First of all, I’d like to introduce the mobile operators in China. As you may know, there are now three mobile operators in mainland China. The biggest is China Mobile, which owns TD-SCDMA found in UMTS networks in China. China Unicom is another, and it owns WCDMA and has recently launched the iPhone. The third is China telecom which owns CDMA2000.
BlackBerry is just beginning to become popular in China but there are still some major barriers. Many of my friends use a BlackBerry, but RIM has not established any retail outlets or simple means to buy their devices. Most of us get our Blackberry phones as smuggled goods or from friends abroad. China Mobile now offers BES (BlackBerry Enterprise Server) with the Blackberry 8700, but it comes at a very high price, about 398 RMB- 598 RMB/month ($60 to $85 USD). This is all going to change very soon. The latest news is that China Telecom have announced BIS support, and they are going to be shipping the BlackBerry Storm and Tour in the near future. China Mobile are also rumored to be releasing the BlackBerry Curve 8900 and Bold2 (not sure) soon. We have also heard from an official at China Unicom, who has confirmed they are in talks with RIM, so we will hopefully see some BlackBerry devices from them as well. Overall, China is going to see a big surge in devices around all of mainland China.
RIM have done a great job of being active in the developer and mobile community here in China. BlackBerry is present at almost every major event, and they have even attended one of the largest telecom industry events in China, P&T/EXPO COMM, for the past 4 years. This year, my company MMMOOO, was honored to join RIM at the event, where I took the photos you see in this post, as well as on my Flickr account. We are an official partner of BlackBerry China, and we expect it to be a long and fruitful relationship.
The apps that are going to be really popular in China are games, IM clients and utilities. There is a fairly serious pirating problem in China, so one might expect free apps to be more successful in this environment. Chinese consumers are gradually paying more for apps and just like in North America, this is going to have a positive impact for the developer community. My friends use mostly Gmail, Google Maps and QQ (a popular IM client in China). The big problem is that this is all the Chinese have access to. There is no Chinese version of Mobihand, nor is App World available.
Selling BlackBerry devices in China is not going to be a trivial matter. The BlackBerry QWERTY keyboard is very compatible with Chinese characters, and is a better typing experience than a 0-9 keypad. The input method does need some work though. I know that RIM are still developing a better input method for Chinese characters, and this will be an important hurdle for them to jump before BlackBerry can be a success in China.
I think the most important thing for RIM’s success in China is to be officially launched by all three operators. Right now, it’s far too difficult and expensive to get a BlackBerry and these official channels will make it much easier for the Chinese to become BlackBerry users. Here in China, we have all heard about BlackBerry. The news about the American President, Barack Obama, using a BlackBerry actually did a lot for spreading awareness of the device. Now we just need a way to purchase one.
There are also a lot of BlackBerry blogs in China such as BerryCN, Berrytime and Berrymail. These are very popular for Chinese BlackBerry fans, just like BlackBerry Cool and CrackBerry are for Europe and America.
Personally, I think BlackBerry has everything we need in terms of hardware. All it needs now is a better input method and more applications.
If there is anything else you’d like to know about BlackBerry in China, leave a comment!
ED NOTE: For more about BlackBerry around the world, see the following articles: