What, No Instagram or Pandora? The BlackBerry App Problem

Tuesday, 5 Feb 2013 | 2:31 PM ET
Adam Jeffery | CNBC

It takes a tough crowd indeed to overlook 70,000 applications available for any given device. Yet that is what several BlackBerry watchers appear to be doing, honing in on how the absence of a handful of big players may cause potential headaches for the company's new smartphone.

For BlackBerry — formerly known as Research in Motion — the lack of key apps could spell problems for its new unit. In a world where functionality is an integral part of smartphone popularity, the new BlackBerry's fortunes are tied to how many developers it can attract to its platform.

For BlackBerry's critics, however, its problem is less about quantity than quality.The company does have some impressive names already on board, including Facebook, Twitter, Foursquare and Skype.

Yet conspicuously absent are Google Maps, a staple so important to smartphone users that a chastened Apple was forced to bring it back to its platform after briefly banishing it last year — and Instagram, Facebook's hugely popular photo software that boasts 90 million active monthly users.

(Read more: Apple's Messy Map Problem)

Analyze This: BlackBerry, Google & More
BlackBerry trades today under ticker BBRY. Tyler Vernon, Biltmore Capital, weighs in.

Crackberry.com, a news hub for BlackBerry loyalists,reported last week that the company and Facebook are preparing an Instagram app for the new operating system.

"It makes sense that they have the major social media apps,and without those it doesn't matter how great the hardware is," said David Tan,an assistant professor of strategy at Georgetown University's McDonough School of Business.

Still though, Tan said "There's a matter of what the phone operates, and what people are saying about the phone."

Because most digital junkies are accustomed to having a full complement of apps at their disposal, it could make it hard for BlackBerry to entice subscribers away from Samsung or Apple — and for retail salespeople to pitch the phone in stores.

"You don't want [missing apps] to be the reputation of a new product," Tan said.

Jennifer Fritzsche, senior analyst at Wells Fargo, pointed out in a recent CNBC interview that Pandora and Spotify — two of the most popular media apps — are absent.

(Watch Video: RIM Back to Slow Motion? )

For the company, "It becomes almost a 'chicken and egg' type thing in that…if the apps come, people probably will come."

(Read More: All the Reasons Blackberry 10 Will Fail: Analyst )

Some point out that Android powered smartphones didn't have every major app on offer when they were first released.

However, BlackBerry has the distinct disadvantage of trying to shed a Rodney Dangerfield image that caused it to hemorrhage market share to Apple and Samsung over the years.

That backdrop, analyst say, makes it tough for a new BlackBerry to hit the market without the same bells and whistles its competitors have — especially when U.S. customers won't be able to lay their hands on the new device until mid-March.

"Given that BlackBerry is trying to make a big splash in a heavily concentrated market…not being on parity with the other two major players is going to make it difficult," Tan said.

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