We have been talking about the tide turning for some time here. And on a global scale, it sure seems to be the case. BlackBerry is making money again, not as much as we want, but more than we expected. The perception in media certainly seems to have shifted, except for those few holdouts that prefer to live under the bridge. Everything seems as if it’s heading in the right direction for BlackBerry.
Everywhere but here it seems.
You see, I live in California. Not the California most of you see in the movies. I don’t surf everyday, I don’t look out my window and see the crashing waves hitting the beach. In fact the nearest beach is a good three hours away from me. I don’t live in the hustle and bustle of San Francisco’s business district, and I certainly don’t walk through the side streets where old hippies are wishing there was something to protest. If most of you non-Californians saw where I lived, you wouldn’t believe it was California. And for the Californians that do know where I live, odds are you feel sorry for me.
I live in the heart of California’s farmland. When you look at the map and see the oh so pretty bay area to the north, and the not so pretty LA area to the south, that big open area in between? That area that people don’t choose as a vacation destination? That’s where I live.
And while many of us here enjoy saying that we don’t live in the hipster infested California that most picture when thinking of our state, sadly, the influence does spread to our area. We’re a few hours away from the home of the iPhone, and yet you wouldn’t tell it from looking in people’s hands. iPhone and Android has taken over here. It has been well over a year since I last saw a BlackBerry in the wild, and that was a BBOS phone, not a BB10. The only time I have seen a BB10 phone being used was when Blackjack drove through and stopped off to share a beer.
When BB10 first arrived, and I set off down to my local AT&T store to pick up my amazing Z10, I had no idea what was in store for me. This store is a corporate store, and I had bought nearly all my BlackBerry phones there prior to this. In fact, there’s an employee there that knows me, and knew each time to just get this man his BlackBerry. I had faced some wonderment at why I was choosing BlackBerry when I had picked up my last Torch 9810, so I expected more of the same. What happened was so much worse.
Without going in to too much detail, I had to fight to get my Z10. You see, I was early on my renewal. And they didn’t want to give it to me early, as they had so many times in the past. They would gladly give me an early renewal for an iPhone or a Samsung, but not my Z10. They were even willing to sweeten the deal! Offering me free bluetooth headsets, speakers, screen protectors and cases, if I just got an iPhone or Galaxy. But no, I wanted my BlackBerry. And after spending nearly three hours in the store, and going through two salespeople and a manager, and finally just throwing my hands in the air and telling them I was going down the street to the local Best Buy, they finally relented and allowed me to purchase my Z10. At full price.
A little over $600 dollars spent on that little phone. When I could have had a brand new iPhone or Samsung for a fraction of the price. And I never regretted it. In fact, I still have the Z10 and use it as my second phone. And I know there’s no way either an iPhone or Galaxy would have lasted that long.
Why am I telling you this? It’s old news right? A story repeated over and over by many American BlackBerry users who had to fight to get their Z10’s and Q10’s.
I’m telling you because I went back to the same store to purchase the AT&T BlackBerry Passport. Yes, the phone with the rounded corners. And what a different experience it was!
I had heard from some of our east coasters that when they went to pick up their Passport from AT&T that there was only a couple in each store. Well, knowing that BlackBerry is pretty much frowned upon here, I wasn’t too worried that they would sell out. But knowing my luck, there’d be one other person waiting on it, and would buy the only one they had. So off I went, and I was there when the doors opened at the local AT&T corporate store. Yes, the same one I battled for my Z10 at. And I walked in ready to once again do battle.
I marched right in and said ‘I want the Passport’. Only to find out the person I said that to wouldn’t be the one helping me. So, I waited. As I waited I wandered about looking at the various devices. And to my absolute surprise, the Passport and Classic were on display! There was no pricing and power on the Classic yet, as the store was just opening. And as I stood there playing with the display, here comes a clerk sliding the pricing in. And when I asked about power, he immediately set up the Classic.
A big difference from last time.
It was then my turn, and prepared to fight, I sat at the little stool at the little table with the not little salesperson. He asked what I was looking for, and as I said the Passport, the first person I had spoke to, walked up and set the Passport, a case, and screen protector on the table. He said he had put them aside when I had first asked about it. And with no fights, and no arguments. I had purchased my phone. Surprisingly, the sales man even said, ‘this is a cool phone’!
And story is over. A much better result. But then something happened. I was one of those unlucky ones who experienced the screen lift. And I did have to battle AT&T. It took me 9 hours and driving to a different store an hour away and several levels of management before they would replace my 34 day old Passport.
But they did. And I’m typing on the replacement now.
And again, the story is not quite over. You see, something happened to my settings and I wasn’t able to send or receive MMS messages. Well, I’m UTB Brad! I can fix it! Right? I found the settings, searched for the right ones, and put them in. And it didn’t work. Tried it with a few different settings. Didn’t work. Called AT&T customer care, thoroughly ashamed that UTB Brad was not able to fix it on his own.
The customer care agent was so friendly! No help, but friendly! She talked to me about the Passport. Said she had played with one, and it wouldn’t be for her. Uh oh, I thought, here we go! But then she went on to say how much her husband loved his old BlackBerry. In the end, she told me to go to the store and get a new sim card, and I gave her UTB’s Web address for her husband. I hope he joins us.
So off to the store I went. That same store. I wasn’t expecting a battle anymore, but I did expect some sort of commentary on my BlackBerry since I was having an issue.
I did get some commentary. That’s for sure.
They replaced the sim card. That didn’t fix it. They tried changing settings. They tried all kinds of things. And we talked. We talked about BlackBerry. And the clerk that was toting a Samsung Note, and the Manager that was toting an iPhone in a battery case, talked about how cool they thought the Passport was.
At one point, while looking at settings, the manager asked for another clerks phone to look at. And out came the Classic. I was shocked. Someone in this store was using a Classic?
Turns out they have store owned phones that the clerks use. The manager had used the Classic and loved it. But had given it to one of their service people that was on an old BBOS phone he wouldn’t give up. And he loved it. In all, they said they had 5 store owned Classics and the staff fought over who would get them.
But how are they selling?
They said they’re selling well. They said they were surprised how many they had sold. Nowhere near the other flagships, phones, but also nothing like the Z10’s and Q10’s they were ‘stuck with’ before. Of course, thinking of the effort I went through to buy one at this same store, it’s no surprise carriers weren’t selling them. The sales clerk even told me that she had someone drive from two hours away to get the Classic because they were one of the last stores to have one. But they were in stock now.
The clerk I found out, was using a Note, and didn’t like it. And would be going back to the ease of the iPhone. I showed her a little of the BB10, and explained how much easier and efficient BlackBerry is than android. I don’t believe I had any effect on her choice, but she’ll at least be a little more help to a customer looking at BlackBerry. She now knows about Android apps anyway. The manager that was on an iPhone, is considering a Passport. And as they worked on my phone, there were times other clerks came up and looked at it, and asked me what I thought of it, and listened as I told them it was the best phone ever made, without ever giving a smirk or an argument against what I was saying.
Are perceptions changing? I can’t give a scientific answer. But it sure seems so from the articles I read. And at this one store, in the middle of farmland California, not too far from the headquarters of Apple and Google, where not too long ago, I had to fight to buy a Z10, the perceptions have definitely changed. Our man John Chen had an impossible task ahead of him, and he has made it possible, and is achieving it. And we’re just enjoying the ride.
Edit: For those of you wondering, my MMS issue is fixed. A simple security wipe fixed it easily enough. And yes, I should have thought of that before.