Should You Test Your Site for Blackberry Compatibility?

We get a lot of questions in this business. One that we’re hearing with a bit of regularity is, “Will my new website work on my Blackberry?”; followed shortly by, “Will your development team test my new website for Blackberry compatibility?”

As the darlings of the business world, Blackberries are being used on a daily basis for emails and phone calls. But surfing the web…? That’s something new and different, and can be challenging for the Blackberry. Read on to learn why.

Blackberry losing mobile market share

You may have seen the most recent Blackberry ads featuring young entrepreneurs. The campaign focus is to smash it’s stodgy ‘CEO-only’ image by showcasing their product in the hands of hip young adults with awesome careers (DJs and music producers). Memorable quotes from each of the videos, “We need tools not toys” and “Try sending 1000 emails a day on a touch screen” illustrates this point. This campaign, though, as slick as it is, isn’t working.

It would seem that Research In Motion (RIM), the Canadian company that designed and developed this practical communications tool, missed the memo on creating dual purpose devices. In contrast, Apple and Android recognized early on that their devices didn’t have to be all work and no play; they could be both. This is bad news for Blackberry, who up until about two years ago had the lions-share of the smart phone market.

Then along came Apple and Android, offering the same business capabilities as the Blackberry, but building in “fun” and enhanced capabilities, in the form of cameras, mp3 players and easy to use ‘app stores’. Turns out people DO like to have fun while they go about their daily business. Thus began Blackberry’s rapid descent into obscurity.

“I don’t browse, but I love BBM!”

While it’s true that a lot of people still use Blackberries for email and their proprietary messenger service, Blackberry owners simply aren’t using their devices to browse the web.

And here’s some data to back that statement

In our earlier mobile posts, we looked at different industries and analyzed traffic on mobile devices. Since we are all about Measured Results and hard numbers, we decided to go back to that same set of data to find out just how much of the traffic was from Blackberry devices. The results weren’t terribly surprising: Apple came out with about 50% of the traffic, followed closely by Android, and then Blackberry. Poor Blackberry, not even BBM will save them now!

Looking back at those same five sectors, here is the percentage of mobile visitors using Blackberry devices:

  • Non-profit: 3-5%
  • Alberta Service Company: 6.8%
  • Edmonton Consumer Goods: 2.8%
  • Municipal Government: 5%
  • Edmonton B2B: 4.2%

Pretty dismal, especially when you consider that these are just Canada-specific numbers. Outside of Canada, the mobile market share for RIM products shrinks even lower at 1-2%.

What about the Playbook?

To be fair, we looked at another device. True, the Blackberry tablet has grown in ‘popularity’ in recent months. Tablet sales were up 10% over last fall according to Mobile Syrup, thanks to deeply discounted prices. But when it comes to the mobile usage stats, Apple and Android have again captured the market. This is further evidenced by the fact that the increase in Playbook sales hasn’t translated into an equal increase in mobile usage.  In fact the Playbook web usage only accounts for 1% compared to the iPads 56%.

We have a few theories about who is buying up the fire sale Playbooks… and it isn’t the CEO’s who love their email and BBM. Given the popularity of our laptops and smart phones with our kids, it’s likely that tech savy (and budget-conscious) parents are snapping up these super cheap tablets as entertainment for children and teens.

To test or not to test?

Back to our earlier question, should you be testing your new website for Blackberry compatibility? We say, no. The numbers don’t support the investment of time, energy and dollars for such a marginal segment of the mobile market. You’d have to bring in a variety of Blackberry models in order to test a reasonable number of screen resolutions and OS combinations.  As prolific as the Bold, Curve and Torch are in the business world, we think it’s only a matter of time before even the staunchest of Blackberry supporters are won over to the ‘dark side’. All it takes is one spin on an iPad, or the swanky Galaxy Nexus, and suddenly the ‘toys’ win out over the ‘tools’.

Have a Blackberry and love it? Ditched a Blackberry for a surfing machine?

We want to hear about it!

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7 thoughts on “Should You Test Your Site for Blackberry Compatibility?

  1. I agree with this. Also, if you are building responsive websites and testing for different screen sizes. Odds are you are already beating the competition.

    Just curious, where did you get your stats on mobile visitors using blackberries?

    1. Usage stats are from Google Analytics. Most RIM devices are straight forward to track, but the Playbook is a special case. Have to setup a custom segment to track them.

        1. I think Google or Rim or someone has resolved this since, because if I check Safari/(not set) on Analytics now, there’s a very insignificant number of visits. It might have been resolved since that article had been posted.

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