How BlackBerry Keeps Android at Bay
For Vina Posuma, having both a BlackBerry and an iPhone is essential for her work as a health-care marketing executive, which requires her to travel a lot.
“I can always access my e-mail wherever I am and I don’t need to wait until I get to the office,” she says. The office applications on the gadgets also allow her to do her job while on the move. And beyond listening to music on her iPhone, Vina says she hardly ever uses the phones for entertainment.
“I don’t plan to buy another gadget anytime soon,” she says. “I have these two already, plus a netbook, so that’s enough.”
Mohammad Hamzah, a musician and advertising executive, also brandishes two communications gadgets, though in his case they are an iPad and a Nokia E63.
Dated though the latter may be, he says he has no plans to replace it with a newer model while he can still rely on it for his basic communications needs.
The emphasis from users like Vina and Hamzah on gadgets that meet their communications and networking needs was noted in a study of mobile-device consumers and their digital behavior, released last month by research firm Taylor Nelson Sofres. In words that will surprise no one, the study said: “In Indonesia, mobile holds high appeal as an access portal because everyone has one, they make things available anytime, anywhere.
“As an emerging market, Indonesia’s crowded living conditions and last-mile limitations [from the telecoms exchange to the home or office] add to the reliance on mobile as a portal to the Internet and extended features.”
This focus on no-frills communications, combined with Indonesian users’ love of sending short messages, is responsible for the popularity of smartphones with QWERTY keyboards, according to Andy Zain, founder of MobileMonday Indonesia, the local branch of a global networking forum for professionals in the mobile industry.
“It used to be the Nokia Communicator handsets, and now it is BlackBerry, because of the keypad that offers the convenience of quick typing,” he says, adding that mobile handsets with a QWERTY keypad make up 50 percent of Indonesia’s mobile device market.
Lucky Sebastian, a Bandung-based smartphone enthusiast who created the 9,000-member gadget community mailing list Gadtorade in 2001, agrees that the BlackBerry offers a convenient way for mobile users to access the Internet and stay in touch through the BlackBerry Messenger application.
“The tight-knit characteristic of Indonesian society has made this app a widely adopted one and has provided an easy way to keep in touch,” he says.
The popularity in Indonesia of the BlackBerry, which uses Research in Motion’s operating system, has sidelined smartphones running on Google’s Android system, going against the trend in other countries.
The TNS study showed the RIM OS accounted for 23 percent of smartphone operating systems here, with Android on less than 6 percent. Nokia’s Symbian OS dominated with 71 percent. Worldwide, Android boasts a 39.5 percent market share while RIM has only 14.9 percent, according to an International Data Corporation report from March.
Lucky attributes part of RIM’s domestic success to the fact it entered the Indonesian market years before Android existed.
“BlackBerry gained more penetration in Indonesia and accumulated a high number of users,” he says. “It also came along at the right time, when mobile Internet was starting to bloom here.”
Andy says most Indonesians are not picky about their phone’s operating system or the various apps available for it, as long as they get the basic services — messaging and social networking. But Lucky says the reluctance among Indonesians to migrate to Android — despite its wealth of apps, more sophisticated technology and the variety of phone manufacturers using it — is mainly because they are not keen to learn a new system.
“To enjoy the benefits of Android would require users to put in more effort and find better Internet connections, unlike with the BlackBerry, which users can easily benefit from through text messaging,” he says.
He adds that although Android has only been available for two years, there are more than 250,000 apps available for it, while BlackBerry only has about 39,000, despite being around since 2000.
Lucky is optimistic that Android devices will gain in popularity in the country as more Indonesians jump on the tablet craze sparked by Apple’s iPad. Unlike the latter, Android-based tablets run the gamut from low-end gadgets that cost about the same as a smartphone, to higher-end devices that rival or even surpass the iPad. This, Lucky says, makes the devices affordable to more Indonesians.
“Tablets are gradually replacing netbooks and notebooks because they offer easier portability,” he adds.