The other day I posted an editorial on my impressions of the BlackBerry Classic after about 30 days of use. Afterwards, I found out someone whom I thought was a Passport user, actually uses a Classic as their daily driver (DD), something I found both interesting and exciting. I chatted with him about the Classic and found out he loves it for many of the same reasons I do. I wasn’t completely wrong, because he has a Passport, but he thinks the Classic is the best fit for his use and needs. I got hooked up with the UTB folks last March, about 45 days or so after the site went live. I’ve been an occasional blogger since then, with my posting activity waxing and waning depending on work and other “real life” stuff. In a couple BBM groups, UTB folks will chat about the different BlackBerry devices and their relative strengths and overall desirability for their needs. I am one of a couple people in the group who use the Classic as their DD, so I am typically overrun by the Passport users and Z30 users in those playful “arguments” about which is the best BlackBerry. I have been ruminating over certain things I see going on in the marketplace regarding mobile technology, and specifically the Classic; things that seem to be reflected in some of the conversations we’ve had in the group. Those thoughts along with finding out the Passport user I mentioned previously, is actually a Classic user, have prompted this post. Hopefully I’ll be able to share my impressions here in a cogent, albeit somewhat tongue-in-cheek and entertaining fashion.
My central thesis is that Classic users are cut from a certain mold and some of that is worth celebrating. It seems true that buying decisions regarding mobile technology are driven by different factors amongst different people. When I say “buying decisions,” I mean those factors that actually caused you to buy the device, which may be different from the things you talk about with others when they ask you about your phone. If you could list the features (people don’t buy features, they buy benefits, but that is another story) a user is attracted to, that actually cause him to buy a device, or are the primary reason for buying a device, you would have a list that includes myriad features, and I’m not going to attempt to list them all here. You could pick any feature of an OS or device and that might be enough to make someone buy. For example, security/privacy is a huge issue for me and when I bought my first Berry, a Storm II, I did so because Palm was no longer offering their desktop SW and RIM was the only company that offered desktop SW you could use to backup your data; I did not want to use the cloud. I think technically, iTunes can do something similar for iPhones, so I may have been wrong about the exclusiveness of the desktop SW, but that feature, BlackBerry Desktop, was the primary reason I chose BlackBerry and it was driven by privacy concerns.
Buying behavior is studied in many environments and marketeers are constantly learning about psychology and sociology and how to influence people’s buying behaviors. There are myriad sales books written about this and it’s a subject studied by corporations trying to sell their products, by political parties trying to sell their platforms and candidates, by the CIA trying to sell foreign nationals on working for the US (to get them to provide us information), by fundraising professionals who sell donating to their non-profits, and should even be studied by the Catholic Church, if they want to reverse the flow of people out of their organization. There are many other places sales and influence is studied and the mobile tech industry is no different. Companies consider what users’ interests and concerns are relative to mobile technology and group the marketplace accordingly into what are often called market segments, and then they devise sales and marketing strategies to influence those segments to buy their devices. People have different reasons for using the device they use. Recently I realized that when it came down to it, I chose BlackBerry because I’m writing a non-fiction book that requires personal introspection and exploratory writing, which I did on the BBOS notepad and continue to do in BB10’s Remember, and I want to keep that information private. Thus, having strong encryption and device security access features, and having a secure means of backing up my data is my number one “hot button,” as they say. There are other reasons that influence which BlackBerry I and others buy and I would like to drill down to those in this post. I would also like to speculate as to personality traits that may be common amongst Classic users and celebrate those traits a bit. I also want to share some observations regarding the social aspects of mobile technology since I believe those social forces are very powerful.
As BlackBerry fans, we sometimes describe Apple users as sheep or “sheeple,” and there is significant validity to this. In my opinion, Steve Jobs was a brilliant, visionary, strategic minded guy who was charismatic and also an excellent salesman; the ultimate “Pied Piper.” I doubt I am the only one to think this, but I haven’t read his biography or too much written about him. My point is that everyone is a sheep to some extent; as Homo sapiens, we are one of the most social animals on the planet. We have the longest (I believe) weaning period amongst all species (18 years-plus for most), which is the period of time it takes for an individual to be properly prepared to live on their own, and we have one of the most complex languages (verbal) and ability to communicate meaning (It turns out that crows and prairie dogs also have incredibly complex languages). In any event, we are highly interdependent and rely on each other for survival. We recognize faces extremely readily and are able to communicate layers of meaning and intent via several verbal and non-verbal channels. The point is that “no man is an island,” and we are deluding ourselves if we really believe we don’t care what anyone thinks about us; we all attach some degree of value to the opinions others have of us, the issues is whether or not we do so in a healthy way. The relative healthiness of this is generally determined by how we go about this, with whom, and in what context. Therefore, having a close friend tell you you’re making a big mistake, and listening to them and considering their input is healthy and rational. Likewise, if a wife feels good when her husband tells her she looks beautiful, that is also healthy. It’s unhealthy however, to put too much weight on what others say, regardless of who they are, or to put no weight on anything anyone says to you. The former is a hallmark of depression and the latter indicative of some type of narcissistic and/or sociopathological situation. I don’t know, I’m not a psychologist, but hopefully you see my point.
The bottom line is when you go in to buy a phone at your local store, there are social factors that impact you and that you must manage. Sometimes they work in your favor and lift you up (make you feel good), and other times, they could drag you down unless you manage them. For instance, if I go into my local Verizon store and ask about the LG WhizBang or whatever, the sales associate will give me a knowing nod and cheerfully walk me over to the correct place and show off the features they like. But when I go in and ask about the BlackBerry Classic, I may encounter quizzical or outright disdainful looks from the associate and a less than enthusiastic or knowledgeable presentation. This also happens in our personal and professional lives. There are times when you pull your phone out and set it on the table and people often take note of what you carry/use. When people see a BlackBerry, their impression of you of late, has probably not been positive. Maybe they think you’re “behind the times,” or unsophisticated or just misguided. Generally, when I carry my Z30, people see it and think it’s “cool” or at least “ok” and are even surprised to see it’s a Berry because they don’t expect to see an all touch phone with such a big screen and a BlackBerry logo on it. But when they do find out, their first comment is “I thought BlackBerry was out of business,” or they comment in so many words about how you better get off the boat before it sinks. These types of interactions can weigh you down; it’s human nature. Healthy people have ways they manage this and unhealthy people either cave-in and allow the social pressure to modify their behavior, or feel bad as a result of the interaction. When you carry a Classic, you have the BlackBerry stigma to its fullest. Not only does your phone look very similar to the pre-BB10 Bold, a device associated with a slow web browser, Spartan app world, and company that was spiraling downward, you also have a small screen, something that is not generally celebrated, and you don’t have any golly gee whiz hardware features to show off, or even the sheer uniqueness and intrigue of the Passports’ form factor. Thus, I think the Classic user is someone particularly confident and healthy enough to ward off this type of social pressure and continue on his way, enjoying the less sexy benefits the Classic offers. Thus I believe Classic users are confident.
Phone specs are “sexy,” in that they are exciting and attractive. Being able to brag about how many gigs, hertz’s, pixels and cores you have is fun. In a very basic way, it makes you feel good to have something others want. Just like it’s cool to have the car with 400 horsepower, it’s cool to have a 500 gigahertz, deca-core processor, with 2 terabytes of RAM and a 6” curved, holographic screen, but how do all those things translate into a better user experience? The answer is they often don’t. Our UTB bloggers have mentioned in many posts the laggy and unstable nature of the Android OS and how the super-fast processors and huge amounts of RAM often don’t translate into a fluid, reliable user experience. This is because as all tech-savvy people know, user experience is a function of how the hardware interacts with the operating system and how efficiently the OS does its work. Thus, you can have a faster result with a slower processor that is running an optimized OS. Just like a 400 horsepower car that badly needs a tune up may be slower than a 300 horsepower car that is race tuned, the output of a mobile device is a ‘whole that is greater than the sum of its parts.’ Because a Classic user is someone smart enough to know this and ignore the less than exciting specs the Classic has and instead focus on a device that meets their needs and offers an unmatched user experience, I believe Classic users are smart.
There are many uses of mobile devices, from gaming to watching videos, to organizing and doing work, to communicating, and each device has a sweet spot in this list where it competes best. The Z30 is a legitimate business-oriented productivity tool that also features excellent stereo speakers and a nice 5” screen so it is an attempt to please people interested in work and play. The Passport seems to be designed for productivity-oriented users who work a lot with documents and typically have two hands free to use their device, so while they may be mobile workers, they may not be “on the go” as much as others . The Passport also offers stereo sound and has a screen that is very crisp, high resolution, and fairly wide, so it can work for many as a device for enjoying media. The Classic however, is a straight up productivity and communications device. Of all the Berries, the Classic is most optimized for work and least for play. The “toolbelt” with the hard keys and trackpad, the physical keyboard and smaller screen, the lack of stereo, the inclusion of USB OTG, and the overall size, allowing for easy one handed use and placement and retrieval to and from a pocket, all make the Classic a device optimized for a person who is busy, on the go, and concerned with being organized and productive. Thus, I believe Classic users are successful.
Being a BlackBerry user in the U.S. puts you into a minority of mobile tech users. Generally, it seems accepted that you are in the 99th percentile (that’s the good 99th or bad 99th, depending on how you look at it), since about 1% of all mobile tech users, use BlackBerry. But being a Classic user puts you into an even smaller category. Being a Classic user means you don’t follow the crowd. You ignore or repel those who would put you down for using BlackBerry, or for using a phone with a small screen, and you ignore those spec mongers who try to convince you you’re not cool if your device can’t compete in the spec wars; you are someone who goes your own way. Thus, I believe Classic users are leaders.
So notwithstanding some of the logical leaps I’ve made, my conclusion is as follows; Classic users are confident, smart, successful, leaders, and if you don’t have one, you’re probably a LOSER! I’m kidding! Gosh! But go get a Classic! Hurry!!!
***EDIT 6/17/15*** It’s been brought to my attention that some Passport users may take offense to my comments. Sometimes sarcasm does not translate into the written (typed) word. This post was intended to be a fun editorial that made a few points about the Classic user. Please note that I included the Z30 in my comparisons. Also, my central thesis was NOT that Classic users are superior, that part was a joke. It was actually that the Classic is a particular device designed for a particular type of user and that user is OK, and so is the Classic. All the comments are valid, but the conclusion was intended to be fun. I would love to have a Passport and would definitely use it as a workstation for my start up business. It is an extremely robust and capable business tool.