News Column

BlackBerry Users Want Their Keyboard Back

Mar 26, 2013
Blackberry Z10

Despite its high-profile launch in New York and a TV ad blitz during March Madness for a new smartphone, BlackBerry shares fell 7.7 percent, to $14.91, on Friday. The dip came amid reports of lackluster consumer reaction to the new phone.

Think having physical buttons on a smartphone isn't a big deal? Ask any supporter of BlackBerry.

With Friday's launch of the Z10 for AT&T (and Verizon and T-Mobile this week), the smartphone manufacturer marks a major shift in design, swapping its signature keyboard for a full touch-screen.

For some current BlackBerry owners such as Stacey Sanner of Seattle, the lack of buttons is a deal-breaker. "If I'm gonna go buttonless, I might as well go iPhone," says Sanner, who works as a writer and photographer. "I use a Mac and an iPad, so it's time they all talked to each other! This way, I can sync contacts and calendar, things people have been doing for years."

Mike Wilson, founder of a film and game production company in Austin, expressed interest in some Z10 features such as the upgraded camera, but remains hesitant.

"I think they did themselves in for good by going to touch-screen only," says Wilson. "Tactile buttons are absolutely, undeniably better for e-mail and text, and I think they could have kept a lot of their corporate army by just keeping that one thing."

BlackBerry has not abandoned the physical keyboard completely. The company is expected to launch its Q10 smartphone later this spring, incorporating both a touch-screen and keyboard.

Not every BlackBerry owner is turned off by a future of tapping and swiping screens. Social worker Jamie Hersh-White checked out the phones in Chicago and loves them. "I'm thinking of camping outside my Verizon store just so I can feel the excitement."

Grace Niu of Santa Monica, Calif., is sticking with her BlackBerry Bold but plans to look at the Z10 down the road, although it's ditched the keyboard. "I am a BlackBerry user, and I love my BlackBerry. It does what it's designed to do."

For many BlackBerry loyalists, this is their iPhone moment. At an AT&T store in Emeryville, Harvey Gee, 47, was buying a Z10 for his wife, who was at work. Gee said she was worried there would be "a run on them" and thought she should get one right away. "She's a BlackBerry fanatic, so she didn't even consider an iPhone," says Gee.

The AT&T store had just one customer, Gee, who said he walked right up. A nearby Apple Store, meanwhile, buzzed with activity as people tested iPhones, iPads, iPods and MacBooks.

Source: Copyright USA TODAY 2013

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