BlackBerry Losing the Smartphone War in Indonesia, Overshadowed by Samsung, iPhone

BlackBerry, once a pioneer, now faces strong rivalry. (JG Graphics/Modina Rimolfa)

BlackBerry, once a pioneer, now faces strong rivalry. (JG Graphics/Modina Rimolfa)

Jakarta. Despite launching its BlackBerry 10 platform early last year, the Canadian handset maker’s market share has barely recovered in Indonesia, according to a data from a global IT research group.

According to a report from the International Data Corporation (IDC), an American market research company focusing on information technology and telecommunications, shipments of BlackBerry devices made up 14 percent of the total 11 million smartphone shipments to Indonesia last year.

“BB [BlackBerry] has lost traction to an apps-hungry market, which have preference towards certain OS [operating systems] that offer many more options,” Darwin Lie, an associate analyst at IDC Indonesia, said on Sunday.

BlackBerry, which has suffered a mighty downfall in the past few years, is now overshadowed by other brands such as Samsung, Sony, Smartfren, and Lenovo, according to IDC’s data on shipments between 2009 and 2013.

Those brands make handsets which run the Linux-based open source Android OS, while BlackBerry has persisted with its closed, proprietary operating system. The company recently made available its BlackBerry Messenger application to other operating systems, including Android and Apple’s iOS.

“I decided to no longer use BB because it simply is outdated. I also experienced a lot of lag when I used it,” said Indra Suwito, a former BB user, in an interview.

Indra said that for a while he kept his BB alongside with another device, mainly because of the BlackBerry Messenger (BBM) and push e-mail features.

“Now, I only have my iPhone because it offers me a lot more features and it can access BBM, too,” he said.

The Canadian-based company launched the 5.0 version of its BBM application in October last year.

“I could only sell half of the usual number [of BlackBerry handsets] after BBM was introduced into other platforms,” Wulan Andriani, a BlackBerry saleswoman in South Jakarta’s Ambassador mall, told the Jakarta Globe on Friday.

The BBM application, an internet-based instant messenger, is the second most popular mobile app in Indonesia amid growing competition with WhatsApp, Line, and WeChat, according to the US-based research company Nielsen in July last year.

Customers liked BBM because of its easy-to-use features, which let users know when a message was sent or read by the recipient.

However, in October last year, the Canadian phone manufacturer, amid global sales downfall, decided to make its BBM application available to other platforms. Previously, the feature was locked exclusively for BB devices.

Before October, Wulan said she sold an average of around 4-5 BlackBerry devices every four working days. After October, sales fell to half of the previous figure, she said.

Erafone, where Wulan works, is Indonesia’s leading retailer of mobile products. Apart from BlackBerry, the company also sells other handsets like Samsung, Sony, iPhone, and Nokia.

Despite the sales downturn trend, Wulan noted, customers were uncomfortable using BBM on other platforms.

“People are starting to come back to BB because most consumers tell me that it is just more comfortable using BBM on BB devices than on others,” she said.

Wulan said she could not predict whether that preference would signal increased sales for the manufacturer.

Darwin of IDC said BlackBerry still faces stiff competition from other devices offering cheaper prices on top of more features.

“The absence of a ‘lower end’ device utilizing BB10 [operating system] is what will stifle its expansion, alongside the lack of apps. Many of the competitors also have released many more affordable devices in the range of $50 starting point,” Darwin said.

Of the four devices BlackBerry introduced last year — the Z10, Q5, Z30 and Q10 — only the Q5 was priced below Rp 7 million when first introduced.

“BlackBerry, aside from iPhone, is one of the lowest sold brands here [in terms of volume],” said Ahmad Fauzi, a colleague of Wulan’s.

On average, the store sees more than 150 Samsung smartphones sold in a month, while BlackBerry may only hit between 15 to 30 over the same period.

BlackBerry recorded about $1.2 billion in global revenue in the three months ended November 30, according to a quarterly financial report available on their website. JG


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