Hungry for a BlackBerry 10, Indonesians Must Sit Tight
Francezka Nangoy & Lisa Siregar
After being delayed twice last year, BlackBerry launched its latest handset this week, in a move that the company hopes will stop its dwindling share of the smartphone market.
Indonesia remains a major market for BlackBerry devices, but customers here will have to wait, potentially for several weeks after the first handsets are rolled out in the United States early next month.
That’s prompting skepticism over BlackBerry 10’s prospects for success in competing against Google’s Android and Apple’s iOS operating systems, even as Indonesia is one of the last major markets that the company depends on.
“We expect BlackBerry to face an uphill task against the likes of Samsung and Apple,” Sudev Bangah, senior research manager at International Data Corporation Indonesia, said on Friday.
“And with apps still fairly scarce and limited relative to Android and iOS, this would be a point to consider, especially for those who have moved on to other devices and operating systems.”
On Wednesday the company launched Blackberry 10, its new platform, and revealed two devices, Z10, a touchscreen handset, and Q10, designed for its loyal fans who need a physical keyboard.
The Canadian company also changed its name to BlackBerry, from Research In Motion.
Jakarta was one of seven cities to host simultaneous launch events, a nod to Indonesia’s significance to the company.
Some experts argue that the company’s decision to release its latest smartphones this year instead of last year may have allowed Samsung and Apple to strengthen their hold on the global market.
And delaying the actual sales date may be an unwise strategy, some observers said.
Mainstream Android-based devices already dominate among middle-income smartphone users in Indonesia, while higher-end Android-based phones, such as the Samsung Galaxy S, and the iPhone dominate the upper-income segment.
Yolanda Nainggolan, BlackBerry’s spokeswoman in Indonesia, told the Jakarta Globe that the company will start selling the new devices by the end of March, declining to provide a specific date. Handsets in the United States are scheduled to be sold from early March.
Indonesia is one of the last places where BlackBerry still dominates the market share of smartphones, according to IDC. As is the case elsewhere, in Indonesia it is in a field crowded by phone makers Sony, Samsung, HTC and LG, which use Android.
In terms of operating systems in Indonesia, Android had a market share of 64 percent in the third quarter of 2012, up from 52 percent in the previous quarter.
Bangah said the brand will remain significant in Indonesia and cheaper BlackBerry models will remain popular.
“It’s more based on the sheer volume of older devices still available and the cheaper price points, which are aiding the proliferation of smart devices in the country,” he said. “We do expect those who consider BlackBerry their first love to return to it. But to us this would be [for reasons] a little bit more sentimental than actual practical usage or need of the device.”
The growth potential might be stifled by the price when it reaches the Indonesian shores. “With phones ranging above $650 only contributing 5 percent of the total 7 million smart devices shipped, the penetration rate is expected to be low, and confined to certain segments of middle-upper income loyalists,” Bangah said.
BlackBerry’s Yolanda said the newest device will be a “premium segment product,” suggesting a price tag that could be more than several million rupiah. An unlocked Galaxy S III retails for at least Rp 6 million ($620).
Some technology enthusiasts are eager to use the latest BlackBerry.
Ibnu Maksum and Deddy Avianto — developers of BlackBerry applications — took a flight to Amsterdam on Friday night to attend the BlackBerry Jam Europe. Before leaving Jakarta, both said that they were excited to attend the first developer event after the BlackBerry 10 launch on Wednesday.
“In the past year, we still kept things secret because the phone was not out yet, but now I’m expecting we would be able to have more things to share,” Deddy said.
“A few things that we are concerned about is how to adjust between the touchscreen and the ‘qwerty’ keyboard versions, as both have different screen sizes,” Ibnu said.
The two had accessed the new BlackBerry phones specifically for developers since May 2012, although their handset does not have the same design or look as the ones unveiled to the public.
Deddy believes that the new BlackBerry devices will win fans back, even taking some of those who might have switched to iPhone or Android phones while waiting. Ibnu said the new iPhone does not offer drastic changes, and the BlackBerry 10 is offering that experience.
People who use smartphones on a daily basis should not have a problem adapting to the new operating system, Deddy said.
Ibnu said he though that Indonesians would not mind waiting for the newest BlackBerry given they already do for other big brand-name phones.
Clients have already started to discuss converting their applications to BlackBerry 10, he said, and they are aware that the new phone is coming and are already preparing their company’s apps to suit it.
Ibnu said that Bhinneka.com, which sells computers online, and taxi operator Blue Bird Group have been building their own apps. As for the price, Ibnu said the touchscreen version is likely to be sold for Rp 6.999 million, which he called a fair price for a high-end smartphone.
Deddy noted that Indonesian users prefer BlackBerry phones with physical keyboards, one of BlackBerry’s iconic features. Deddy said BlackBerry faced a challenge in targeting their marketing effort at middle- and low-income consumers — a large and potentially very lucrative group.