The Wall Street Journal Reports that RIM is launching a new touch-screen BlackBerry, Thunder, in the third quarter, to be sold exclusively by Verizon, “answering the challenge posed by the popularity of Apple Inc.’s iPhone.”
They go on to say, “The iPhone’s sophisticated touch-screen was one feature that made Apple’s device a big hit.”
There is no list of features that made the iPhone a big hit.
The experience of buying, activating, and using iPhone made it a hit.
How easy it was to show the experience of using it made it a big hit.
Isn’t that the same thing that has already made the BlackBerry a hit in its target market? Show a roadwarrior in need of a workhorse how you scroll through emails with the thumbwheel, then do the same to select and dial a contact from the phonebook. Enter a quick email from the keyboard. You’ve just made a sale.
BlackBerry has less penetration to other markets not only because the features they use are different (in fact, many are the same), but the whole context is different. Who they are, what they use it for, when and where they use it. I haven’t seen the Thunder, but hopefully for RIM they’ll develop the kind of understanding and insight they brought to the roadwarrior, creating experiences for a new market, not just adding features for it.
Interviewed when the iPhone came out, I told Reuters that it wasn’t about the features. In fact, I was surprised in the first few hours with several “missing” features I might have expected, but these surprises didn’t meaningfully diminish my experience. They’d carefully selected features to leave out (or leave for later) as much as features to leave in.
[UPDATE 6/18: Wired ran a great article about Japanese market handsets competing on feature lists: "The manufacturers, who realize the absurdity of piling on features that don't work well.... The average person only uses 5 to 10 percent of the functions available on their handsets. "]
Before iPhone, you had to do things the phone company’s way and the device’s way. It was all about learning how to deal calls to their support, calls to select plans, learning how to navigate the maze of device features. Even to me it seemed like a constant chore of dealing in arcane lore, and I like tech stuff.
The iPhone “felt like a living sculpture in my hands” because the whole experience was about the system fitting me instead of me finding a way to work with the system. The pieces fit together in a seamless whole. Every part was beautiful, from the box it came in to the physical device to the icons on the screen. My actions and the flowing animation and movement on screen at every step blended together as one and looked pretty.
I said elsewhere, “The iPhone really points out how unpleasant other interfaces are, how ugly and unwieldy. The iPhone responds immediately with rich and beautiful feedback to everything you ask it to do, making it beautiful to look at and a beautiful experience to use it….. When other companies are forced to bring as much attention to design to their devices, and pulling together as many features seamlessly, hopefully the bar will keep being raised for all.”
I didn’t have to struggle with the phone company or the device. For once, I could smile most every time I reached in my pocket.