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Students power BlackBerry growth

28 декабря 2009

Young people are becoming one of the largest sources of growth for BlackBerry, as students turn to the traditionally corporate devices to feed their instant messaging and texting needs.

BlackBerry’s sudden popularity on university campuses has taken many by surprise, with analysts sceptical that it could shed its close association with business executives.

New research by Mobile Youth consultancy found that 2 per cent of university students in the UK had a BlackBerry device.

Josh Dhaliwal of Mobile Youth said: “It’s quite a significant sum. That would have been zero a couple of years ago.”

In the survey of 1,000 students on November, Nokia was the most popular phone maker with a 30 per cent share, followed by Sony Ericsson with 27 per cent. BlackBerry still has some way to go to catch the market leaders but its growth is impressive given that smartphones are more expensive than traditional mobiles.

Carolina Milanesi, mobile analyst at Gartner research firm, saidL: “The perception of the [BlackBerry] device has shifted tremendously. Now you are seen as cool because you have a BlackBerry.”

While the iPhone steals most of the limelight for its web-browsing and multimedia functions, it is the BlackBerry’s full “qwerty” keyboard and strength in messaging that holds appeal for teenagers addicted to instant messaging and texting.

Research in Motion, the Canadian group that makes the handsets, has been pitching them to consumers as it faces saturation and increasing competition in its core market.

More than 80 per cent of BlackBerry’s new connections in its third quarter were from consumers, with more than half of its total subscribers now outside the corporate market. Some analysts are concerned that discounting and the perception of a move downmarket could hit RIM’s margins.

RIM’s market share among students has benefited from advertisements targeting consumers over business people and product placement , while celebrities have been spotted toting their product.

Rob Orr, RIM’s senior director of product management in Europe, the Middle East and Africa, said: “Most studies on the growth of the mobile internet point to social networking as being one of the biggest drivers – which is absolutely where BlackBerry’s key strength lies”.

Gartner says BlackBerry users have downloaded 4m instant messaging applications, including MSN and Yahoo’s messaging software.

Ms Milanesi says: “Qwerty [keyboards] started out for email use but has now become the IM, SMS addicts’ device of choice.

“Particularly in the US, that part of the market is growing faster than the smartphones.”

Alongside operator subsidies and cheaper data charges, the BlackBerry has also become more affordable for younger people, especially compared with the iPhone.

Ms Milanesi says: “Because of the recession, people have swapped SMS for calls because you are spending less money,”. BlackBerry’s built-in Messenger software is available for a flat fee and so does not eat into voice minutes or texting allowances.

Analysts say it still trails the iPhone in web browsing and media consumption. But in turn, other device makers have failed to capitalise on qwerty’s popularity.

While Nokia is marketing its E72 as a BlackBerry competitor, Sony Ericsson “completely missed this trend”, Ms Milanesi says.

Источник: Financial Times

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