With the BlackBerry Torch and OS6 already out and about in the US, it’d be hoped that Research in Motion (RIM) would be taking stock and preparing for global battle. After all, despite initial excitement and plenty of appreciation for its bold form factor, the Torch has yet to set the world alight (ahem). Sales are said to be sluggish, with just 150,000 sold on its opening weekend. AT&T has even slashed the price, barely a week in.
The Torch may well be a slow burner and be heading to businesses soon. After all, that remains RIM’s core focus. And a wider global roll-out will doubtless help sales. But it’s talk of another new BlackBerry, the much-vaunted, oft-pictured, but as-yet-unofficial Clamshell 9760 that’s got tongues wagging. This is a device that will come with Torch-matching OS6 inside and rock a rather bizarre squared-off look when shut, showing info and images on the outer screen, before flipping open to reveal a full QWERTY panel.
Frankly, it looks naff and could well be a gimmick too far. The Pearl Flip was hardly a resounding success and the clamshell design is one which is going through what might politely be termed an image crisis. It’s not practical for lengthy email sessions, it’s bulky and it generally means screen real estate is cut down. In all, it’s not right for today’s modern smartphone.
So why is RIM persisting with it? Perhaps it sees a niche market to sell to. But surely it’s a risk pushing something so unique just weeks after the flagship Torch hit shelves. What’s becoming increasingly clear is the punters want candybars with touchscreens or QWERTYs, perhaps with a slider thrown in for good measure.
Trying to rewrite the rulebook now is a risk and one which could make RIM look pretty embarrassed in the coming months. Novelty phones are just that, a novelty. RIM will clearly have one eye on the smartphone sales charts, which makes the Clamshell 9760 seem even more of an aberration. Especially since it’s currently in danger of losing second place to a surging Google Android.
While the Torch, with its high-end specs, might not harm RIM, the Clamshell probably would. Why choose something awkward when an Android effort makes things easier?
Surely a better move would be to focus on the functional Curve 3G and Pearl 3G. Good phones both, they’re bound to offer more to RIM in terms of sales than handset which rocks a design that hasn’t been popular for the best part of five years. Everything depends on when and where RIM sells the Clamshell. But it’ll want to make sure it rights the Torch’s wrongs first before things turn ugly and Android makes a play for its position at the smartphone top table.