It turns out that technology writer, Ashraf Eassa was correct - a perceived lack of BlackBerry (NASDAQ:BBRY) 10 apps is not an issue for consumers when shopping for a new smartphone. What consumers are looking for is a device that does all the basic functions well in a better, more integrated smartphone experience.
The Battle for Mindshare Continues
In an early evaluation of the Z10, Walt Mossberg mentioned some of the key strengths and differentiators of the Z10 smartphone.
Mossberg stated that the Z10 provided "the best keyboarding experience" he has seen on a smartphone. A second differentiator that Mossberg liked was the BlackBerry Hub which aggregates all messages just one gesture away from any screen. Multiple email accounts, text messages ((SMS)), BlackBerry Messages (BBM), social network updates and messages can be peeked at with a swipe of the thumb. If an immediate response is required the user can respond while leaving their other applications running -- True multi-tasking capability.
In an article written 10 days ago, I expressed the position that BlackBerry CEO, Thorsten Heins was doing the little things right.
With Heins at the helm, BlackBerry has staggered release dates for the Z10, and Q10, while entering several international markets each week. This approach keeps the BlackBerry 10 name, image & devices in the media spotlight for technology followers, investors, consumers and enterprise/government clients. I proposed that the media fever surrounding each release was a well orchestrated "guerrilla marketing" campaign that was giving BlackBerry coverage well beyond what it is spending on paid advertising.
In the past 10 days, BlackBerry has experienced a frenzy of negative reports, sell-side analysis and strangely interpreted data. While not as great in sheer numbers, a number of positive evaluations of BlackBerry's market chances have also occurred. Michael Collins, a U.K. observer has done on the ground research which indicates BlackBerry is making decent progress in the fight to maintain and grow market share.
U.S. Smartphone Consumers
It has been stated that the maturing U.S. smartphone market may be among the most difficult for BlackBerry to recover or even maintain market share. Walt Mossberg felt a lack of available apps might be a barrier to BlackBerry 10 sales. This position has been repeated many times by numerous sources as Mossberg is felt by many to be a particularly astute technology observer.
In the past 10 days, I have found two authors expressing a differing view. Ashraf Eassa stated that if BlackBerry 10 fails, "it won't be because of 'lack of apps'". Mathew Miller, cell phones and smartphones writer at ZDNet, stated:
"The more I use the BlackBerry Z10, the more I find having tons of apps doesn't matter as much as having a solid core platform, fast and functional web browser, and hardware that is enjoyable to use.
I looked at my iPhone 5, Lumia 920, and Galaxy Note II to see what apps I really use on a daily or every other day basis. I found that the BlackBerry Z10 has what I need, and with the efficient communications core, I am able to use it as my daily driver and am enjoying the experience."
The positions taken by Mossberg, Easssa and Miller are personal viewpoints and should not carry much weight when making an investment decision if viewed in isolation.
Nielsen (the ratings company) did a report on mobile device consumers around the world. Nielsen found that only 2% of U.S. smartphone buyers cited a "wide choice of applications" as "top selection criteria" when buying a mobile device.
Further analysis of Nielsen's full report reveals what users do with their smartphones. The three most common tasks were text messaging (93% of users), email (68% of users), and web-surfing (66% of users). The BlackBerry 10 platform is optimized for these three tasks and with a single gesture users can navigate between them.
The fourth most frequent use of a smartphone was for social networking (63% of users). Facebook (NASDAQ:FB), Twitter, Linkedin (NYSE:LNKD), text and BBM messaging have built in apps on the BlackBerry 10. With Skype, Oovoo and many other platforms available to download, the vast majority of users will have all their social networking needs met with a BlackBerry 10 device. The fifth most frequent use of U.S. smartphones was for applications/apps (62% of users).
There seems to be a growing consensus that BlackBerry 10 is performing as well as could be expected in all markets entered thus far. At the same time, a genuine doubt has developed regarding BlackBerry 10's possible success in the U.S. marketplace.
I see this latest research by Nielsen as changing the perceptions. It opens the door a little wider for BlackBerry to walk or perhaps squeeze through. While U.S. consumers may not run into a store knowing they will purchase a Z10 - the Nielsen information regarding consumer tendencies can readily be used by sales associates to demonstrate how this particular phone can meet their needs. A satisfied customer and word of mouth advertising might open up doors for BlackBerry that analysts have been unaware of.
The viewpoint expressed by Walt Mossberg and others (that a lack of apps would hurt BlackBerry10's chances in the marketplace) were personal viewpoints that were repeated so many times as to become accepted as fact. The Nielsen data based on consumer research throws significant doubt on this point of view.
While Nielsen's data may or may not reflect how consumers will ultimately behave in the marketplace, it would seem to carry more weight than one man's opinion.
I have stayed away from number crunching as readers can find their own sources and estimations for BlackBerry's success or demise. (Here's one from yesterday)
New data from Nielsen suggests that the BlackBerry 10 devices and operating system have what it takes to satisfy the U.S. consumer in the smartphone space. In fact, BlackBerry 10's features suggest it may be custom built for success in the U.S. market.
Disclosure: I am long BBRY. I wrote this article myself, and it expresses my own opinions. I am not receiving compensation for it (other than from Seeking Alpha). I have no business relationship with any company whose stock is mentioned in this article. Investors should stay informed as this stock is volatile.