This is why I always recommend that people purchase phone insurance along with a smartphone. A few months ago I left a cup of water on my bedside table, something that I do every so often. When I woke up I saw a few drops of water on my device. Panicked, I dried it off and assessed the damage: little trackball functionality and apps weren’t opening. Basically, I was screwed. As it turns out, I did think to put insurance on it, which made the replacement process easy. I even upgraded from the 9630 to 9650 (though the 9650 is so damn buggy that I’m not sure it’s that big an upgrade). To this day I wonder what would have happened if I didn’t have insurance. Clearly, running a BlackBerry site requires owning a BlackBerry. But in which direction would I have gone?
Keeping the BlackBerry
The first, and the least offensive to the BlackBerry geeks among us, is to recommend she get a refurbished model. The major carriers offer these at a relatively steep discount. They’re often free when you extend your contract, but they’re still cheap to buy outright. There is little difference between a new and refurbished model, though sometimes there can be damage that not even the factory can detect. It’s a risk, but a small one. If you want to stick with BlackBerry, this is the best route currently.
This brings to light an important point about the state of RIM and the BlackBerry. We have not seen new BlackBerry models from most carriers in quite some time, and we’ve really seen only fresh designs — for RIM, at least — in the past year. Even if we didn’t know about this year’s upcoming models, I still couldn’t recommend that a friend extend her contract to buy a new BlackBerry. It’s just not worth it. That’s a two-year agreement for a handset that is already well out of date. Plus, once we learned that RIM would put out an entire new line of devices this year, getting a BlackBerry on contract became a non-starter. If your contract has expired since February, the only choices have been to remain patient for the new models, or to pick up a different brand of smartphone.
In any case, the refurbished model will typically set you back between $80 and $150. That might hurt in the short term, but it is far, far better than using a phone upgrade on a new BlackBerry that is actually several years old. It might have been released last year, as was the 9650, but it’s technologically further behind. You’ll be thankful later that you saved your upgrade for when there’s an actual upgrade on the market.
Ditching the BlackBerry
It’s unfathomable to many of the faithful, but more and more people are opting to ditch their BlackBerry devices for other platforms. I know more than a few friends who have picked up the Verizon iPhone once it dropped in January, and I know even more who have gone the Android route. Yet, with a broken BlackBerry and no upgrades on the market, it is a real alternative for many people.
I was struck earlier this month when Robb from RIMarkable — which I find to be one of the most thoughtful BlackBerry blogs out there —recommended that a co-worker ditch the BlackBerry. It was a familiar scenario: broken phone, replacement needed immediately. The co-worker also wanted it to do things like stream Netflix, and have a bigger screen. He asked about a BlackBerry to check out, but Robb knew as well as the rest of us that one does not currently exist. Maybe by August one will, but that does the friend no good at the moment.
Here’s another reason why I can see myself sometimes recommending people ditch the Berry: we have no idea when we’re really getting these devices. They announced the new Bold at BlackBerry World, but all we have now is a supposed August release date. Considering how long it took to release the last Bold announced at RIM’s yearly event (then WES), I’m not to sure about an August release. We also saw August as a common date on roadmaps for other new devices, such as the new touchscreen and the Torch 2. But with no announcements, we just can’t be sure when they’ll drop. If I knew they were coming out in August, I could recommend waiting. But because I know there is a possibility of delay, it’s tougher to justify.
Get on it, RIM
Like Robb, I don’t want to recommend friends switch from the BlackBerry. While I understand the awesomeness of both the Android and iPhone, they don’t handle email as well as the BlackBerry. Since that is the No. 1 reason I have a smartphone, I’d rather have a BlackBerry than the other two. But I also want a device that is at least somewhat up to speed. That is, I know it’s possible to put other great features alongside RIM’s best-in-business email platform. But I’ve yet to see it.
This might appear to be piling it on RIM. After all, the company recently came under fire from within, as an anonymous exec blasted the company in a letter printed on BGR, and then many fellow and former employees echoed his sentiments. It really does seem as though RIM is a company at a crossroads right now. While Apple brings its new gizmos and apps to the market, and Android pumps out what seems like one high-end phone per week, RIM stagnates. We know they can be better. My only plea to RIM is to give me a reason to recommend the BlackBerry when people need a new smartphone.