Monday, 9 February 2015 00:00
BlackBerry (India, Sri Lanka and Bangladesh) Director Sales and Distribution Sameer Bhatia visited Colombo on 5 February for the launch of two Blackberry models, Blackberry Passport and Blackberry Classic. He highlighted how professionals or ‘power users’ can increase their productivity with Blackberry devices. Following are excerpts of the interview:By Kiyoshi BermanQ: What is unique about the Blackberry Passport and Classic models compared to other popular Smart phones?A: Blackberry Classic was designed taking customer feedback we got from customers of Blackberry Curve and Bold into consideration. BlackBerry Classic ugrades the BlackBerry Bold 9900 experience with 50% longer battery life, three times faster browser and 60% more screen space. There is a lot of improvement in the camera as well; which now has eight mega pixels and two mega pixels for the front.
BlackBerry Passport is the first phone from Blackberry which is different in terms of form factor; it has a 4.5 by 4.5 square screen design with a 1:1 aspect ratio. This has best of both worlds, the one of full touch device and the keyboard. It comes with a three-line keypad which is very easy to use.
Most of the smartphones drain out very fast but Blackberry Passport has much better battery life compared to other smartphones available in the market today. It has a 3450 mAh battery that with normal or mixed usage (talking, messaging, and social networking) can easily last up to 20 hours. It’s a big relief for ‘power users’ who have busy schedules because they don’t have to carry a charger all the time.
Next is the camera, for the first time we have gone up to a 13 mega pixels camera. It’s a great feature because even professionals take days off to enjoy.
I would also like to mention that we are the only OEM [Original Equipment Manufacturer] globally that has all the three formats of mobiles. One is full touch devices, next is keyboard devices and the third is hybrid which is touch and keypad. No other OEM has matched this so far.
Q: Why do think customers would be interested in a physical QWERTY keypad, when the current trend is for touch screens?A:Today 95% of the Smartphone market has gone for touch screens so we have our touch range as well. Nevertheless, feedbacks from a lot of people say that they still prefer the touch and feel of the keypad.
With Blackberry Classic we have brought back our iconic keypad. Globally we have a lot of customers using the 9900 series of Bold and Curve who requested the experience of the iconic keypad to be brought back in a new model. In Blackberry Classic there is a navigation panel with an optical track pad and people who are used to the older Blackberry phones prefer this. However, there is a choice to either use the Blackberry Classic with the touch screen or the keypad with the navigation panel.
Well, a keypad allows you to type very fast and you cannot do that on a touch screen. For instance, a Blackberry can enable document editing while sitting in a car and our users prefer this kind of flexibility.
Q: Can you comment on the Blackberry’s built-in security features?A:The most important feature in a Blackberry is its security features. Today we have applications like ‘Blackberry Protect’ which is an in-built app. This app backs up all your contacts and media from the phone. In case the phone gets lost or stolen, you can login to the website and wipe all the data from the phone remotely. This gives confidence to many people who have important information on their phones that their data will not get into the wrong hands.
The new Blackberry operating system, version 10.3 comes with an enhanced security feature embedded into the hardware itself. Also, there are many other features like password keeper to secure the phone.
Q: How is the Blackberry Hub different to other Smartphone apps which manage conversations?A:Blackberry Hub is one of the features of the Blackberry 10 operating system. What it does is to give a unified view of all the applications in one place. Blackberry Hub is much more convenient because not only can you see the messages in the unified window, you can also reply in the same window. In other platforms what happens is, even if you get a unified view, in order to reply or view the messages you have to log-in to the respective applications.
Q: What are the popular Android apps that are available for Blackberry Classic and BlackBerry Passport via Amazon appstore and do these apps perform in the same way as on Android platforms? A:First of all, there are two sources to acquire the apps on Blackberry Classic and Blackberry Passport. I’m talking about both devices because the operating systems are very similar. First source is the Blackberry World, the in-built Blackberry app store. Most of the applications required for professionals including all popular apps such as Facebook, Linkedin, Skype or Viber can be obtained from BlackBerry World.
We have been getting feedback from customers that Blackberry doesn’t have many applications; so we tied up with Amazon globally to provide Amazon appstore for the users. This is our second source of apps. I would say that most of the apps work on Blackberry Classic and Passport. However, we believe that these phones are not for normal consumers or college kids. So the majority of Blackberry users would not be interested in games like Angry Birds. Most of the apps that interest our users would work absolutely fine on our phones.
Q: What are the main market segments targeted for these models? A:Both models are targeted towards the enterprise users or ‘Power Users’ as we call them. These are doctors, lawyers and other such professionals who want productivity on the move. For instance, if somebody is sitting at the airport and don’t want to take their tablets out, they can use their Blackberry to get their work done.
In my case, I have come from India and have not brought my laptop simply because my Blackberry Passport replaces my laptop. Everything I need is in my Blackberry Passport. This has 32GB of internal memory and the capacity to add up to 128GB of external memory, which is a lot. With a dongle I can easily connect this to a projector and use it as a laptop. This can even be connected to a television with just a HDMI cable or via Bluetooth.
This is how we aim to change the way people work, at least from an enterprise perspective. These things may not be applicable for normal consumers but for a professional, just carrying a Smartphone wherever he wants to work, gives that freedom and flexibility.
Our devices are expensive and we do not want to fight with the Chinese devices as our devices are designed for ‘power users’. With Blackberry, it’s an entire solution we provide to the enterprises. It’s the device plus the Blackberry enterprise solution which is the EMM (Enterprise Mobility Management). With both these components together, Blackberry becomes a very powerful tool that promotes productivity in daily use.
Q: Will Blackberry Classic be available island-wide? A:We will focus on top three markets which are the cities of Colombo, Kandy and Galle. Our distribution partner in Sri Lanka is Softlogic. If anybody living outside these cities wants to buy a Blackberry device, then they can purchase it online via the Softlogic online facility. The customers have to just login and order online and the devices will be delivered within three working days. So yes, our devices will be available island-wide.
In addition, we have all the major carriers, Dialog, Mobitel, Etisalat and Airtel, supporting Blackberry services.
Q: Blackberry 10 range was launched in Sri Lanka last year. How have users responded to it, so far?A: The feedback was very good and quite positive and this is why we are here to launch two more devices. The platform was very well received by people in Sri Lanka as well as in other parts of the world. Z10 was one of the devices we launched last year and Q10 and Q05 were two other models which had both the keypad and the touch screen. Overall, the feedback was really good concerning the last models introduced in this market.
Q: Are there any plans to launch other Blackberry models in Sri Lanka in 2015?A: We have already launched two models in Sri Lanka and going forward we might launch more devices in the latter half of the year. Once we make more announcements globally we will launch more devices in Sri Lanka as well.
Q: What is your take on the evolving Smartphone market in Sri Lanka? A:From what I have seen during the last two years, Sri Lanka is one of the fastest growing markets in Asia. For example, 4G services have been available in Sri Lanka for the past 18 months or so whereas in India we haven’t established 4G services fully yet. We have seen a Smartphone boom in this country. We want to ride on that boom by providing the best of technology to people in Sri Lanka, especially the enterprise sector.
Sri Lanka is one of the focus markets for us, after India. We will keep bringing the products we launch globally to the Sri Lankan market as well.
I must say, I love the Sri Lankan market. People here are tech savvy, adapt to change and seek for new technology. I don’t see this in other parts of the region, even in India. From the perspective of technology adoption, this country is far ahead of most of the other countries in the region which is a good thing.