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A Land Where the BlackBerry Still Thrives

Research in Motion, the Waterloo, Ontario, company that makes BlackBerrys, has been hemorrhaging market share in North America. But a blog reader named Jon Markman, a  lawyer living in Washington, D.C., has discovered a land where the BlackBerry still dominates:

I wanted to send along an interesting thing I noticed on a recent trip to the Dominican Republic to visit my in-laws.

In the past when I’ve been there, I’ve noticed that everyone uses a BlackBerry; my wife and I were the only people I’d ever seen using anything else (other than a “dumb” phone, but those are pretty rare these days everywhere!). I figured it was only a matter of time; trends and technology seem to often lag a little when making it to the island. Given that BlackBerry has fading for years, I thought, soon it would fade there, too.

But this time, I noticed the same thing, despite tons of advertisements for Android phones on billboards around Santo Domingo (the capital). If anything, the number of BlackBerrys seemed to have increased, and I still saw no one with some other kind of smartphone. I mentioned this to my brother-in-law, and he had an interesting reason: in the D.R., unlimited texting is almost non-existent, whereas in the U.S. it has become commonplace. What this means is that BlackBerry’s competitive advantage in the instant-communications department (with their BlackBerry Messenger application) is significantly greater there than here; the odds are that you don’t have unlimited texting and your recipient doesn’t, so sending a text will cost you both money, whereas if you both have BlackBerrys, the BBM is free. It also creates a barrier to entry for a competitor; if everyone else has a BlackBerry, you’re going to get one, too, rather than hope that you can convince them all to download some kind of third-party instant messaging app that works with your phone, too. And, finally, it seems to me, it creates a cyclical effect; with BlackBerry so dominant, there doesn’t seem to be the same demand for unlimited texting, which means the carriers don’t offer them, leading to a reinforcement of the above.

For the record, I have no idea why unlimited texting plans are not common there (other than the cyclical point above); as far as I can tell, the network quality is the same as here (one of the main companies there, Claro, used to be a subsidiary of Verizon), and given the number of malls with expensive American and European brands, I can assure you that there are plenty of people with disposable income!

I tried to think of other examples where this kind of thing happens, but I couldn’t think of a good analogous situation. I thought it was very interesting and wanted to pass it along!

What do you all have to add?