BlackBerry CEO: iPhone UI is obsolete

why iphone ad 2

Following Apple marketing boss Phil Schiller’s anti-Android comments on the eve of Galaxy S 4 launch and Apple’s new ‘Why iPhone’ web campaign, the CEO of BlackBerry has unsurprisingly launched a critique of Apple’s handset and its user interface, referring to the the fact that iOS now 5+ years old.

In his view, Apple is being out-innovated by others, right up to the point where the Cupertino company could get replaced “pretty quickly”. Of course, BlackBerry CEO Thorsten Heins, like every other handset vendor in the ferociously competitive mobile market, is really drumming up his own platform by arguing that the iPhone is an old hat. Be that as it may, I’d choose my words carefully if I were Heins.

The struggling handset maker’s market share and capitalization have all but evaporated because of the iPhone and now stand in the single-digit range and below the $8 billion mark, respectively. That’s how much investors thought the entire BlackBerry biz was worth Monday morning. Now, contrast Blackberry’s market cap to Apple’s first-quarter net profit of $13.06 billion

Here’s a nice quote, from a report by The Australian Financial Times:

History repeats itself again I guess… The rate of innovation is so high in our industry that if you don’t innovate at that speed you can be replaced pretty quickly.

The user interface on the iPhone, with all due respect for what this invention was all about is now five years old.

Nevertheless, he praised Apple for giving the wireless industry a good kick in the you-know-what.

Apple did a fantastic job in bringing touch devices to market … They did a fantastic job with the user interface, they are a design icon. There is a reason why they were so successful, and we actually have to admit this and respect that.

BlackBerry won’t compete with Apple on tablets, though.

Kudos to Apple, I think they really managed to own that space, so it doesn’t make sense for me to just take this head on.

I need to figure out, for my enterprise customers, for my consumers, for my BB10 audience, what can I do that provides them a mobile computing experience in the form factor of a tablet, which goes beyond just the puristic tablet experience.

He’ll need to do a lot of figuring out because Apple – and Android to a smaller extent – is taking over BlackBerry’s home turf – big corporations, governments and businesses – with three out of four corporate devices bearing the Apple logo.

According to IDC, the BlackBerry smartphone shipments fell 36.4 percent for a 4.6 percent market share. Heins also didn’t mince words concerning the BlackBerry platform, saying that with new BlackBerry phones now out in the wild, his company needs “to win it”.

He adds that the new BlackBerry devices out-innovate Apple with true multitasking, “meaning that users could work in the same fashion on their smartphone as they liked to on a laptop.”

IDC 2012 smartphone shipments

I’m unsure about mainstream users picking BlackBerrys over iPhones on multitasking alone.

BlackBerry has long been written off in my book. The company is struggling for relevancy and may end up being sold in parts to the likes of Microsoft and Oracle. His remarks about the iPhone’s user interface, however, do have (some) merits.

After all, Apple’s been refining the iOS UI without changing the fundamentals: the familiar home screen, the grid of icons, Notification Center alerts and so forth. Some Apple fans feel it’s time to change the user interface completely, but I disagree.

I’m fine with the iOS UI, as it is now.

It’s simple, straightforward and gets the job done more effectively. To me, iOS is about using your device almost without any thinking involved, which couldn’t be said about other mobile OSs – and I’ve been using pretty much every major mobile platform out there.

Android? Widgets? Customization?

Android Widgets

Android is an UI mess.

It needs lots of customizing because Google in its attempts to replicate the Apple experience has created a powerful platform, but also one not designed for ordinary folk. Android is awesome if you’re a hard-core geek, but everyday people seem to get lost in Android most of the time.

And as an owner of Android devices, I can’t escape the feeling that very few people love their Android gadgets and are actually very satisfied with them.

That’s not to say that iOS shouldn’t change – it should, if a number of tweaks popular with jailbreakers are anything to go by.

The hope here is that Apple won’t rush the changes through the door for change’s sake. Fortunately, iOS seems to be in good hands now that its architect, SVP Scott Forstall, is gone.

I’m fairly certain that with Jony Ive now in charge of Apple’s user interface experiences, we’re gonna see welcomed changes for the better without introducing radical departments to the years of muscle memory training.

What’s your opinion about Thorsten Heins’s iPhone-is-old-hat words?

And how would you change iOS?