Allow me to explain a little bias on my own behalf: I’m a BlackBerry owner. I use a BlackBerry Bold 9900, which I purchased by choice as an upgrade from my BlackBerry Curve 8520 last year. I’m very happy with the device – it’s a very capable, modern phone with great hardware design and software that does its job for the most part. There’s good reason for the major overhaul in hardware and software that is to come around next year with BlackBerry 10, but for all intents and purposes, I’m quite content with my Bold 9900.
That said, I’ve kept myself as up to date as possible on developments in the BlackBerry world. Leaks and rumours have been churned out perpetually by the technology press as RIM stumbles towards the BlackBerry 10 launch on the 30th of January, starting with the first glance at drawings of the “BlackBerry London and BlackBerry Nevada”, then the leaked specs of the “BlackBerry L-series and BlackBerry N-series” phones, and finally what appear to be genuine production pictures of the “BlackBerry Z10 and BlackBerry X10”. Frankly, I’m impressed by what has been accomplished. These new devices have lived up to the industrial hardware aesthetic established by previous high-end BlackBerry phones, rather than giving into the less appealing rubber-backed appearance of the PlayBook tablet.
It struck me as odd, then, that the leak of two photos of the first keyboard-equipped BlackBerry 10 phone has been met with such distaste from RIM’s fanbase. Even Business Insider has reported on the lack of enthusiasm from RIM’s existing customers, and although this should primarily concern stockholders, it concerns me as well: the BlackBerry X10 looks exactly like the phone I want. The team in Waterloo have attempted to create devices targeted at two very different audiences, those interested in all-touch devices and those not, and this discouragement might scupper the chance of subscribers like myself being served well by RIM in the future. My key interests in a phone are a good quality keyboard, solid multitasking functionality, and good battery life. Too often have the press, and even the public, insisted that nobody wants a keyboard-equipped phone, and I’m scared that RIM may start believing it.
I may miss the trackpad from the Bold 9900, and perhaps the sleek, ergonomic curve of its keyboard, but the so-called BlackBerry X10, if it ships looking like its photographs, should not disappoint me, at least from a hardware perspective. It’s the same form factor as my Bold 9900, with a similarly good-looking keyboard and much more on-screen real estate. I fear that criticism is being unfairly made by the same crowd that would prefer a full-touch phone anyway – especially since an often-repeated criticism seems to be a belief that RIM would benefit more from creating a tall, all-touch phone with a slide-out keyboard, a form factor that has quite rightly fallen out of fashion. I’m starting to agree with the notion that these early hardware leaks are not doing favours for Research In Motion.