After iPhone's China Launch, Is BlackBerry Next?

Posted by: Bruce Einhorn on November 4, 2009

The China iPhone wait has ended, so now it’s time to obsess about another smartphone that’s pretty much missing in action in China, the BlackBerry. China Unicom launched its version of Apple’s iPhone over the weekend, with quite disappointing results. (See my colleague Olga Kharif’s blog here for more.) Now Research in Motion, which has a limited presence in the country through China Mobile, is hoping it has better luck. According to this Xinhua story, RIM has “entered into final stages of talks” with China Telecom, one of the country’s three state-owned operators.

China Mobile has offered BlackBerry to corporate customers since 2008. But China Mobile, the country’s largest carrier, is clearly interested in promoting its OPhone, smartphones powered by the Google-backed Android operating system. Since Beijing keeps a tight grip on the Chinese telecom market, RIM doesn’t have a lot of options. China Mobile is focused on its OPhones and China Unicom working with Apple. That leaves China Telecom. According to the Xinhua story, “the handset manufacturer plans to introduce more Blackberry mobile phone models to China, with trendy new functions such as touch screens and handwriting recognition, and install new services including fashion and entertainment, social networking software, and instant messaging.”

Given the underwhelming early performance of the iPhone, does RIM need to worry that Chinese will not rush to embrace the BlackBerry? Urban Chinese are some of the savviest cellular consumers around, frequently replacing their handsets, and they want the latest features at the lowest prices. One reason the iPhone isn’t a hit yet for Unicom, for instance, is the popularity of unauthorized iPhones that come loaded with more features than the legit ones offer. RIM won’t have to worry as much about competing with its own phones in the black or gray market, though. Strange as this might sound, RIM probably will find itself in a better position than Apple because the BlackBerry isn’t nearly as popular in China as the iPhone.

Reader Comments

trevelyan

November 4, 2009 2:32 PM

"RIM probably will find itself in a better position than Apple because the BlackBerry isn’t nearly as popular in China as the iPhone."

I think this is the right call. With jailbroken iPhones available for less than the cost of purchasing a more restricted (legitimate) one from Unicom, and the jailbroken ones supporting essentially free applications through software piracy, anyone who is doing the numbers is just going to buy on the local market.

That being said, why expect RIM to succeed where it (and its mainland competitors) have failed before? The business culture around email doesn't exist here that exists in the States. I'll bet on the oPhone. Or the iFeng. Or a commodity product with usable portable browsing. I don't think we've seen it yet.

--david

http://popupchinese.com

rob

November 4, 2009 4:02 PM

This is totally absurd. It should have been India that iPhone had been launched. India is the largest democracy in the world, only India can have iPhones, not China. We have the most creative and innovative economy with all the iPhones, mPhones, Blackberries, and Blueberries, not anyone else who do not have democracy and, mind you, it has to be our Hindu brand democracy. Jai Hind!

C. H. Ng

November 4, 2009 8:32 PM

@Rob: What's so special about your constant proclaimations of your country as the world's largest democratic nation where millions of her people are uneducated & even more living in slums?

You can blah blah for all you wish but when business is concerned, the people at Apple know very well where the priority is - China over India, if these 2 countries are concerned.

In fact where other nations are also involved, iphone has already even launched in a small country like mine (Malaysia). So can you imagine who is India in the eyes of the business people at Apple? They are not absurb; you are....with your stupid comments.

Downs

November 6, 2009 12:52 PM


To Rob:

This is totally absurd. It should have been India that iPhone had been launched. India is the largest democracy in the world, only India can have iPhones, not China. We have the most creative and innovative economy with all the iPhones, mPhones, Blackberries, and Blueberries, not anyone else who do not have democracy and, mind you, it has to be our Hindu brand democracy. Jai Hind!

----------------------------------------

Sorry to disappoint you, Rob. But when Apple design team came up with the ideas of iTouch or iPhone, they didn't actually take into account of your "Hindu brand democracy" (what's that anyway ?), the largest or the smallest whatsoever. Neither did RIM.I know, I know, you are just having a little fun with yourself. So no one would have to take you seriously.

Jai Hind (what's that anyway ?)

douniwan

November 6, 2009 11:26 PM

@Rob. Right on. Apple is nothing without India.

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