During the past few years, I've covered Research In Motion (RIM) and BlackBerry on CIO.com very closely. I am a BlackBerry user, by choice, but I've also been carrying an Android phone for a couple of years—I carry two phones almost everywhere I go, because my BlackBerry alone just doesn't cut it anymore.
Due to my BlackBerry-focus, I've become a bit of a defender of the (BlackBerry) people. But "BlackBerry fanboi" I am not; I always try to be unbiased in my coverage, and I don't pull punches when punches are what RIM—or any company, for that matter—deserves.
On the flip side, I'm not swayed by popular opinion, and I continue to use a BlackBerry because it is superior to any other device I've ever used for messaging, thanks to its keyboard, inbox features and notification system. (Again, I carry another phone, too, because BlackBerry is also inferior in many ways.) So a story published yesterday on NYTimes.com, entitled, "The BlackBerry as Black Sheep," (or if you check the post's URL, "BlackBerry Becomes a Source of Shame for Users," or the title tag "Quick, Hide the BlackBerry, It’s Too Uncool") is particularly amusing to me.
"The BlackBerry was once proudly carried by the high-powered and the elite, but those who still hold one today say the device has become a magnet for mockery and derision from those with iPhones and the latest Android phones."
Truth be told, this is completely accurate. Lots of folks do make fun of other people for using BlackBerrys. That's a fact. Another fact: Anyone who mocks or makes fun of someone based on their smartphone has some serious growing up to do.
This post really isn't meant to defend RIM or its BlackBerry devices. I'm more than a little frustrated with RIM right now, and I'm sick of waiting for it to release its BlackBerry 10 devices, which have already been delayed more than a reasonable number of times. I'm one of the BlackBerry faithful, and I'm losing faith.
But feeling shame about using a BlackBerry? Come on. If you don't want to use a BlackBerry, don't. Buy a new phone. Then you and your friends can all have the same phones and make fun of each other for not having the "coolest" cases or accessories.
One section of the New York Times post is particularly telling:
"Victoria Gossage, a 28-year-old hedge fund marketer, said she recently attended a work retreat at Piping Rock Club, an upscale country club in Locust Valley, N.Y., and asked the concierge for a phone charger. “First he said, ‘Sure.’ Then he saw my phone and — in this disgusted tone — said, ‘Oh no, no, not for that.’ ”
This passage is telling for two reasons: 1) It associates the My-phone-is-better-than-yours attitude with the type of people who frequent "upscale country clubs," i.e., the status-conscious elite who pay for access to exclusive social clubs and then look down on others who can't afford to or choose not to join. And 2), BlackBerrys have standard charging ports, so they can be powered up using the same chargers as any other devices with standard ports. Are Piping Rock Club members only allowed to charge iPhones, with proprietary ports? That must be a fun place to hang out.
Back to the headline of this blog post: When is it "cooler" to use a BlackBerry than, say, a shiny new iPhone 5 or trendy Samsung Galaxy S III? Well, when you're secure enough in yourself to choose the device, or devices, that best suits your needs, without concern for what anybody else thinks.
If that device is a BlackBerry than you're cooler than all your iPhone-toting friends who purchased their devices because Apple marketing convinced them it was cool. In reality, choosing a device based on what everybody is buying is decidedly "uncool."
Has RIM fallen behind other smartphone makers in some areas? Absolutely. But do people who choose to go against the grain and use the device they want deserve scorn? Absolutely not.
But haters are going to hate. (I'm looking at you, Brodkin.)
Image via Zazzle.co.uk