays I’m only typing 140 characters 😉 )

  6. Guest

    I too have used every phone known to man. My current phones are a blackberry curve with gps and an iPhone. I am not an Apple guy. I use to have a staunch pro blackberry position but that was before I bought the 3g iPhone. Now I simply conclude that those people who choose not to have an iPhone are not interested in experiencing the web from a mobile vantage because there simply is no comparison. I cannot think of an area where the bb functionality beats the iPhone except the keyboard and that is only marginally with the iPhone spell check beating the bb handedly. Typed from my iPhone.

  7. Guest

    Things I wish Apple’s iPhone did better: cut and paste. There are some apps that give a decent workaround but it is silly that the phone doesn’t do this natively.Content in the cloud. I hate syncing to iTunes and would pay to store and stream my music content. I suppse I could use lala for this.Worked with my employer’s mail servers – not Apple’s fault. Auto update applications. It would be cool if I could define a set time for the iPhone to auto update apps while I slept.Better 3g coverage in California. Again not Apple’s fault. I wish I could rent movies over the air. I think we’re getting there with the recent ability to get pidcasrs over the air but AT&T might have a problem with it from a bandwidth perspective.Skype from the iPhone. I don’t want to jailbreak the phone and use Fring to skype but it is flawed.If I think of any more I’ll me back 🙂

    1. Christopher Herbert

      How about the ability to search your email on the iPhone? Or to sync Calendar with Google Calendar? Or to start typing a name to dial and have Contacts filter until the correct name pops up (whether first, last or middle).I find iPhone and Curve extremely complementary, but I hate carrying them both around. I just rock the holster and explain to fashion police that I’m married.

      1. Guest

        Don’t use Google Calendar in general but it looks pretty nice on Safari on the iPhone and I’ve read some hacks that pretty easily let you load it to your calendar. I’ll try a few out and let you know if any of them are decent. When I use my blackberry, I usually delete my E-mails off of it and let them sit on the E-mail server or my laptop when I’m done with them so I don’t think I’ve used that feature more than 2-3 times but it would be cool on an i-Phone. I used the Gmail app on the bb and it pretty much sucked compared to the i-Phone.In RE to contact look up, would race you on the iPhone any day. With favorites, voice recognition apps (which blow the vr on bb away) and the ability to simply click a letter on the side and role to the contact name I find it a lot faster than bb but it may be a tasted thing.Bottom line: All of these activities at best would take up a couple minutes each day of my life. I spend a lot more time on my i-Phone using apps and core functionality that the bb can’t do than these sort of abilities but I’d definitely add them to the “wish list”

  8. Dan

    While I agree that the Blackberry’s signature feature is a thumb keyboard, I do think that the Storm works for some people. Having just upgraded last week from an 8830 to a Storm, I think that the touchscreen keyboard is well designed and a decent substitute for the physical one. In an ideal world, I’d be able to carry both an iPhone and a Bold, but I think I’ll wait for the next revision to the iPhone — the lousy camera and high price held me back from the 3G — and the Bold’s feature-set isn’t enough to get me to switch to AT&T from Verizon. I think the Storm does have its faults. It’s a little slow/lagged at times, for example. I’m hoping this will be fixed in future software updates though and isn’t related to underpowered hardware. After selling my 8830 and trading in an old phone via Blackberry’s graduate program, the Storm upgrade will cost me about $30 (and a 2-year extension with Verizon). For all of the other features that the Storm delivers though, that seems like a pretty good deal.

  9. Joe Baga Donutz

    I’m in the same boat; waiting for the Javelin on T-Mobile, still liking my 2-year-old BB Pearl a lot.The new apps Google has for BB are really sweet; they give an Exchange-like experience for free.(as in beer…)

  10. howardlindzon

    The curve and this new curve is a beautiful phone a perfect business machine. everything else at the company should be shelved and cut back. waste of shareholder money so far.typical problems at all high growth companies with distracted leadership.big proboems remain ahead for them based on their slice and dice sxtrategy

    1. Alan Warms

      yep. i just bought a curve and ipod touch for the fun stuff – but thought iphone 3g would have been torture for work

  11. Russell

    Fred,Wonder what your thoughts are on blackberry app development for data products. I’m aiming at a HF and IB audience, and BB seems the obvious device to develop for. How big a hurdle is it to get business people to download apps to their BB? (ie non-techie Sr partners)I read your post back in July about the data driven nature of the BB and don’t see that changing for the foreseeable future. However you also mention that only one of your top 15 apps doesn’t come with the phone, and you’ve commented in the past on the lack of a real app ecosystem for the blackberry.Would greatly appreciate your feedback on individuals and companies you think are doing a good job in this space?Kind regards,RussellPs the Walstrip blackberry Olympics was one of the funniest things I’ve ever seen. What happened to the rematch? You mentioned it happened but I never saw it to online in video?! For all those who missed the first event I highly recommend it even though our hero Fred gets squeezed in the obstacle course.

    1. fredwilson

      There was a rematch but it was not really the same thing. I lost on atechnicalityI think an app ecosystem for the blackberry would be great

  12. andyswan

    I’m on a Bold now and loving it. Curve was a bit dainty and fragile for me, but I am rough with stuff…..iPhone was a disaster that lasted 2 weeks. Cool apps, great toy….but a terrible messaging device which is what it’s all about.I have yet to meet anyone that went from Blackberry to iPhone and stuck.

    1. stan

      Fred, why does your teenage daughter have or need a Blackberry?

      1. fredwilson

        My kids get my ³hand me downs² and the bold was a hand me down of a testmodel I got for free and unlocked for $49

      2. NF

        Because that’s how kids in NY/LA roll! BBM is the mobile social network of choice for today’s teens – much bigger than Loopt et al.

        1. fredwilson

          I totally agree. My kids BBM way more than they text

    2. bijan

      @andyswani went from a blackberry curve to an iphone. and i stil use the iphone as my main squeeze.

      1. andyswan

        @bijan I saw the blackberry olympics where you brought that knife to a gunfight and lost your crown.I sit corrected and say you are the exception that proves the rule…. 🙂

    3. Guest

      I stuck, wouldn’t dream of going back…

    4. evbart

      Thats definitely something that needs to be emphasized. Who has gone to the iphone from a blackberry curve, and not switched back? When I waited in line to return my iphone 3G, the guy knew right away that I was going back to my curve, he said those were the only people returning the iphone.You don’t count if you carry two phones. There absolutely no reason, in this day and age to carry two phones with one in a belt holster!If the storm could deliver, I would love all the functionality of a blackberry curve along with a big screen, it just seems to be missing the sweet spot.I’ll second Fred, lots of kids in Manahattan use BBM.

  13. Jon Michael Miles

    Blackberry’s keyboard is the main selling point. Until nature decides to change human hands, or speech takes over, I don’t see the need for a touch screen “Rasberry Parade” as my wife has dubbed hers. That said, I can see a lot of merit in the screen ABOVE the keyboard being a touch screen.

  14. Dan Cornish

    He is the thing, the keyboard will be irrelevant soon. Apple can build in a keyboard or a third party can but this misses the point. Apple just solved the marketing innovation which is the key to dominating the mobile market, much like Microsoft innovated marketing back in the day.The arguments about keyboards and the like sound line the old arguments about a mouse driven operating system (Mac) and a text based OS (MS-DOS). I remember all of the arguments about this and they were irrelevant to who won the OS wars. Apple now has over 65 million customers with credit cards for iTunes. he growth rate is crazy. Even more than this is the growth of the app store. Today there are over 10,000 apps for the iPhone and Touch. I have a blog post about this and why software developers will not continue to develop for the Blackberry. Much like developers stopped developing for the MAC years ago.

  15. lazerow

    News reports today reveal that the Mumbai terrorists used BlackBerries to communicate during their attack. They didn’t reveal which one. Just an interesting tidbit … Happy holidays Fred. The security (they probably used Pins), the ease of use, the keyboard and better form factor made the device the obvious choice for the terrorists.

    1. fredwilson


  16. Mark

    Agree completely, Fred. Although, I am loving my Bold. Like all of the new Blackberry models (besides the Pearl and Storm), you’ll get used to the keyboard. iPhones/Androids/Windows Mobile are all for kids and don’t get the job done. I’ve gone through so many models now that I can’t even count, and I’m convinced there’s no way even the “all powerful” Apple will be able to compete with RIM.

  17. evbart

    You might be able to score one of these sooner by getting it in Canada….and unlocking ithttp://www.boygeniusreport….I think I’m going to spring for the Storm, the big screen is just too nice to ignore.

  18. josh guttman

    I’m in the midst of my 2nd try at the iPhone and predicting a similar result as before and return to blackberry. I’ve been impressed with the Bold, but not clear on advantages of getting the new Curve 8900. If the Boy Genius picture is accurate, the keys are redesigned to match the bold and it looks like the frame is plastic (rather than metal on the bold), which makes it slightly less durable. I’ve heard RIM is marketing the curve as a more affordable option so maybe it also has a slightly less powerful processor, but their website doesn’t say yet. If all this is true, the only other potential advantage I could see is a smaller form factor, which could be significant.

  19. fredwilson

    Ah, yes!

  20. Peter Chun

    Fred, looks like your wait is almost over. Early word is it will hit TMO mid Feb. I’m using a Roger’s one now unlocked on at&t. All good. Link from CG:

  21. fredwilson

    I use the BB browser about 20x per dayIt’s not great, nowhere near the safari browser on the iPhoneBut it gets the job done for me whenever I need it

  22. Cheyne

    Install the Opera Mini browser on the blackberry. I use it on my Curve and it’s an enormous improvement.

  23. fredwilson

    I tried it once and didn’t like itI’ll try it again

  24. evbart

    Here’s a review of the new curve, which is coming out for Rogers pretty sweet

  25. fredwilson

    This is what I want next

  26. evbart

    I ended up getting the Storm, and I’m loving it, but I don’t think I require typing as much you do.The big screen makes all the difference in the world. I’m all about reading RSS feeds with Viigo ( )