Web usage on Research In Motion (RIM) BlackBerrys accounts for just one per cent of mobile traffic data, representing a 25 per cent drop since September 2011. The figures come from online ad network Chitika following research into mobile market shares.
The decreasing popularity of BlackBerry smartphones, most significantly among consumers, is a likely explanation for the decline in web traffic, with data cited by Chitika suggesting BlackBerrys command only 4.8 per cent of the most recent quarterly market share for mobile phones. That represents the lowest portion of the market for RIM since 2009. Even so, a one per cent share of traffic by five per cent of smartphones suggests that BlackBerrys are used less for web surfing than they are for other functions, such as voice calls and emails, business usage being the only scenario in which BlackBerry devices continue to hold their own.
Indeed, it is entirely possible that core business and corporate users of BlackBerrys use their phone for making calls, but are switching to tablets or personal touch-screen phones, with their larger displays and easy-to-use interfaces, for web browsing.
The drop in web traffic from RIM devices may also be a result of the Canadian company's failure to take advantage of the growing popularity of tablets, with recent research by Computing suggesting that the BlackBerry PlayBook – RIM's only tablet – holds a tiny share of the market at significantly less than one per cent.
Computing recently surveyed 600 readers, asking which brand of smartphones or tablets they primarily used and whether their employers offer mobile devices.
Our research paints a slightly rosier picture for RIM, with 14 per cent of respondents citing BlackBerry as their primary smartphone, and with businesses most keen to offer a BlackBerry thanks to the security they provide and because of prior investment in the supporting infrastructure.
However, 50 per cent of BlackBerry users are unhappy with the limited selection of apps available, one of the factors that has been pushing them towards RIM's rivals, primarily Apple, Samsung and HTC.
Indeed, while internet use on BlackBerry has fallen in the past year, the Chikita figures suggest Apple's mobile web share has increased by 35 per cent, with 63 per cent of the mobile traffic originating with iPhones and iPads.
The degree of security intrinsic to BlackBerry remains its key attraction, but RIM needs to do something spectacular with the interface, applications and general desirabilty if it wishes to avoid becoming a peripheral figure in the mobile devices market.
Last week saw RIM reveal beta versions of new BlackBerry smartphones offering new features and touch-screen options as well as a new operating system and reworked web browser. But the release date for the new BlackBerry mobiles is not until 2013, allowing RIM's rivals several months to continue squeezing it out of the market in the meantime.
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