BlackBerry gets UK win amidst company turmoil

RIM’s BlackBerry might be losing to Android and the iPhone around the world but it is still packing in new users in the UK, research company Kantar Worldpanel ComTech has reported.

In the 12 weeks to 12 June, the company increased its UK smartphone market share to an impressive 22.3 percent, making it second only to Android, which has 45.2 percent, and ahead of the iPhone’s 18.3 percent.

Significantly, 85 percent of new BlackBerry sales came from customers that had previously used conventional phone handsets, with the majority of upgraders being women. This could reflect the BlackBerry’s good reputation as a texting device, a mobile application reckoned to be a particular priority for women.

The reported success chimes with RIM‘s claim last week that it had added over one million new subscribers in three weeks across Europe, the Middle East and Africa sales region, but leaves its poor showing in specific countries unexplained.

Kantar Worldpanel ComTech reported that the BlackBerry was still losing an alarming level of market share in the US, and falling in countries such as Germany, France, Italy, and Australia, while in Japan is grew slightly from a base close to zero. Beyond the hotspot of the UK, only Spain saw meaningful growth with its share growing to 9.9 percent.

Globally, the damage is being done mainly by Android, which is growing everywhere, and to some extent by the popular iPhone. But why might the BlackBerry be holding up so well in the UK and Spain when it is nosediving in key markets such as the US?

Apart from its popularity among women, a key could be the youth market, which sends large volumes of text messages and is attracted by the BlackBerry Messenger (BBM), which is free between BlackBerry subscribers. As long as there are enough other users also using the BlackBerry, this gives the platform a competitive advantage.

“Our data shows that most first-time smartphone owners look for lower prices. BlackBerry’s competitive pricing allows younger consumers to switch to a smartphone device at a price they can afford,” said Kantar Worldpanel ComTech’s Dominic Sunnebo.

He predicted that smartphones would become cheaper as upgrading users plumped for less costly handsets over time.The BlackBerry’s continued hold on the UK would depend on keeping its share at a level that brought the advantages of BBM into play.

One interesting aside is the success of Samsung’s little-discussed Bada operating system. This is almost non-existent in the UK, Spain and the US but has attracted a surprisingly large following in Germany, France and Italy, reaching single digit market shares. Again, this popularity is down to its use on low-cost smartphones.

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Jim Love, Chief Content Officer, IT World Canada

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