iPhone 6 vs. BlackBerry Passport: The Difference Is Fascinating

Rob Enderle
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Mobility: How It's Changing Our Lives

As I write, two iPhone/Apple problems are going viral. The first is now being called Bendgate and Bendghazi. The second doesn’t have a cute name yet; it relates to the latest iOS 8 update, which apparently has broken enough phones that it had to be pulled. This update had been rushed out to fix a group of problems with the initial 8.0 update, but created a different set of more annoying problems. If Apple were an IT company, we’d likely be chatting about how it was going out of business with this foolishness.

Conversely, BlackBerry launched its Passport phone this week with a steel frame, better antenna placement (no antenna gate), better battery life, better security, and a solid feature set focused on business. If I were to say that in a vacuum, in other words to someone who didn’t know Apple was dominant, they’d likely assume that BlackBerry was the market leader. That makes this a very strange market at the moment. Let’s contrast the two vendors’ approaches to the market with a focus on business this week. We are IT Business Edge, after all.

iPhone 6 and 6 Plus

Apple’s focus is on design, ease of use, and having the largest margin the market will bear. Its phones are like the popular person in school that you wanted to marry, then ran into at the reunion only to find they have a record number of marriages under their belt and haven’t aged well.

When you combine the primary goals of being attractive and inexpensive to build, you’ll make some ugly tradeoffs. That is what Apple did with the iPhone 6 and 6 Plus. To keep costs down and still have an attractive, light, skinny phone, it had to go all-aluminum, but aluminum isn’t very rigid. The phone, when placed in a back pocket in tight pants, is going to come out looking like the mirror image of your butt. The bigger the phone, the better the image, which is why mostly iPhone 6 Plus folks are complaining at the moment.

And focusing on getting the product out the door on time over getting the product right is what we saw with the latest iOS update. Apple made the date, but the offering wasn’t ready, creating a nasty set of problems for users of Apple products.

To make matters worse, all of this comes at about the same time researchers have showcased that the fingerprint reader on the iPhone 6 can be easily bypassed.

BlackBerry Passport

The BlackBerry Passport is the first product that really showcases BlackBerry’s new business-first strategy. If people want a phone like an iPhone, BlackBerry will wrap that phone with its secure messaging and management products. If they are professionals and want a phone designed for them, BlackBerry will build a phone that meets their unique needs; the software will be fully tested and the phone will be robust. On this last point, because the phone uses Android apps from the Amazon store, many of which haven’t been fully vetted for the BlackBerry platform, folks are reporting some minor problems, but this is far from the catastrophe Apple experienced at the same time.

The phone format is square, like a monitor, and now panoramic, like a movie screen. The frame is stainless steel, focused on strength, not aluminum, which is focused on weight and low cost. The antenna is optimally positioned and the phone is designed around that requirement; it’s not an afterthought that was forced in after the phone’s case was created. It has a physical keyboard with sensors (so you can swipe on it without blocking or smudging your screen) and a 25-hour battery because folks who work want this focus and are willing to give up the weight savings to get it. It is designed to be secure, which makes it a little harder to get into but far safer in use.

It takes time to become proficient with its unique user optimizations, like the dual-mode keyboard that has sensors so you can swipe on it and gain access to special efficiency features. But that also makes it less valuable to steal because it can be easily bricked by the user who owns the phone (or the IT department).

Most users don’t want to spend the time learning new ways of doing what they already do. But professionals will spend the time because they know their time is important and they are willing to spend time learning a specialized tool to get a competitive advantage and maybe give up some of the consumer stuff in exchange.

The BlackBerry is the person you met in school that you should have married because, while they weren’t the most attractive or popular, they were attractive enough and they always had your back.

Wrapping Up: Matching the Tool to the Professional

What BlackBerry is trying to do is create tools that professionals will uniquely want. The Passport is an example of that effort. It doesn’t even try to be an iPhone. Apple will always be better at building those and BlackBerry really isn’t a consumer-focused vendor. The contrast between the Passport and iPhone, particularly with the problems being reported this week, showcases Apple’s focus, and it isn’t on getting work done. The Passport showcases that this is BlackBerry’s focus.

In the end, both products showcase two things: some of the dangers of using a consumer product for business and that this isn’t a one-size-fits-all market. It never really was, despite Apple’s hope that it could convince us otherwise.

Rob Enderle is President and Principal Analyst of the Enderle Group, a forward-looking emerging technology advisory firm.  With over 30 years’ experience in emerging technologies, he has provided regional and global companies with guidance in how to better target customer needs; create new business opportunities; anticipate technology changes; select vendors and products; and present their products in the best possible light. Rob covers the technology industry broadly. Before founding the Enderle Group, Rob was the Senior Research Fellow for Forrester Research and the Giga Information Group, and held senior positions at IBM and ROLM. Follow Rob on Twitter @enderle, on Facebook and on Google+

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Add Comment      Leave a comment on this blog post
Sep 26, 2014 6:25 PM BillJ BillJ  says:
THANK YOU for writing a piece about the actual phone and not about how BlackBerry is sinking. Finding an article that talks about the phone rather than being a "journalism" piece which knocks it is quite difficult these days. With your article, you've hit the nail on the head: BlackBerry is not trying to be a consumer company, it's focus is on the Enterprise crowd and offering phones and software (i.e. BES 10) to support that crowd. BlackBerry might not sell millions of Passports but in the first day of online sales, it sold 200,000 units which isn't bad for a company that many would say died years ago. Reply
Sep 28, 2014 10:40 PM George Edwards George Edwards  says:
Is this an editorial? Written by someone with a financial interest in Blackberry? This is highly inaccurate junk. Consumer reports tested the iphone 6 and 6 plus, the latter testing stronger than the former. I've has a naked 6 since day one, works amazing. It's nice being able to use office 365 suite on my phone. Nice app selection that always work better. Reply
Oct 2, 2014 2:46 PM Bryan Bryan  says:
I have used Apple products for years. I swear by my iPhone 5s and I went ahead and purchased an iPhone 6. I was asked by a co-worker to try his BlackBerry Passport and immediately I realized that I had the product that I always wanted right in my hand. It's amazing how responsive the OS is and efficiency is second to none. I work full time and I receive tons of emails from clients and I have relied on iPhones to keep me going but as the author stated, BlackBerry is about business. I was blinded by Apple and failed to accept that every reiteration of the iPhone is as same as the previous one with a couple extra gimmicks. Apps? I have all that I need as I discovered that not only is there BlackBerry app world but I have access to the Amazon app store and the apps I installed work flawlessly. I was very much biased towards Apple and thought BlackBerry was dead but I was the one who was dead...dead wrong. BlackBerry you have hit a homerun with the Passport. Congratulations. I challenge any BlackBerry basher to pick up a BlackBerry 10 phone and give it a fair trial. You will not regret it. Reply
Oct 7, 2014 5:20 AM Johny Burns Johny Burns  says: in response to Bryan
Your comments sound exactly as the bots do it, or anybody who is associated with the company. Perfect Yelp experience. Bryan you have proved the George Edwards comment point. Reply
Oct 21, 2014 10:18 AM HalK HalK  says:
I have long been a Blackberry user and my persistence has paid dividends with the Passport. I don't need 47 Apps to find the closest restaurant on a business trip, I leave that advice to the people I meet with. I do need a device with which I can communicate and which professionally supports the work I do. The Passport is everything I need. Way to go, Blackberry. Reply
Oct 24, 2014 9:49 PM Stash Stash  says: in response to George Edwards
I was (and still am) an Apple appreciator, and used to tout the virtues in the Mac vs PC arguments when that was all the rage. Managed to convert quite a few colleagues over to the Mac side. Always loved Apple design, packaging, marketing and quality. However, as I matured, I also appreciated advances other manufacturers made, and appreciate that each has their strong points. I swore I'd never use a Blackberry again after BBOS 6 & 7, and I went Nokia, then Android. However, after researching the new BB10 before it launched, I had to eat my words and give it a try. This article is spot on !!! Apple QC is not what it once was, but their products are still awesome from a consumer standpoint. But BB10 definitely has it for serious communication and the Passport is tops for its purpose. Reply
Mar 3, 2015 3:40 AM Josua Josua  says: in response to Johny Burns
George Edwards and Johnny Burns? Are these pseudonyms by the same person. Reply

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