Following AT&T's revised smartphone data plans, Research In Motion made an announcement of its own. RIM claims that because BlackBerries are "significantly more efficient than other mobile platforms," most BlackBerry users should be able to take advantage of AT&T's lowest data plan. Of course, RIM has missed the point entirely.RIM has always bragged about the efficiency of its products. For as long as I can remember, co-CEO Mike Lazaridis has trumpeted BlackBerry battery life, and focused on it as one of the most critical factors when designing new handsets. Further, the company has to to incredible lengths to make sure its mobile email systems are as data efficient as possible. There's nothing wrong with this, it is a good thing, and surely makes RIM's wireless network operator partners very happy.
Citing a Consumer Reports article, RIM said in an email to me today, "BlackBerry consumers use about 54MB of (compressed/optimized) data per month on average (compared to data usage averages that are 3-5 times higher for other brands), which suggests that the large majority of BlackBerry consumers will now qualify to use the $15/month data plan."
OK, perhaps that is fair. But Consumer Reports goes out of its way to indicate that these numbers apply only to consumers -- a.k.a., non-business -- users. The report doesn't say anything about enterprise BlackBerry customers, which represent a significant chunk of RIM's installed base of users.
Beyond that oversight, RIM is forgetting that perhaps one reason why BlackBerry customers are frugal data users is because browsing the web from a BlackBerry is a miserable experience. Sure, "the BlackBerry platform is significantly more efficient than other mobile platforms," but that's because it doesn't offer nearly the same mobile web experience that its competitors do. In fact, one of the reasons people are abandoning RIM for the iPhone and Android is because those other platforms offer a richer experience. RIM has been hammered for having a weak web browser and in response has committed to adopting the same browser tech used by Apple and Google in the iPhone and Android platforms.
How much data will BlackBerry users consume with the new WebKit-based browser? Will ti still be as efficient? Will customers still be able to squeeze in with just 200MB of data?