We had a late lunch at the Circles in Shangri-la with representatives of Research in Motion (RIM) from Singapore yesterday and they briefly discussed with us their current standing in the Philippine smartphone market.
They also brought with them a handful of BlackBerry Playbook tablets and the Bold 9900 which they couldn’t actually (read: officially) show to us (they say it’s still premature). We’ve already finished our review of the BB Playbook here and we actually had some hands-on time with the Bold 9900 in Singapore back in June.
It was also an opportunity for us to throw them some questions (the really hard ones).
Here are some tidbits of our discussion yesterday:
1) RIM has over 800 retailers carrying the BlackBerry handsets in the country on top of the carriers that bundle them with plans.
2) They also have nine (9) BlackBerry Expert Centers (mostly Metro Manila, Davao and Cebu) where you can go to have your handsets serviced, updated or warrantied. They also offer temporary replacement units for handsets that needs to be repaired so you can still use your BBM while waiting for the unit to be fixed.
3) RIM is now offering 24 months warranty on all devices (handsets only), the first and only extended warranty on any commercial smartphone in the country.
4) According to a recent survey by GfK, the BlackBerry Curve 8520 is the top-selling smarpthone in the Philippines. This could be due to the fact that all carriers are offering the handset for free with a corresponding postpaid plan.
5) RIM now has a total user-base in excess of 100,000 smartphones in the Philippines (based on activation, they actually said it’s in the 6 figures but would not say exactly how many). They have over 3 million user-base in Indonesia so our numbers are still relatively small.
6) They have Novare as a (local partner) development company doing app and content development for BlackBerry. We should be seeing some really local apps from BlackBerry App World soon.
7) Most importantly (and I’ve stressed this in my review of the Playbook), Android Apps will soon be available in the Playbook.
As for the Philippine office, RIM does not have anything concrete about putting up one in the Philippines. In fact, they’ve just recently opened one in Indonesia (the BlackBerry country) so I’m guessing it might take a while before they open one here as well.
As for more affordable BlackBerry Internet Service, they’ve partly disclosed that they are coming up with some pretty attractive plans with unlimited offerings (probably a combo of calls, text and BIS) for a monthly fee of only Php999. We’ll just have to wait for it but our guess is that it will be thru Sun Cellular.
As for the local release of the BlackBerry Bold Touch 9900, they could not say anything solid but promised it should be out in the Philippines before December 2011.
RIM obviously wants more and is hoping for a bigger smartphone market in the Philippines. They certainly have a very respected brand (almost aspirational devices too) and have great exposure with executives and showbiz personalities so they certainly have a shot making the Philippines their next BlackBerry country, after Indonesia.