An example of why RIM is losing the smart phone race.

I received an email from my father on Friday morning saying that he needed help. The Facebook application was frozen on his BlackBerry and he was concerned that he was using unthinkable amounts of data while it continuously checked for new messages. I called him to see what I could do to help. It turns out that when the problem started last night, he called Verizon Wireless to see if they could help. Their first suggestion was power down and back up. This didn’t solve the problem. Their next solution was to remove the battery so that there was a complete reboot of the device. Interestingly enough, this also didn’t work. When he went into the app it was still actively searching for new messages. He grew increasingly frustrated when he was on the phone with customer service because they didn’t have any additional insights into how to solve the problem. Their last suggestion was that he should just take the device into a Verizon store for technical assistance.

After hearing this story, it was pretty obvious to me that the easiest approach would be to simply uninstall and reinstall the Facebook application. I knew that he has had his phone for not quite two years, so made an assumption that he had the BlackBerry Torch 9800. I searched online to find the device support page. ( I browsed through several sections before finding the navigation to uninstall 3rd party applications. Unfortunately there were no visuals, so I walked my dad through it as best as I could. It would have been really helpful to tell him what icons to look for while performing the task. We got the application uninstalled and the next step was to reinstall the application. This step was definitely trickier. I couldn’t figure out how to get him into the RIM app store for an easy instillation. The next approach was to use his browser to go to Facebook’s mobile site. The browser had a hard time rendering and finally on the third attempt, there was a download icon. The first time he tried to download it, the process cancelled halfway through. The second time it downloaded successfully.

The application didn’t automatically create a shortcut. In order to find it, he had to navigate through several menus. Upon finding it he had troubles logging in the first time. I advised him to go into Facebook through his desktop computer to make sure that he was using the right username and password. He was in fact, so I ended up at a loss. We were over 45 minutes into the process and we both had to get back to our work day.

The point is, this was a ridiculous process. There was nothing simple or intuitive about it. Not only could the carrier not walk him through it, but even someone who lives in the mobile world struggled with the process. RIM is trying to compete with iOs and Android, yet something as simple as uninstalling and reinstalling an app takes multiple people, a support guide and a couple hours. They should really improve the UX if they want to keep their ground in the smart phone industry.

  1. #1 by Jake Stout on May 25, 2011 - 2:49 pm

    This seems indicative of RIM’s inability to focus on their customer experience. The same is true of their developer environment. What they need is a team of UX (and non-UX) people to constantly stay on top of the user experience. The difficulty is that they have to monitor so many devices with ever-changing OS platforms and developer tools.

    They also seem to be stuck in the middle between serving businesses and trying to compete in the consumer markets. It is difficult doing both well, and they may be getting spread too thin.

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