One of the most overlooked segments of a handset’s life is the pre-production phase, because that is the time frame in which buzz and hype are built as information on the phone leaks out to the community. At a time where RIM truly needs the largely untapped consumer market to be on board with its new handsets, the BlackBerry Thunder is creating more negative rumblings than positive booms.
If you aren’t familiar with the BlackBerry Thunder, the Thunder is Blackberry’s big venture into the touchscreen market. With minimal function buttons, the Thunder’s entire premise is that it will be almost completely touchscreen-oriented with haptic feedback. Haptic feedback is all the rage, mainly because critics like to pick apart the iPhone’s shortcomings, so you would think that RIM’s first touchscreen should have a nice leg up on the competition.
That assumption is based on two premises: that RIM actually pulls off the haptic touchscreen correctly, and that the handset will not be another high-priced heavy-hitter directed at the corporate field.
The bad news for RIM is that development of the haptic touchscreen is not going well, to say the least. An inside source spilled the beans to the Boy Genius Report, saying that the haptic feedback and touchscreen is in complete disarray, and nowhere near production. The screen feeds back when it shouldn’t, flexes too far, and generally does not work. Not good for the pre-production hype stage.
The second factor, as previously mentioned, that can swing the Thunder’s vibes from bad to good or vice versa, is what price point the handset is established at. With the iPhone 3G completely dominating press for having an incredibly low new price for new users, competitors like Samsung are working with providers like Sprint to deliver high-end touchscreens for mere pennies (the Instinct is available for $129 with new contract at Best Buy).
RIM is infamous for having very pricy handsets. That is largely because most Blackberry users are corporate, and handsets tend to be subsidized to minimize adoption costs for buyers. That also means that for the every day street-walker, most Blackberrys just aren’t optimal.
If Blackberry intends to hit the mainstream consumer market, it will have to price this handset reasonably. No word has been given yet as to what kind of price point this handset will have, and for RIM, that isn’t good news. To compete with the iPhone, the Instinct, the Diamond and others, price will be the name of the game.