Will a BlackBerry Makeover Boost Sales?

BlackBerry maker RIM has just bought The Astonishing Tribe–a pretty radical bunch. Will a refresh to BlackBerry’s UI help the smartphone stay relevant?



BlackBerry maker RIM has just bought design team The Astonishing Tribe–a pretty radical bunch of interface designers. But will a high-tech TAT refresh to BlackBerry’s UI help the smartphone’s future?

The Astonishing Tribe is a Sweden-based design group that mainly works in user interface design. The company styles itself as “the future of screens,” noting that they “combine design and technology to define tomorrow’s visual experiences.” Back in October the firm was chosen by Fujitsu to help design the UI of a “ground breaking dual screen mobile phone.” In September, TAT unveiled a video of a next-generation smartphone user interface concept that went viral. Check it out:

So will TAT’s expertise actually reinvigorate the BlackBerry? Since the iPhone changed the smartphone game, RIM’s user experience has seemed increasingly ancient. BlackBerry OS didn’t seem to have evolved at all, its UI easily outclassed by iOS, Android and WebOS. RIM realized this, albeit belatedly, and BlackBerry OS6–used in their latest phones–is a step up of sorts.

OS redesigns are a hot topic at the moment. Microsoft also realized its grip had slipped on the cutting edge, and the new Windows Phone 7 OS incorporated a radical, text-heavy, eye-friendly user interface that has  garnerered some positive reviews. RIM seems to be hoping TAT’s expertise will result in a similar OS makeover for its smartphones and upcoming PlayBook tablet. A TAT-led BlackBerry OS could incorporate innovations as crowd-pleasing as Microsoft’s dynamic app icons. 


That won’t necessarily attract people back to the BlackBerry platform. The entire brand needs a makeover if the trend towards iPhones and Androids is to be reversed. BlackBerrys lack the pizazz of Apple’s products. If TAT’s team works on the company brand, and on the design of the phones themselves (which still look utilitarian) that may help matters. Could you ever bring yourself to think of BlackBerrys as “sexy”?

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