Anyone with access to popular media or an onternet connection would have born witness to the massive growth the BlackBerry brand has experienced worldwide over the past two years. BlackBerry smartphones have quickly become less of a luxury and more of a necessity to those who use these devices internationally.
This is a trend which has been particularly noticeable in South Africa, where the smartphone market has experienced significant growth since the advent of Apple’s iPhone several years ago.
Recently we at TechSmart sat down with BlackBerry regional head for South Africa, Deon Liebenberg, to discuss the brand’s local success and the way forward for the platform.
Growth in SA
Liebenberg acknowledged that the BlackBerry brand and the smartphone market in general has experienced significant growth in South Africa in recent years, and added that emphasis must now be put on educating the masses as to the benefits behind smartphone adoption.
“Smartphones are growing rapidly in South Africa, and we at BlackBerry are all about education”
In addition, Liebenberg added that consumers should be weary of which brands and platforms they opt for when choosing a smartphone.
“Anyone who upgrades their contract and doesn’t choose a smartphone with a clearly upgradeable download path for the operating system is shortsighted in my opinion” commented Liebenberg, who added that BlackBerry’s incoming BlackBerry 6 operating system will offer a number of improved features including advanced browsing capabilities and better social networking integration.
“Competition will no longer be about brands, rather about platforms” added Liebenberg, who believes that the BlackBerry platform is well poised to dominate the smartphone market within the coming years.
In response to the rapid local growth which the BlackBerry brand has experienced recently, Liebenberg confirmed BlackBerry holding company Research in Motion (RIM) is hard at work ensuring that partner operators MTN, Vodacom and now also Cell C, are able to provide BlackBerry users in South Africa with ample connectivity and bandwidth allocation so as to make sure consumers get the most out of their monthly BlackBerry Internet Service (BIS) packages.
Liebenberg did however concede that South Africa has been “piggybacking on the EU and the US” with regards to application development and that “not enough local development goes on in South Africa”.
To address this, RIM has now deployed a team of developers which will design applications specifically aimed at the South African market. In addition to this, BlackBerry App World 2 now offers Mastercard and Visa payment options in Rand denominations for local users.
Liebenberg also added that RIM would be bringing the BlakBerry Developers Forum roadshow to South Africa for the first time to highlight the company’s dedication to the local application market.
Nonetheless, Liebenberg stressed that South African BlackBerry users have access to a large library of applications and that more locally targeted versions are on their way.
Liebenberg also confirmed that BlackBerry would be introducing two new handsets to the South African market, namely the BlackBerry Curve 3G and the BlackBerry Pearl 3G. BlackBerry’s OS 6 is due to launch with the recently announced Torch slider, which currently has no confirmed local release date.
Liebenberg could not be pressed into revealing more about the much rumoured ‘BlackPad’, RIM’s supposed entry to the tablet market.