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News  11, Sep 2012

Is the Philippines the next Blackberry Nation?

BlackBerry is on the decline in its former flagship American and European markets. But the embattled smartphone platform has seen a new niche in emerging markets, where cheap, unlimited messaging can be perfect for families, friends and entrepreneurs.

Research-in-Motion’s BlackBerry was formerly the de-facto standard in enterprise mobile communications. Because of the centralized control that the BlackBerry Enterprise Server (BES) offers, IT departments preferred the platform in its mobile deployments.

But that changed when Apple and Google entered the smartphone game. Now, business users are a mix of iPhone and Android fans, thanks to Bring-Your-Own-Device setups in the workplace. Even so, BlackBerry now seems to have found its new niche in the consumer class.

BlackBerry is the #1 smartphone brand in Indonesia, which is actually considered “BlackBerry nation” due to the popularity of the platform in the country. With BlackBerry Internet Service (BIS) subscription going for as low as US$14 per month, users can enjoy unlimited BlackBerry Messaging (BBM), email, instant messaging and social networking. The trend is similar in other emerging economies like India and Thailand, where cheap BlackBerry handsets are also becoming increasingly popular among mobile users.

Cheap handsets and plans

We can see the same BlackBerry trend in the Philippines, too. While Android and the iPhone are popular choices for both enthusiasts and first-time smartphone users alike, carriers have introduced inexpensive BlackBerry handsets and likewise cheap monthly plans.

For example, Globe offers the BlackBerry Curve 8520 handset for PhP 6,990 (US$ 168) as a prepaid kit. The cheapest BBM-only prepaid plan goes for PhP 99 per month (US$ 2.38). Messaging or social plans are at PhP 299 per month (US$ 7.20), while a full-fledged BIS plan with mobile web, email, chat and social apps cost PhP 599 monthly (US$ 14.40), good for both prepaid and contract plans.

With the Philippines considered to be the “texting capital of the world,” even the cheapest BlackBerry plan is good enough for endless chatting with friends, relatives and colleagues.

The cheap plans and handsets could also be an excellent means for entrepreneurs and startup colleagues to communicate with each other, especially considering that the flat fee applies to messaging to any BlackBerry user in the world. Users can essentially save on international messaging fees.

The question is whether the trend will stay on. The Next Web reports that Indonesian carriers are introducing unlimited cross-platform messaging plans for as low as US$ 3 per month, which can eat into BlackBerry usage. Perhaps the clincher here is how RIM will hold on to its newfound position as an entry-level player. With the potential market in the Philippines being a huge one, RIM had better position itself squarely against feature phones rather than smartphones in the mid-range and high-end of the market.

Featured Image Credits: Globe

J. Angelo Racoma

J. Angelo Racoma

A technology and automotive journalist with an interest in emerging standards, J. Angelo Racoma has written extensively about mobile, social media, enterprise apps and startups. Angelo has been active in online media since the early blogging and social networking days, and is co-founder at WorkSmartr, a small outsourcing platform for freelancers.

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