Blackberry uses iPhone’s “Bend-Gate” Controversy to Promote Passport

by Matt Klassen on September 25, 2014

Although bendable and flexible touchscreens will likely be part of the smartphone scene somewhere down the road, I’m pretty sure the “bend-gate” scandal now plaguing Apple’s newly released iPhone 6 wasn’t what anyone had in mind, as the phone’s new aluminum body is reportedly prone to bending when subject to the normal rigors of smartphone use. But where Apple’s new iPhone may crumple under pressure, Blackberry CEO John Chen is taking this opportunity to let the world know he is confident his firm’s newly released Passport will remain unbending, strong enough to handle the workloads of both your business and private lives.

Always one to use whatever his competitors give him for promotional fodder, Chen was quick to jump on Apple’s latest product mishap, using it as a soapbox to trumpet the wonders of the company’s square-shaped Passport smartphone. “I challenge you to bend the Passport,” Chen said at the company’s launch event for the device. Although Chen didn’t mention the iPhone by name, he really didn’t have to, as Apple’s iPhone 6 is currently the only unintentionally flexible smartphone on the market.

But given Apple’s overwhelming popularity and the fact that Blackberry has almost zero market presence, I have to say that while taking pot-shots at the popular kid is what wallflowers are want to do, it’s not likely to be terribly effective at attracting prospective customers. What may be successful, however, is the fact that Blackberry’s Passport is fundamentally a polarizing device, its square form factor eliciting love/hate reactions in the marketplace, and although some of those reactions are distinctly negative, that’s still a significant improvement on widespread the apathy the company has experienced for the last few years.

As CNET’s Roger Chen writes regarding Blackberry’s Passport, “The squat smartphone, with its 4.5-inch square display and unique triple row of physical keys, is eye-catching. But whether the unorthodox look provokes sincere curiosity or snarky derision will depend on the individual.”

There’s a saying in marketing that no press is bad press, meaning that regardless of the reason for exposure, just having your name out there is positive, its gets people talking about you and your brand. It seems that such an approach is central to Blackberry’s marketing strategy with its newly released Passport, as its clear that people will quickly take sides as to whether they love the device or hate it, but at least the Passport is garnering some sort of response, which again is better than the pervasive apathy the market has shown the last several generations of Blackberry products.

As part of generating a buzz around the Passport, Blackberry was quick to jump on Apple’s recent bending iPhone controversy, as in addition to Apple’s inability to handle an enterprise workload iPhone users are now confronted with the reality that their beloved new Apple product is hardly able to stand up to the regular rigors of a smartphone either.

While I have to chuckle about Apple’s new unintentionally bendable iPhone 6, I have to think that this controversy will do little to actually help Blackberry, as unlike the enterprise market–one swayed by considerations of security, functionality, and durability– the mobile consumer market is considerably more undiscerning, with no memory for problems like this and often swayed by hype and flashy gimmicks…although come to think of it, that is all we’ve seen from the Passport so far as well.

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Written by: Matt Klassen. Follow by: RSS, Twitter, Facebook, or YouTube.

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