In the early 2000s, the BlackBerry was a certain kind of status symbol, owned and used by a certain type of person. That person was a businessman, and that status was an air of eliteness, of exclusivity. Did you have your own parking spot? Did you have a corner office? Did you have a BlackBerry?
Fast forward a little less than a decade and you have a very different scene: teens on cheap Curves with their thumbs glued to BBM. And young mothers wielding Bolds with a single hand.
The business-class prestige of the BlackBerry was worn off. It’s reputation as the leading smartphone has faded like a cheap leather in sunlight. The BlackBerry is now something that many people have actually become embarrassed to use.
At least in North America. Overseas, there are regions, mostly emerging markets, where the company continues to add subscribers. But let’s keep the context local.
Those who still cling to their Research In Motion-made devices fall into two categories: the aforementioned, who are ashamed to own one and simply waiting for their contract to end (or for their employer to abandon RIM), and the few remaining loyalists, eternally faithful consumers with unwavering devotion to their handset.
The former party consists of all manner of consumer. The latter party is primarily adult women.
In a survey of UK consumers this year, it was revealed that the Android is favoured by males, the iPhone is favoured by both genders equally, and the BlackBerry is favoured by females. This data was reinforced by a separate study from Inneractive, which suggested that 59% of BlackBerry users are women. (For Apple’s iOS, 49% are women. For Android, 39%.)
One RIM loyalist by the name of S. Mitra Kalita states that her “loyalty to the BlackBerry has a lot to do with my gender.” Here are her reasons:
1. She has long nails, so she prefers a physical keyboard.
2. She has a baby. When she’s holding it, she has one hand—again, she prefers a physical keyboard. (Interestingly, RIM chief executive officer Thorsten Heins has heavily emphasized how usable BlackBerry 10 with be with a single hand.)
3. She likes the device’s battery life better than the iPhone. (Although I’ve owned both devices and can confirm with certainty the iPhone 4 or newer beats any BlackBerry.)
4. She’s cheap. She doesn’t want to feel the pressure to upgrade to the next incrementally updated iPhone every year.
Kalita, who is an editor at Quartz, also points out that she simply doesn’t care about playing games on her phone. And Nokia’s Nikki barton suggests that “women don’t really see their phone as a gadget,” explaining that it’s more of a holistic extension of themselves that enables them to complete errands and perform tasks.
For women, it’s less about the technology and more about the experience. Meanwhile, men like to froth over quad-core processors and screens with high pixel densities.
So there you have it. BlackBerrys are for women.
Oh, and smaller tablets, such as the Kindle Fire and iPad Mini? For similar reasons, they’re favoured by women. And Apple knows this.