> I didn't build my BlackBerry, you did
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I didn’t build my BlackBerry, you did

By May 1, 2015Editorial

It was a Friday evening after work when I got my OS 10.3.1 update on my Z30. I was overwhelmed with excitement, evening plans were promptly delayed, and I definitely wasn’t putting down my device until I had become familiarly acquainted with every single new feature that came with the update. That excitement of downloading and installing a brand new OS is one of those few moments where I actually get pretty giddy, I think it’s my 12 year old self’s equivalent of getting a rare Pokémon card or something. Now naturally, as with most things in life, it’s usually fun to have someone to share in your joy. Lucky for me my entire family has BlackBerry 10 devices so I strolled into my parents’ living room expecting to have a wondrous BlackBerry fiesta when out of the corner of the room I hear a very quaint “oh…that’s neat”.

See, I’m what you’d call a BlackBerry Fan boy, Crackberry addict or, in my family apparently, BlackBerry tech support.  What always seems to amaze me is how little the majority of BlackBerry 10 users actually know about their device and subsequent OS updates they receive. I’ve asked numerous different people how they liked the recent update just to get a confused stare, most just tell me there were minor UI changes or security fixes, but the truth is they don’t actually know why they updated. What’s worse is the numerous people who have bugs in their OS and they don’t even know they’re bugs, they just think that’s how the device is supposed to work, like virtual assistant not activating maps, or the remember app not saving a note through invocation.  BlackBerry has never been good at communicating their mobile software to their userbase, educating them, empowering them.  It was always one of those things that people picked up and learned how to use, either through a co-worker or friend.

The fact is that our mobile devices aren’t simple computers anymore, they’ve become our most used devices. With the exception of some professional software suites your BlackBerry 10 device can do the majority of the computing essentials. Having said that, though, they aren’t necessarily the simplest pieces of tech which means it’s important to have a healthy set of help, knowledge-bases and resources for users to access. I’m not talking about hidden support forums or obscure support hotlines (notice how many don’t have a phone number), or one off blog posts, I’m talking about real resources that are easy to access and prompt you to use them from your device.

There is an official website that BlackBerry users can visit to access information about the latest OS, but there is still very little in the way of a comprehensive or natural route that existing users would access the help app on their device or make the trip to the official website.  And even so, the website and help isn’t necessarily that complete either.  Weeks ago, before we ran our upstream podcast using BBM Meetings, I was trying to find some documentation on how to use the desktop program on their hidden help page which has information on almost every other product other than BBM Meetings for desktop. I tried searching Youtube and Google to see if anyone had done a review, but to my surprise I could not find a single piece of documentation official nor otherwise. How is that possible? A relatively new product released a few months ago and not a single online review? Not a single PDF manual or anything on BlackBerry.com to show you how to ACTUALLY use it?  This was the closest I got to any form of documentation about the BBM Meetings desktop client.  It’s essentially a webpage just telling me how to sign into BBM Meetings on my desktop…very useful.

Screen Shot 2015-04-27 at 10.23.09 PM

Does this help you?…no

We keep hearing that BlackBerry is trying to shift towards software, but that shift ultimately relies on creating that paradigm shift upon which to empower and throw its users into the driver’s seat. Currently, if you want to find out what’s new with your device or how to remedy an issue it’s much easier to search Google, Crackberry or BerryFlow.  I used to own an iPhone (I know, I know, it was a while ago) and in that timespan I never once had to resort to a community forum to find more information about my device. If you look at the websites of major competitors you’ll notice they have entire webpages, documentation and marketing campaigns dedicated to letting their customers know what’s new in upcoming OS’ as well as what their current one has to offer.  The majority of those people know what they’re getting when an update comes in.  Whether it’s because of marketing or because the users are more inclined to find out, it’s still a testament to achieving that end goal of user education.

I shouldn’t look like a genius just because I showed someone how to use some of the baked-in functionality like the pinch gesture in the hub, how to take a screenshot, or how to use NFC to send files between devices. These are standard features that should have easily been learned through some sort of pamphlet that comes with the devices.  It’s really frustrating because it looks like they have put some effort into creating some sense of an online resource, even going as far as to have some basic first-run tutorials when a new user starts-up a BlackBerry 10 device, but they ultimately fail at directing those users to permanent resources.  Ultimately it results in a failure to entice them or educate them enough to want to seek this information.  I’m not talking about those who search Google, Crackberry or Berryflow, I’m talking about those who just aren’t bothered to delve into the nitty gritty of their mobile device.

BlackBerry has to start putting in the legwork to get that knowledge out there. People constantly complain about their lack of marketing but the fact is they’ve dropped the ball on educating the users they already have. I shouldn’t feel like the future of BlackBerry relies on Crackberry staying afloat because it’s that important of a resource for the community, and I definitely shouldn’t feel like the only reason I truly know everything my device does is because of OS leak forum threads.

There needs to be an ongoing dialogue, or at least an attempt at one to convey this whole new direction the company has ventured towards and it starts with the users that rely on these amazing devices day in and day out. One of my favourite quotes from CEO John Chen is “BlackBerry is driven by an urgent, obsessive focus on what matters: you. When we lose sight of what you want and you need, we lose you.” But it’s hard not to wonder if the company even knows who their users are.  We keep hearing about the Prosumer but we’ve yet to even have them define it for us. Who is this “you” he speaks of? Is it someone young? Is there a particular personality associated with the Prosumer? Is it connected to a certain lifestyle? The Leap was recently launched and we’ve discussed on Upstream that “it’s just not aimed at you (me)”. BlackBerry has been so focused on catering to the Enterprise and the parochial Prosumer that it’s failed to realize it’s alienating some of it’s most devout users, and maybe that’s the root of the issue.  They had shifted too far into the consumer space, but maybe they’ve now gotten lost in their own enterprise mindset.  As an existing user it’s hard not to feel that disconnect from the company.  I’m one of the biggest BlackBerry users and proponents in my social group, I use it because it works for me, but I’m always wondering in the back of my head whether I’m the so called Prosumer or not.

Focusing on enterprise isn’t an excuse.  It’s not an excuse for obscure developer relations, it’s not an excuse for neglecting those who stuck by you when you barely had any apps and it’s not an excuse for giving the cold shoulder to the consumer space and not providing essential end-user help tools and resources.  A company shouldn’t be characterized by the drumbeat of its own executive team or the outdated perception of a worn-out regime, it should be defined by the users and the paradigm shift they all represent when they reply to a message quicker, stay connected better, and constantly do it all on the move.  It’s a company culture that has long overstayed its welcome, one that has failed to keep up with the leading edge its very own products exude on a daily basis.  I didn’t build my BlackBerry, you did, so why don’t you get some pride and show me how to use it.


Brandon Orr

Author Brandon Orr

Professional Transportation Planner & Blackberry 10 Developer part of the open source BB team.

More posts by Brandon Orr
  • Christian

    Great Article Brandon. Thanks for putting all that work into BBM Meetings as I was one of the ones asking for a demonstration from the Berryflow/Crackberry team.

    I will play devil’s advocate and bring two points forward. 1) Those with Enterprise accounts with BlackBerry are getting one on one support coaching their CIOs to teach their organization how to use BB10. Not a reality when BB10 first came out, but I’m hoping its a priority under Chen’s reign.

    2) As “unintuitve” as BB10 may be, there are basically just 4. gestures for everything. Swipe right. Swipe left. Swipe up. Swipe down. They have intro videos for that when you power up the device. After that it looks like they took an Apple approach by saying “simple is better” and letting the user discover as they go. How many people have I met who own iPhones and only know how to call, text, facetime, and candycrush! These aren’t the “prosumers” BlackBerry can go after, as their purchases will always be emotional and brand driven. But Enterprises, they buy in bulk and get fleets of devices… Something tells me they get more support than the average Crackberrian.

    One day, we can hope though. One day.

  • Nene

    Excellent read. I think BlackBerry needs to change its culture and really focus on consumers. The obsession for Enterprise is very bad. Hope things change.

  • Muke

    This is something they should advertise that we the people are building these phones. It would go along way in ending the perception that the company is dead.

  • Merritt Cluff

    Great article. It all needs to be said and repeated. In these areas BlackBerry is a dead horse. I wonder why it is this way? I have used BlackBerry help many times and find it useful, but this does not help to realise what features are there. It’s like who all know that shift backspace actually deletes forward! How would anyone find out if not for forums like these? It goes on from there to apps like how to use file management, or the music player.. have you noticed 7digital and the music player don’t naturally work well together ?

    • Brandon Orr

      And yet I’m still learning apparently as I had no clue you could delete forward by holding shift delete!

    • Brandon Orr

      The latest music player is a bit more confusing than the previous 10.2 version yet there was not a single bit of help to get users acquainted with the new features. I bet many still don’t realize there are new EQ options!

  • Qaczy

    You have totally right! I learned many things by accident… For example short keys in QWERTY devices. It’s unbelievable useful and productive. Well it’s crucial adventage over touchscreen devices.

    • Brandon Orr

      And yet I’m still learning apparently as I had no clue you could do that!

    • Brandon Orr

      Sorry wrong comment previous one, but yes the shortcut keys on querty devices are a feature that makes using the device way more efficient and is a feature that is often unknown to many!

  • Anthon Jackman

    So very true my friend. I agree with all you said and hope that they take notice. I love my device and I can show most people why, but I fee they should asking, hey can you show me the hub? I saw it in on TV and it looked so cool. And then I go hell yeah check it out its awesome. But they have no clue how amazing this tool is that we hold dear to our hearts. And that’s sad.

  • 3_M4N

    I know that feel bro. This article mirrors my feelings exactly. As someone who purchased BBM Meetings, I was really surprised at the utter lack of any information on it. I ended up using a guide on BBCentral to figure out how to sign up.

    It’s like BlackBerry doesn’t realize that not everyone of their customers is a CIO or in charge of mobile IT at a company. Also they don’t seem to appreciate the vast learning curb that exists to understanding all the things you can actually do with these phones.

    Maybe it’s part of their business strategy to leave the how to’s to the fan sites. It’s one less expense for them, and allows them to focus more resources on other areas. It would just be nice if they just made that official policy though so that we wouldn’t have this feeling of disappointment when we can’t find what we’re looking for using BlackBerry directly.

    • Brandon Orr

      I’m sure that’s not what’s really going on at BlackBerry RE: one less expense, but it definitely is a sentiment you, I and others feel. I know based on my personal experience searchfor information on BBM meetings it would have a really hard time standing up in comparisons with other alternatives because there are just so many aspects of it that are unclear. Is it necessary for everyone to have a subscription? Or is it just the host that needs one? What feature differences or operational differences are there between different platforms like desktop, tablet, etc. It’s questions like these that have answers but are often too hard to decipher or pinpoint quickly currently.

  • Tali

    Great post. In my view, one of the reasons that the market shift to iOS/Android was quite so damaging for BlackBerry was that BB10 came out with little to no support from Thor (I thought his performance at the launch was a joke), very little advertising and very little feature promotion. The Hub and its ease-of-use should have been all over the TV. BYOD became a thing because the people using stuff at home (read Apple/Android) wanted to use it in work. By this time the battle, for BlackBerry, was broadly lost. The only way that is likely to change significantly, without that TV promotion (which, incidentally, I think is too late now anyway) is if people like us who use it and know how good it is, is to show other people how good it is too.

    One thing I did appreciate on buying my first Z was receiving follow-up emails from BBRY with how-to videos in. I’d worked most of them out myself but I’m reasonably technically aware; people like my wife (who we just bought a Leap, and really likes it), however, will benefit from them greatly. There just needs to be more of them, like a periodic training course. Once people get knowledge of the power of BB10, I think they will be hooked.

    (As a side note, I love to bait iOS users by showing them how much more productive my “underpowered and old” Z30 is than their latest toy. I tend to keep quiet about the camera though!)

    • Brandon Orr

      It’s MUCH easier to figure out the BlackBerry 10 OS nowadays than it was when I got mine FEB 2013. As you mention there’s more resources and more information about the devices out there but it’s still not easy for new users to fully grasp. The OS is inherently unintuitive at first sight if you’re coming from another OS, that’s just a reality. I love the gestures and all the things I’m able to do now without having to press a home or back button constantly but it’s a concept that needs to be easily conveyed to users. I still often meet people who use the text message and HUB shortcuts to access them instead of just swiping into the hub for all that stuff.

      I’d be interested to see your opinion on whether you think your wife would be able to figure out the hub and gestures and all those hallmark BlackBerry 10 concepts relatively quickly without your help.

  • Pat

    Learn from Apple! Provide full details for all updates big not small. This is ridiculous and frankly uncalled for.

    • Brandon Orr


  • Kevmobile

    Well said, Brandon. We know the frustration as consumers who freely choose BlackBerry. Imagine the impact on enterprise users who do not… they will not become BlackBerry evangelists, that’s for sure!

    • Brandon Orr

      There’s probably so many users who get BlackBerry devices for work and simply hate them because they don’t know how to use them or what they can do, I completely agree, it’s almost more important in that regard for enterprise. There’s a reason companies sometimes choose Iphone and it’s definitely not because they’re secure or the best device it’s probably because people like to use them or kknow how to use them.

  • Steve

    Round of applause!

    • Brandon Orr

      Thanks Steve :)

  • KPR

    Great article Brandon. Get this to John Chen and the Team at BlackBerry as soon as possible. Post it in their support blog, et al.

    The way to become a leader in this and any industry is to be constantly connected and engaged with your existing, potential and future customers regardless if they are Enterprise, Consumers, Prosumers or a mix of all.

    Great write and keep it up!

    • Brandon Orr

      Appreciate that KPR. BlackBerry has been slowly evolving over the years. The relatively recent advent of the public beta OS testing is one step in the right direction it’s just a matter of really mobilizing and effecting that change quicker NOW because it’s needed NOW.

  • Anthony

    It’s true. I meet so many people who know hardly anything about their device. Sometimes it’s painful, like when I mention “OS upgrade” and they say “what’s an OS”.

    • Brandon Orr

      Oh man haha one the things that truly ruins a moment. I completely understand where you’re coming from. But I’ll one up you and say that when I hear “what’s the HUB?”. I get sooooooo ticked off

    • James Nieves

      Omg… that’s unbearable.. *Operating system* said syllable by syllable *facepalm*

  • carlos ferreira

    Well said and hopefully they are evolving and forming these teams to do what we as blackberry advocates and teachers have been doing for a long time now.

    • Brandon Orr

      This is what I was trying to convey. They’ve already got a great OS and a plethora of great products but so many people just don’t know because they are never told about them. I personally thinks it’s a real shame there are BlackBerry 10 users that don’t know the full capabilities of their devices. I’m sure the benefit of educating them not only comes from empowering users and retaining them.

  • Mike Robinson

    I share your pain, Brandon! I listen to Upstream, read the forums at Crackberry and fix my wife’s and sister’s Q5 problems. Right now I’ve just been trying to find out what filesystem type is used on the micro-SD card, as I’m looking to download a 4.2GB HP patch file over WiFi – I only found a note telling me that it’s FAT32 as an aside on a support post. Nowhere else can I find the information: not on the phone, nor with the help of a search engine.

    • Anthony

      The format is ExFAT. Put your SD card into your desktop computer slot and view “Properties”.

    • Brandon Orr

      It’s not easy being the tech support in the family haha :p. But there’s a point where you realize half the stuff you’re showing people how to use should be stuff they learn anyway from using the device. But as I mentioned in the article you can’t completely blame them, it’s definitely a bit of both sides, convoluted and difficult to access documentation and technological illiteracy on the end-user’s end (my family and friends who don’t know and don’t care to search about their device)

  • J.Wilson

    I couldn’t agree more, Brandon. It frustrates me to no end how cryptic and closed BlackBerry can be. Especially when it comes to their app and OS updates — tell us *specifically* what the heck was added and fixed! Why do they continue with the vague marketingspeak summaries, forcing users to rely on the 3rd party forums or simply endless easter egg hunts through the OS? Stop hiding your light under a bushel, BlackBerry!

    • Brandon Orr

      This is the biggest complaint, that people don’t actually get any information when a new update notification pops up. Not even directed somewhere to read up on the update, such a missed opportunity.