Imagine for a moment that you are part of the company that virtually coined the term “smartphone.” Up until about a year ago you were leading the pack – producing iconic, instantly identifiable products that graced the hands of A-listers and Fortune 500 business leaders.
In just a few months, all of this falls apart and you find yourself struggling to stay afloat. Your competition races past you in market share, your stock plummets, your new products are met with widespread disdain and, as if that wasn’t bad enough, your brand is attached to headline criminal riots in the UK. What do you do now?
Logically, you offer an extremely limited-edition status-symbol version of your flagship product at a price that makes it ludicrously out-of-reach for the average consumer.
No points for guessing that we’re talking about Research In Motion, the recently ill-fated BlackBerry manufacturer. However, we will award bonus points if you’ve heard of the BlackBerry P9981, a joint project by RIM and Porsche Design.
The P9981 (aka R4 Porsche Knight) comes with a $2,000 price tag, and almost seems worth it at first glance. This BlackBerry is covered with stainless steel and black leather, has an extremely thin and flat profile, and a keyboard and trackball almost completely unlike the iconic BlackBerry controls (although not as unlike RIM’s other recent Bold models).
The style has elicited the full range of comments from smartphone fans, ranging from “fugly” to “innovative.” The most common reaction has been along the lines of, “At least RIM is trying something new.”
The P9981 has a uniquely designed operating system – but no, it’s not the much-touted (and recently litigious) BBx OS, it’s just a special-edition skin for the BB7 operating system. Nor is this phone any more (or less) of a performance model than the other vehicles in the new BlackBerry Bold 9900 garage: single-core 1.2GHz CPU, 768MB RAM, and 8GB built in with a MicroSD slot for another 32GBs.
The touch screen offers a nice 640×480 resolution, but the BlackBerry form factor puts the screen size well below what cutting-edge smartphone users have come to expect. The 5MP camera (rear only) is also not going to make the grade if you’re looking for top-of-the-line photo or video quality these days. While you do get near-field communication for shopping and file transferring ease, you give up any chance of 3G and 4G LTE speeds and no hotspot option.
So all-in-all, what we have with the Porsche Knight edition is a unique-looking smartphone that will please an extremely small subset of people: those who absolutely adore BlackBerrys and/or Porsche enough to spend $2,000 in order to show off a phone that is (or will soon be) behind the curve in nearly every way.
To be fair, there is still a hardcore CrackBerry fanbase that is more than willing to point out why RIM devices are better than Apple or Android phones, and a few of these points actually make sense. However, if you’re the type of person that can part with $2,000 for a phone, you’re not going to be motivated by that kind of pragmatism anyway.