Verizon iPhone, LTE Androids: Dark Clouds Ahead for RIM's BlackBerry?

Verizon iPhone, LTE Androids: Dark Clouds Ahead for RIM's BlackBerry?

Summary: With iPhone joining the best wireless carrier in North America, and 4G LTE Android devices soon to follow, is RIM's BlackBerry business due for some heavy turbulence?

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With iPhone joining the best wireless carrier in North America, and 4G LTE Android devices soon to follow, is RIM's BlackBerry business due for some heavy turbulence?

So, it happened. Today, after years of speculation, Verizon Wireless finally got the iPhone.

A lot of armchair quarterbacking is occurring at the usual suspects, ZDNet included, with the natural follow-on questions. What will this do to AT&T? Can the Verizon network handle it? Is this real life?

Back in June, I tried to answer some of these questions myself. I was dead wrong on at least one assumption, that the Verizon iPhone would almost certainly have 4G LTE capability. It doesn't. Oh well.

I also considered to some extent what the iPhone on Verizon would mean for Android. My thoughts at the time were that it was unlikely to have a long-term effect on the viability or strength of the platform.

Now that we know LTE Android phones are launching in a similar time frame to the new CDMA iPhone 4 and that a 4G Phone is now quite a bit a ways away, I'm much more confident that Android will continue to offer compelling technology advancements that will allow it to differentiate from iPhone as a cutting-edge smartphone platform, as well as maintain if not exceed its share that it established in 2010.

What I didn't think of at the time, however, was what the impact of an iPhone launch on Verizon would have on RIM and the BlackBerry.

The comScore chart above depicts how the various smartphone platforms played out in terms of overall market share at the end of the 4th quarter of 2010.

As we can see, Android share surged over six percentage points, iPhone gained almost a point increase, and RIM lost over four percentage points. And this was without iPhone launching on a new carrier.

With today's iPhone launch on Verizon, these numbers are likely to look very, very different the same time next year.

While there may be some negative impact of a Verizon launch on current Android models initially and for a short time period, the launches of the Droid Bionic, LG Revolution and the HTC Thunderbolt (all of which are among the first crop of 4G LTE phones) are due for sale only a few weeks after the first iPhones are delivered to Verizon's customers and will contribute to Android's growth as well as continue to assert its technology lead.

But what of RIM?

I think it is fair to say that the big gains that Android saw in 2010 have been at BlackBerry's expense, particularly as it relates to consumer smartphone purchases. While enterprise smartphone sales make up RIM's bread and butter, their "starburst" is still very much in consumer. And with the iPhone now at Verizon in addition to AT&T, that share of the consumer pie is going to get smaller and smaller.

Why is BlackBerry losing market share? Because when you compare their BlackBerry OS 5 smartphones on Verizon and other carriers to what iPhone and Android currently offers, it comes up lackluster. And what of OS 6? If you ask our own iGeneration columnist Zack Whittaker, it doesn't particularly resonate well with younger buyers.

Verizon hasn't even launched an equivalent product to AT&T's BlackBerry Torch, which runs on the updated OS 6. Presumably, we'll see some sort of OS 6 successor to the BlackBerry Storm 2 and the Bold, but who other than the most hardcore BlackBerry loyalists are going to want to stick with that platform on Verizon when their contract comes up and iPhones and LTE Android devices are in the offering? I'm guessing not many.

The problem gets only worse from here. Assuming that OS 6 phones do launch on Verizon in Q1 or Q2, will they be LTE-based? Based on what I've been able to determine from various mobile news sites, it seems that the new BlackBerry models will be 3G, like the iPhone 4. Why? Apparently, the LTE BlackBerry phones are only very early in their development processes and the chipset costs are currently too high for RIM's liking.

And if a lack of an imminent LTE offering for Verizon didn't have its share of issues, there's also the fact that RIM has already stated that OS 6 is a stopgap. Eventually, they want to replace it with the QNX-based platform that powers the PlayBook. That's basically admitting to their customers and developers upfront that they shouldn't buy or develop for the current platform because the next one will be so much better.

The problems with RIM don't end with the the BlackBerry smartphone platform, their OS quagmire and how it competes with Droids and iPhones on Verizon. There's also the whole mobile tablet strategy at the company that's seemingly programmed for failure.

On paper, and even in person, the PlayBook is a nice-looking piece of hardware. But it's got a few problems. Firstly, it's not anticipated to launch until the late spring because the platform isn't fully baked yet and even the current SDK is lacking support for a great deal of stuff that developers are asking for. This product will also launch after we expect to see the iPad 2 and also Android 3.0 tablets launch.

Given the announcement of today's iPhone partnership, I think we can also expect that Verizon will be selling 3G-enabled or possibly LTE-enabled iPads along with LTE-ready Android 3.0 tablets such as the Motorola Xoom which have already been announced.

[UPDATE: Verizon has confirmed the existence of a native version of the iPad that will be offered on their network.]

Secondly, it doesn't help that the PlayBook absolutely requires a BlackBerry to be wirelessly tethered to it in order to do native enterprise email.

Given the fact that you don't need to do this on an iPad or a Android device, both of which have native Exchange support and 3rd-party support for other mail platforms such as IBM Lotus Notes, a BlackBerry smartphone tethered to the PlayBook for required email support is practically a boat anchor.

RIM would be smart to change course on the BlackBerry tethering requirement if they expect to stay in the game, in my honest opinion. But that's the least of their problems, considering the iOS and Android Malachi Crunch they're going to have to deal with this year at Verizon, AT&T and other carriers notwithstanding.

Unlike Pinky Tuscadero, I'm not sure RIM will walk away unscathed in the smartphone and tablet demolition derby.

Is RIM and the BlackBerry due for some bumpy weather in 2011? Talk Back and Let Me Know.

Topics: Android, Apple, Google, Hardware, Mobility, BlackBerry, Verizon, Wi-Fi

About

Jason Perlow, Sr. Technology Editor at ZDNet, is a technologist with over two decades of experience integrating large heterogeneous multi-vendor computing environments in Fortune 500 companies. Jason is currently a Partner Technology Strategist with Microsoft Corp. His expressed views do not necessarily represent those of his employer.

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65 comments
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  • RE: Verizon iPhone, LTE Androids: Dark Clouds Ahead for RIM's BlackBerry?

    I have 1 question if Verizon is the best network why can't you talk on the phone and use the internet at the same time?
    kyle5
    • RE: Verizon iPhone, LTE Androids: Dark Clouds Ahead for RIM's BlackBerry?

      @kyle5 it's the CDMA technology - rumor has it they are trying to change this by spring - their LTE network should be able to I believe.
      horrormovie77
      • Very doubful

        @horrormovie77 CDMA hardware tech is not compatible like LTE. Verizon will need to updated almost everything from the ground up. That is not going to happen for years.

        They may get a few spots here and there ... but that would be test areas. Don't expect real LTE support until 2013.
        wackoae
    • RE: Verizon iPhone, LTE Androids: Dark Clouds Ahead for RIM's BlackBerry?

      @kyle5
      Thats a difference in cdma and gsm but now with the new 4G networks out it will be possible Id guess round mid year or years end.I wouldnt say verizon is the best network but it is the largest with most nationwide coverage.
      Fletchguy
    • RE: Verizon iPhone, LTE Androids: Dark Clouds Ahead for RIM's BlackBerry?

      @kyle5 Technically, you can. Any VoIP technology will allow you to talk and use data apps simultaneously, so loading Skype on your Verizon iPhone would allow you to make/receive a voice call with Skype while also being able to browse the web. The new 4G technologies on the horizon (LTE) will handle voice calls with VoIP so they will happily handle voice and data (since voice is data) simultaneously. Verizon may be contemplating changing their current CDMA network to support it but my guess is it may never occur because it is a daunting technical challenge that is just not a huge compelling feature to most customers.
      monteith
    • RE: Verizon iPhone, LTE Androids: Dark Clouds Ahead for RIM's BlackBerry?

      @kyle5 why is this even a criterion?
      pupkin_z
    • RE: Verizon iPhone, LTE Androids: Dark Clouds Ahead for RIM's BlackBerry?

      @kyle5 Who talks on the phone while browsing the web on the phone? ... Maybe a few trolls like you.
      israeljamesbond
      • RE: Verizon iPhone, LTE Androids: Dark Clouds Ahead for RIM's BlackBerry?

        @israeljamesbond So if one talks on the phone and uses data at the same time on is a troll? Last time I checked the definition of a troll was one who left comments like this: "Who talks on the phone while browsing the web on the phone? ... Maybe a few trolls like you."
        athynz
  • Andoid is going to "cutting edge" platform?

    Bionic and Thurderbolt are better than iPhone 4 in useless double-core CPU speed (no serious software will be developed until Apple will release iPhone 5 with support of double cores -- that would guarantee sale of like 50 million or more such devices this year) and spotty and pricy 38-city test LTE/4G speed (which is rarely needed within the city as Wi-Fi is at home, at work, at cafe and restaraunts -- faster and free -- and outside of cities it will not exist for couple of years).<br><br>In everything else, starting from screen and ending their cheapo plastic cases and VHS-cassette sizes, these phones are no better or clearly inferior.
    DDERSSS
    • RE: Verizon iPhone, LTE Androids: Dark Clouds Ahead for RIM's BlackBerry?

      @denisrs
      iPhone may never get support for that actually, read a book.
      Droid101
      • Why should Apple waste time on a barely used tech on this iteration?

        @Droid101 Seriously, Why? LTE would not be really available for a few more YEARS.
        wackoae
      • RE: Verizon iPhone, LTE Androids: Dark Clouds Ahead for RIM's BlackBerry?

        @Droid101 And what book would that be that says the iPhone for VZW won't ever get support for LTE or dual cores?
        athynz
    • RE: Verizon iPhone, LTE Androids: Dark Clouds Ahead for RIM's BlackBerry?

      @denisrs
      That's because Android is a resource hog and need dual-core.
      illegaloperation
    • RE: Verizon iPhone, LTE Androids: Dark Clouds Ahead for RIM's BlackBerry?

      @denisrs
      Lol here you are again posting uneducated apple fodder. I guess you don't use a phone with any demand on it as said before dual core and tegra processors are needed as phone evolve into all in one entertainment devices. I assume you use apple so unless Steve Jobs says its ok you don't get all those nice options like android, web os and windows phone users get. Your right apple iphone users dont need dual core processors to listen to music from itunes.
      Fletchguy
      • RE: Verizon iPhone, LTE Androids: Dark Clouds Ahead for RIM's BlackBerry?

        @Fletchguy

        Since the iPhone has approximately 170 THOUSAND more apps than Android right now (Source: Distimo 2010 Full Year Report), I think it's fair to say its users are doing a little bit more than listening to iTunes. (Although you do make an excellent point: iTunes is pretty awesome.)

        There's a little educated Apple fodder for you.
        OffPanel
      • You obviously have nothing concrete to argue with

        @Fletchguy
        DDERSSS
      • RE: Verizon iPhone, LTE Androids: Dark Clouds Ahead for RIM's BlackBerry?

        @OffPanel Ok. And what do those 170,000 apps do? I am sure all of them are very useful.
        pupkin_z
      • RE: Verizon iPhone, LTE Androids: Dark Clouds Ahead for RIM's BlackBerry?

        @pupkin_z

        170,000 missing apps on Android. That's more than the number of Android apps that exist today, by about 40,000.

        So are these missing apps useful? Depends on what you want to do.

        If you'd like to stream NetFlix movies to your phone, you'd better hope you have an iPhone, 'cause that's not on Android yet. (Yep, even the anemic Windows Phone 7 scooped Android on this one. Oh yeah, and my Wii.)

        TomTom GPS is on iPhone. Android users have been asking for it since at least 2009, but it isn't there yet.

        Or if you like games, you have plenty of iPhone exclusives, like LucasArt's augmented reality game, Star Wars Arcade: Falcon Gunner. Not on Android.

        So if the insinuation is that these are 170,000 fart apps, it doesn't really appear that way.
        OffPanel
  • RE: Verizon iPhone, LTE Androids: Dark Clouds Ahead for RIM's BlackBerry?

    RIM is screwed and they completely deserve it - they haven't came out with anything innovative in years - they offer virtually no plus's as compared to iOS or Android and they have lost trust of many of their users (BB storm). They are fools and I personally will not miss seeing their name in a few years.
    horrormovie77
    • In fairness ...

      @horrormovie77 RIM does offer a better integration with enterprise system. But that is changing quickly.

      But over all, I have to agree with you. RIM completely deserves what they are getting because once the original BB came out and became popular they stop doing anything to improve the product except put a new "coat of paint".
      wackoae