IPhone Vs. BlackBerry: Marketers Win Either Way

According to Gartner's recent publication "Market Share: Smartphones, Worldwide, 1Q08," the BlackBerry led U,S. market share with 42% of the market. Only one year after the initial release of the iPhone, Apple climbed to the second slot with 20% of the U.S. smartphone market. As these two juggernauts fight for control of the smartphone market, email has become the primary battleground.

In a nutshell, the race is between Apple's ability to get backend support up to speed with the BlackBerry Enterprise Server and RIM's ability to get user experience up to par with the iPhone. With momentum from last year already on Apple's side, will last week's presentation by Steve Jobs at the WWDC 2008 conference mark the beginning of RIM's fall from glory?

In terms of functionality, the new Apple 3G launch is focused on addressing three "challenges":

1) Speed - addressed through 3G network support from which the new phone derives its' name.
2) Enterprise support - addressed through Exchange ActiveSync which provides simple setup and integration with MS Exchange
3) Third-party applications - addressed through the SDK platform

While considerable noise has been made about the speed and announcement of a third-party application store, the big thing for email marketers is Apple's second priority -- the one right behind speed. If you have any question about the strategic value of email, just consider where Apple is focusing their attention-email. With the inclusion of Exchange ActiveSync and rollout of an enterprise test program to 35% of the Fortune 500, Apple has identified their key focus in the war on RIM.

This should not be a surprise, BlackBerry is the clear leader in the business smartphone market. iPhone has quickly become the favorite in the consumer segment. The question has been who will break the mold and clearly own both markets. RIM's introduction of the BlackBerry Pearl and BlackBerry Curve to the consumer market has been considered successful, especially by Wall Street. However, everyone knows that the email experience is subpar compared to traditional email clients. Apple has consistently touted the superiority of iPhone for email and web browsing, but has not had compelling enterprise support for business users. Now the company claims that integration into the most common enterprise email platform will be "Apple easy."

So, can RIM respond? The email experience of RIM's new BlackBerry Bold is rumored to have improved. For now, we need to wait and see. If it is not significantly improved, Apple will quickly own the domestic smartphone market. RIM clearly understands the stakes of this fight and is expected to respond well. We want the company to fight back strong in order to continue driving rapid improvements in mobile email functionality.

What does this mean for email marketers?

Rendering email on mobile devices is a challenge. Those emails we work so hard to make beautiful on a traditional computer simply look and act terribly on most mobile devices. Despite any number of best practices identified and articulated for minimizing rendering problems (such as Pivotal Veracity's tips on Mobile Email and MarketingSherpa's tips for BlackBerrys for mobile email there are no altogether satisfying solutions. Contrarily, the iPhone does provide a satisfying solution-with support of rich HTML and viewing attachments, the email experience is relatively consistent with the traditional mail client experience.

iPhone's improved email user experience is phenomenal news for email marketers and rumors that RIM is responding with improvements of its own provide hope that we are nearing the end of the dark days of mobile email. A recent Pew Internet study found that 39% of respondents had gotten a new cell phone within the past year. If this is consistent from year-to-year, the average person gets a new mobile phone every two and a half years -- logically in line given most phone service contracts last two to three years. At this rate, the significant majority of smartphones should support rich email experiences within the next two years. Gone will be the days of "mobile email" as we have come to despise it.

In the meantime, we still need to consider the mobile email landscape. U.S. marketers should leveraging tools to preview email on BlackBerry, Windows Mobile and Palm OS. International senders need to test Symbian as well. However, these are stop-gap measures for a dark time. The war is on and email marketers stand to benefit



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