What to make of RIM losing the top smartphone position in Canada

Team Canada Bold 9700
By Chris Umiastowski on 22 Mar 2012 04:26 pm EDT

My friend Hugo Miller, over at Bloomberg wrote this well-balanced article on RIM. The crux of the article is that RIM can't claim the top vendor status for smartphones in Canada anymore. According to IDC and Bloomberg data, Apple shipped 2.85 million units in Canada last year, while RIM shipped only 2.08 million units.

I have to admit that I love reading Hugo's articles because he's one of the journalists that works hard to get a good story. He presents the facts without kicking a company while they're down, as so many others seem to do.

While the headline of the story is clearly about RIM's loss of the top spot in Canada, there are some interesting data points that surprised me. For example, according to Interbrand's October 2011 ranking, RIM ranks 54th in a study of the world's top 100 brands. They're down only two positions from the year before. Only two positions? You'd think from all the horrible press RIM is getting that they wouldn't even make the top 100 anymore. Apparently that's not the case. Perhaps the fact that RIM is still growing its subscriber base (at a decent clip, too) is helping them remain one of the world's top brands.

The Bloomberg article also points out that RIM widely outsells Apple in Latin America and Middle East and Africa. And I do mean w-i-d-e-l-y outsells Apple. I'm as big of an Apple fan as the next guy (and it's my biggest stock holding), but I feel pretty good about RIM's position of being the affordable player in lower income markets.

Anyway, back to the topic of Canada. Should we really be surprised that RIM is no longer then #1 smartphone brand in the great white north?

Honestly, I don't think it should surprise anyone. Data from GfK shows that RIM was also the #1 smartphone brand in the UK for 2011. Much like Canada, the UK is a wealthy country with reasonably adequate carrier competition and pricing.

Right now, RIM does not have the portfolio of products (devices, software, and the supporting ecosystem) to justify owning the #1 position. We all know that 2012 is a critical year for this company as they rebuild their relevance and aim to recapture some of the lost market share.

It wouldn't surprise me if the next study shows that RIM isn't the #1 player in the UK, but if they can actually hold onto that position throughout 2012 I'll be impressed.

In other markets, like Indonesian and Venezuela, cost is a priority. I think RIM will hang onto its top spot just fine. But first world countries? We should not be surprised by reports that RIM isn't #1.

RIM doesn't need to be #1 to succeed as a company, as a brand, or as an investment.

Reader comments

What to make of RIM losing the top smartphone position in Canada


I think so too. Despite all the bad press and many missteps the company has many loyal fans, including myself. Lets hope BB10 will be as good as the prototype phone in the next news.

RIM has been promising revolutionary new operating systems for so long that nobody believes them and nobody cares anymore.

Too many followers in the world. Look at all the smartphones. Apple aren't the best on paper. People just follow too much now. Think for yourself.

People need to think for themselves. When did we switch to asking others to make choices for us? We need to think for ourselves, decide for ourselves, make our own choices and not have others tell us what the heck to do either.

Agreed! I will say that as far as my phone goes, BlackBerry is not for me... right now. I had a Storm2 for years. The screen broke and I tried an Android for a couple of months and it sucked. When the Bold 9900 came out I rode it for a couple of weeks, but too much was missing so I switched to an iPhone. When BB10 rolls out, I will be taking a serious look and make a decision based on my needs at that time. As for tablets, my time is split between my new iPad and the Playbook depending on my immediate needs at the time. We have to make educated guesses and do what is right for us individually. Blackberry always has a special place in my heart and I am really pulling for them this year.

People are thinking for themselves, deciding for themselves and making thier own choices. Problem is, they arent chosing Blackberry.

Yeah, they all chose to think different. The only problem is, they AREN'T thinking for themselves, they just go along with the other drones. How many people that have "smartphones" actually use them past texting and playing Angry Birds?

As a Canadian I am more sad than shocked. Your right it doesnt have to be #1 to be successful but it should be at least in its home country. I hope things will turn around. I can't stand this mindless love for apple products.

Agreed! Apple is materialistic and superficial.. We should do and believe in what we do.. #DO WHAT YOU LOVE

I'm just sick and tired of reading every possible positive thing from articles like that. Stop trying to defend a failed brand.

I have a BlackBerry and I love but PLEASE do not attempt to sell me on a BlackBerry. We're WAYYYYYYYYY far behind on so many levels.

The reason why we're good in developing countries is not because the BlackBerry phone is amazing, it is because people cannot afford any better. Better yet, they don't know what features an Android or an iPhone has for them to choose from.

Just lay it out as it is and stop BS your way to make a bad news look good. There's nothing good in what you wrote. We're a lost, hopeless case.

I'm just waiting for the new set of products to come out, if they don't wow me like they're supposed I'm out. I've been loyal to BlackBerry and RIM since day one, and I don't, absolutely not see the reason why I should continue.


[If you want to jump on me, go ahead, just please be constructive]

"We're WAYYYYYYYYY far behind on so many levels."

I agree specially against Android. After seeing what is available on Andriod, I don't see how RIM can compete against Samsung and HTC given that these two companies are always fighting to create the latest and greatest device. For example, Samsung releases the Galaxy Nexus then HTC releases the One X. This constant leap frogging by these two companies makes it difficult for RIM and even Apple to create a top tier device.

I'm not going to jump on you as I happen to agree with a lot of what you have said. RIM has been and is substantially behind other products on the market. When one sees the capabilities on other products and then returns to their BB, its hard not to think of BB has antiquated and out-of-date. Even basic components such as media playing - videos, music, etc., are hampered on a BB.

I hope that BB10 truly is as revolutionary as RIM says. I truly hope that their phones are sleek, sexy, powerful, and capable. I hope I never have to see an hourglass again. I hope that I never have to reboot - and wait 15+ minutes - the phone every flip'n time an app is installed or uninstalled. I hope that so-called features are actually available in the phone at launch - missing the wifi hotspot capabilities on the so-called flagship phone were an embarrassment.

In short, I truly hope that RIM manages to release a product that actually can compete with the big boys.

I wouldn't go as far as a failed brand. Currently failing yes but has failed no. they still have a product that works for millions of people. you are correct, RIM is waaay behind in so many levels, it'll be corrected soon enough. maybe not soon enough for millions but other millions are patient enough to be loyal.

BlackBerry has its issues but "failed brand"? Honestly, BB is growing their WW user base. You may say it is because people can't afford better phones but I disagree. Besides what is wrong with giving people good value without price fixing.
Anyway, I can afford any phone in the market today and I still got the Bold 9930 on day one. I love it. I got the Playbook from day one and love it.

very simple, build a device that can surf the web and have an app selection that people want. BB7 was a big improvement, apps aren't where they need to be.
If PlayBook is any indication then BB10 will have the best web browser but they need the apps.

like shlooky said, it was inevitable given the momentum Apple has plus all the negative press RIM has gotten over the past 12 months didn't help their reputation, there's a lot of false information being spread you only need to visit some tech websites to see it.

they'll be fine, selling phones and making money, whether they will be number 1 again is another matter but it's not the most important issue, build solid devices and the sales/profits will come.

Right, because coming out with an untested OS on a whole new line of phones would make a lot more sense than getting the bugs out first in tablet form, not to mention introducing developers to the new OS.

If you think that RIM can survive on making phones alone in today's mobile market, you are sorely mistaken. The Ecosystem is the key to success right now, it is all about content.

Apple was able to scream into the mobile phone market riding on the back of the ipod and its developed ecosystem and has ever since evolved all of its products around that.

Rim could create the best spec phone out there by a mile, but if there is no content to take advantage of those specs, nobody will buy it.

The playbook is essential to compete, because the competing ecosystems also have tablets.

To be honest, it's not really surprising. I mean, how many of us buy products out of patriotism? Most consumers like to buy whatever they believe is the best on the market. Brand loyalty for the regular consumer doesn't matter either. I didn't expect Canadians to take to RIM any more than they did Apple because, to many people, it doesn't matter. I'm American, yet I use a BlackBerry (and love it!). To me, it didn't matter that RIM is Canadian and Apple, Google, and Microsoft were American, RIM's product was what I liked. I'm actually somewhat surprised that it took this long for RIM to lose that top spot.

They'll get it back with BlackBerry 10!

I am Canadian and Rim is Canadian company but honestly speaking i just like that small keyboard a lot and i find apps on phone screen useless. The only app that i ACTUALLY use on the phone like every day is the weather app. That is all. Playbook does everything else for me.

Why is RIM #1 ? Answer it comes down to cheap devices I.E. the curve! Take away the curve(usually the cheapest and in some cases subsidized by carriers) and what do you have not #1. BB10 has to have a WOW factor and the apps better start populating more quickly.

Not jumping on jinxednuance, but I think any claim that "we're a lost, hopeless case" kind of fails to take into account the current transition from the current product line to BB10. You might have looked deeply into that whole effort and judged it lacking. More likely, as with most who've written off RIM, you really have little idea what's going on there. In either case, it's pretty hard to claim it's "hopeless" when quite clearly many people do hope, and even believe, that it will make a very significant difference to RIM's future.

Hahahah, i told you since the launch of 9900 model. RIM is going down, down, down!!!
I sold my 9900, and moved to Android. Sorry RIM, you have to learn how to build mobile phones.

Mr. Azie is THE BEST EXAMPLE that there is hope for RIM and that RIM can come back. The guy (or girl) sold his BB 9900 and moved to Android. Yet he cannot make himself not to check on crackberry.com from time to time. :) I bet you that once BB10 is released he will sell his Android device and go back to RIM.

And that's why BB is going down the drain. BB fanboys stick their head in the sand and don't want to hear anyone else's opinion.

Really? Now all of RIM's problems come from their fans' supposed inabilities to listen to others' "opinions"?

Whatever, that's beside the point. Ok, what did he offer as an opinion? If you're going to come here and criticize the site's namesake (you are on a BlackBerry fan site), at least tell us why. He didn't offer anything besides letting us all know that he now uses an Android device. That's all.

A lot of people may also be waiting for BB10. My parents offered to get me a new phone for university (i'm in grade 12) whenever I want, But I just said I'm going to wait until the BB10 phone comes out because the current Blackberry's will be made very obsolete when they do.

I stick with RIM because I'll hopefully work there one day, at least on co-op (going to waterloo eng.) so i do have a brand loyalty to them.

Maybe they'll finally get serious about their positioning and it will dissolve the delusion clearly going on there at RIM.

OHMYGOD RIM IS DEAD!!!111!!!!!111!! iphone 10 the coolest appzzzzzz lols!!!11!!

No, seriously, BB10 with Cascades should be as good or better than ios. It is up to RIM to deliver to be on par with the competition.

In the meantime, I keep good productivity with my 9900.

I'm not quite sure why people hate on bb so much.. I love the current OS.. It's hands down the most efficient of the bunch and I've owned them all.. The "I need a tool not a toy" marketing is bang on.. I'm way more productive with my bb than other platforms..

I agree that RIM will continue to exist and grow as a company but only as a distant 3 or 4th place competitor. I really think that BB10 will NOT effectively compete against Apple's iPhone or the latest spec-monster created by either HTC or Samsung. RIM CANNOT continue to compete without a white knight. IMHO RIM needs to strategic alliance with say Samsung, HTC, and/or Amazon in order to remain competitive with IOS and Android.

Even though RIM remains strong over-seas, their current competitive advantage is not insurmountable by the competition. iPhone's will get cheaper and over-sea's networks will improve eliminating the need for data compression. Just my 2 cents.

Iphone will never get cheaper. Have you forgot that it is Apple that makes the phones. Apple needs its margins and Chinese factories cannot work any more efficient than now.

My upgrade is coming in April. I have the choice of:
1. BB 9930
2. Wait for new Iphone5
3. Wait for new Samung Galaxy 3
4. Wait for new HTC
5. Wait for BB10
For me, as much as some look, I'm waiting for BB10.

RIM is (was) a large chunk of my portfolio and is trading at under $14 right now. I truly hope this isn't a harbinger of things to come! But from a stock perspective, especially for those of us who got in a year or so ago, it would take a miracle to recoup what we've lost.

Here's hoping BB10 goes all "TebowLin" and pulls off an improbable comeback. By then I'll likely have the Xperia.

I'm just tired of restarting my bb after I upgrade an app. I'm tired of the freezing as well. There's a reason why they aren't #1 anymore!

I'm really hoping for RIM's sake that bb10 is great or Im just gonna go over to iOS/android like everyone else.

So, what you're asking is 'why do you need to restart your device after you install apps?' right? Because anything less would just plain prove ignorance.

The one that annoyed me was a tweet from TechCrunch that said something like "even in Canada nobody buys BlackBerry anymore". Nobody? A fairly-close second place is hardly nobody.

Question i don't get how Apple is #1 when this article is based on units shipped and not sold? I'm not trying to defend RIM or anything just trying to learn

Word on the street is blackberries suck, I'm from vancouver. Everybody ses iphones are flawless. I've given up defending blackberry just simply say mines perfect and I never have any problems

I think RIM should stop selling low end models in north america. From what I see 9 times out of 10 its somebody with a POS curve 9300 comparing to a brand new iphone 4s. People who don't use blackberries don't understand this and the idea that allll blackberries are crap spreads.

It's the kind of kick on the backside they needed for BB10. That said the PB recently outsold the last ipad for the first time anywhere in the world at a few outlets there so it suggests all is not lost - YET. But RIM have their work cut out.

As background, and to maybe give some perspective to my thoughts, I've been using BlackBerry since the 7200, then an 8300, 9700, and now 9900. Initially, there was nothing else, except for Windows Mobile 5 like HTC and the Palm Treo. A BlackBerry was a no-brainer, I even paid for third party BES so I could have Exchange sync. I've been a loyal BlackBerry user (and defender in many cases) for eight years.

But now... I am starting to feel like I use BlackBerry simple because I've always used BlackBerry.

I've ditched BES and use Gmail, but it's not the same. I can't even get proper IMAP to my email at work. Why should I have to pay extra for Exchange, when ActiveSync is supported out of the box on all the other platforms? Everybody else seems to have IMAP working, but BlackBerry can't get it working?

I do love my 9900, it's a wicked phone, I think it's the best BlackBerry made, I think it might even be the best communication handset on the market right now. I really like the on-handset software. I like the BlackBerry experience. But BIS is broken. Even the PlayBook has been a disappointment to me (the OS 2 release only cemented that for me, after 10 months it's still missing critical functions, like proper IMAP, memo and task sync to Exchange, ability to delete and archive gmail messages). I soldier on with the PB, but I'm starting to think I should have bought a Galaxy Tab 7 instead. I hope BB 10 is mind-blowing and comes to the PB.

BIS needs a serious upgrade to back up the great 9900 hardware. Paying extra for Exchange (BES)? It should be included in BIS. No proper IMAP in BIS? Partial googlemail support (no task sync)?

These are features that need to be included. They would go a long way towards shoring up the brand, and keeping the communication-centric users in more modern markets from ditching. The 9900 hardware is wonderful. I expect the newer phones to be released this fall will have great hardware too. But the architecture (backing) software is just lacking basic functions. There's no excuse for this.

I think it is things like this that have people in more modern markets like USA and Canada leaving for other devices. Of course they're leaving. They see the feature set of iOS and Android (not to mention the hardware is compelling), and then they look at their BlackBerry, and the decision is made.

If BB10 devices and software (on-device and BIS, if they even use BIS any more) aren't mind blowing, it might just be the end of RIM as a top tier smartphone vendor. I've been using their devices for eight years, but I fear the 9900 is my last BlackBerry. I want to be using a BlackBerry, if only for the on-device software which I love. But if the core feature set is lacking, then I'll be switching to an Android device with a physical keyboard.

And I suspect that's what happening with everybody else that's ditching the brand.

Its all about one word for me.… Security.

I love the piece of mind that brings. I dont need millions of apps. Here in the UK most phones are fashion accessories or status symbols NOT important and productive devices. I know of very few employees that use personal devices for work.

Personally I am sick of the posters who come here to slate RIM in a non constructive fashion.

@SIMS if your so tired of restarting your bb or of it freezing, change it or get over it. When your washing machine starts playing up are you going to go onto a hotpoint forum and cry about or just buy a mew one. If you genuinely have a problem go into the forums find a solution or ask for help.

@Azie You sold your 9900 and bought an android device. And..... RIM is 2nd place to Apple that makes your Android device 3rd place at best....... So your point is???

Just 2 comments that are irrelevant.

Now on the Flip side @theunknownuser....Great question, who is to say that Apple have sold those devices and not just quietly boxed them up and "shipped" them elsewhere. Can some one please explain how shipped unots amd not sold units is the measure of success in Canada?

Security? You are aware that RIM has opened up their servers to any government that asks, right? RIM security is a bad joke now. All it does is make boot times ridiculously long and create outages when RIM servers go down.

"You sold your 9900 and bought an android device. And..... RIM is 2nd place to Apple that makes your Android device 3rd place at best....... So your point is???"

Check out Comscore sometime.... Ever heard of it?

The actual market share is: Android>Apple>RIM>WindowsPhone

So it's actually opposite what you said.

here in Argentina people don't think of a BlackBerry when they think of an inexpensive smartphone. Even the 8520 sells at some $200 (US dollars) with a contract or $400 prepaid. The Curve 3G 9300 is at some $300 with a contract ($45/month, 18 months). The top of the line Bold 9900 is only available from one carrier and costs $640 with a $45/mo contract. Everything is expensive here due to the disproportionate customs taxes. But these things are no exception. The iPhone is not available here anymore and a top of the line Android terminal like the Galxy SII is slightly pricier than the Bold 9900.
But there are older Symbian S60 5th Edition terminals like the 5800 XM, the newer 5230 that sell for under $100 with a contract. And there are many cheap Android terminals for between $100 and $200 that someone in a budget would choose before getting the cheapest BB (the Curve 8520). Ant they easily outperform the RIM alternative, which doesn't even have 3G connectivity, GPS or a half-decent screen.
People here choose BB because it's still seen as a "real" smartphone (the cheap Androids and Symbian don't look like a serious tool), the association with business in people's minds, and because they want to chat with their friends on BBM or use the free browsing with a cheap contract.
I personally have a Nokia 5230 and if I were to get a BlackBerry I'd go for the 9900. The price difference isn't to big, and it's probably the only BB phone that can compete in specs with other current smartphones.

"My friend Hugo Miller, over at Bloomberg wrote this well-balanced article on RIM"

LOL, Haven't read this article, nor will I. I've read so many Hugo Miller articles in the past, and he's nothing but a RIM basher.

RIM understands their situation and they are taking a beating now because they preparing and analyzing the competiton. They already know that and just putting all of their effort in BBX..that's all it matters to them right now, complaining and hating won't do anybody any good at this point people..

While some serious users (me included) really love BB and like to take advantages of what BBs are to offer, the reality is the world has changed already, and RIM has been to slow in responding to the new-found needs/interests of the users in another (growing) sector, so it seems that the issues being addressed in this article is very inevitable, and I would say RIM's share in the countries where it's strong (e.g. Indonesia) can be quite fragile as long as the quality of carriers and the income of users continue to improve.

The only way to fight back? Slim down product lines a little, give the users something they can fall in love in the first sight, no matter what platforms they are using.

I'm sick and tired of the same debate going on. The only thing people are crying about are apps. It's not that serious. If you want apps go to another operating system. Apps are not what blackberry is about now, never was in the past, and won't be in the future. blackberry is struggling because it has the stigma of being the phone for the corporate workaholic and apple is the cool entrepreneur. It is what it is. I remember when blackberry had the success and buzz apple has now and at one time the t mobile sidekick was the thing to have. Apple is having their moment to shine. The hardcore apple users are starting to get bored and are trying windows phone and android. Eventually something new will come along and take apples spot. It's the circle of life. Last point... Give rim some credit. They are trying! They aren't sitting around twiddling their thumbs. It's tough to take on a powerhouse like apple especially when they have the young demographic. Developers dont even wanna think about making apps for blackberry for petes sake. Just appreciate what they are doing, have patience, and don't expect too much from bb10 so you're not disappointed. (please excuse all typos. I'm writing this on my ipad2 ironically lol)

Android market share surpassed Apple some time ago, do some research.

I do remember when BB was the hot thing, RIM took just a little to long to stand up and go to work after that and now have a lot of catching up to do.

Direct from Waterloo
I believe that there will always be a market for a device that excels at communication first.
Why would I hobble my work life, so that I can have a better experience watching videos on a 4" screen. Not going to happen.

That's a damn lie, whenever you hear rim bashing it means rim is doing very well, at the moment the PlayBook is outselling the ipad in every country that's why this news came out to cover the ihot embarrassment. Just under a month ago rim was on top in Canada,so what happened under a month?

i use to own a blackberry. then it finally hit me. they suck. so i moved on. you people trying to defend RiM and their smartphones are simply in denial. no one will be mad at u if you switch phones. no one will judge u if you like an android or iphone. stop lying to yourselves. RiM is done. then to make yourselves feel better you say lame things to like "fanboy, troll, yadda, yadda, yadda". its never too late to jump on the bandwagon.

Why is it hard for you to believe that I actually "like" my BlackBerry!? LOL I love this thing, not in denial, it just works for me. Used the others and to me, communication is more important than games on my phone. Plain and simple. If you like another platform, great, but don't assume that everyone using a BlackBerry is in "denial". You guys crack me up! Hahaha

I don't really get the "I am a blackberry fan" concept. I have 3 phones, I have a samsung galaxy s2 (for feature and performance), the curve 9360(for BBM) and HTC wildfire S (given to me by my employer after they dumped blackberry). I am originally from Nigeria so need the blackberry to keep in touch with my family back home via BBM as it is very popular there. Even though the wildfire S is half the price of the curve, it performs far better than the curve in ALL aspect, including the so called communication that RIM brags about.
RIM does not realise how fast the ship is sinking and want to take their time, while the competition just keep getting better by the minute. And I don't understand why the writer and a lot of people on this site keeps saying RIM does not need to be number 1 to be successful, its such a lame thing to say. Its only a matter of time before people in the developing work will cut them self loose of their BBM ties and realise they can get better for their money. Then RIM will be no more!
I never understood why RIM did not adopt Android or Windows phone as they will never be able to build the sort of apps community that will be needed to sell phones in the near future. Its taking to long to bring products to market cus RIM is taking on too much at a time!

What can I say that hasn't been said on this thread already?

Blackberry was an awesome phone a decade ago. Unfortunately for the company their leaders had no vision and wanted to remain in a technological dark age, "we have a keyboard". BFD. See where that lovely Keyboard got you. "We are for business tool", again BFD, other devices out there can do what a BB is able to do and MUCH more. News flash even execs need to relax now and then to a game of Angry Birds.

The 9930 came out and I was over my Android, I never really was impressed with iOS, I bought the 9930. Months later on a bet I traded with a phone for two weeks iPhone 4 for BB 9930. I went and bout an iPhone.

As for Canadians not wanting to support a local company, can you blame them? it's not about the Canadians, it's about RIM not keeping up with the times, RIM thought they had a product, even though numbers were speaking differently. I say their previous leaders were idiots that had absolutely no understanding of what the market wanted, they did not listen and this is what happens when you fail to listen to your customers.

If RIM wants their home country to carry BBs, give it to them pay for their service etc. Welcome to the capitalist world.

RIM is the next Nokia.. its far down the road of irrelevance. They have lost their consumer market share at a blazing rate and are now losing massive enterprise clients.

I do consulting for large enterprise clients and a few years ago I would have recommended RIM products as a mobility solution. These days there are virtually no benefits to deploying anything that RIM makes in an enterprise environment. Their software is mediocre at best -- not to mention that most IT managers want to avoid middleware at all costs. Microsoft's ActiveSync protocol on most newer exchange servers including 2010 and 2007 has close enough feature parity to BES where most companies don't see a need to maintain a BES infrastructure when they already have similar features with better phones.

Long story short, RIM's current business strategy is about as innovative as a pay phone. They need to step up. They need to start not only marketing to consumers but to Enterprise IT managers and CIO's -- I haven't recommended a RIM solution to mobility in 2 years and I have decommissioned around 20 different RIM environments in the same timeframe. Companies are more concerned with enabling their employees with phones they want to use as well as an infrastructure that doesn't cost a ransom to maintain. Look at all the large companies/govt agencies that are dumping RIM... they're not idiots, they're a good sign of things to come.