BlackBerry price too high for small business in South Australia

'We were looking for cheaper methods,' says UrbanVirons business support manager

UrbanVirons's plant control work in high places requires a rugged phone. Credit: UrbanVirons

UrbanVirons's plant control work in high places requires a rugged phone. Credit: UrbanVirons

An Adelaide business featured on the BlackBerry website has switched to Android phones to save money.

UrbanVirons is a horticultural company that has contracts with local governments and state departments across the state including Housing South Australia, the Department of Families and Communities, and the Department of Transport, Energy & Infrastructure. It has about 60 staff and does a variety of work including weed spraying, tree removal and garden maintenance.

About seven years ago, when BlackBerry was the most dominant smartphone maker, UrbanVirons deployed BlackBerry phones to about 50 employees, according to UrbanVirons business support manager, Merrilyn Hawkes.

The devices—Bold 9000 and Pearl 9320 smartphones—were brought in to support a mobile app by Telstra called Xora for tracking staff and the status of jobs.

The case study is still featured as an example of “customer success” on the BlackBerry website.

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However, while the company was satisfied with the BlackBerry phones themselves, the cost of the devices combined with the $50 per user per month BlackBerry Enterprise Server (BES) platform eventually became too high to keep, Hawkes told Computerworld Australia

“We found that BlackBerry was getting very expensive ... and we were looking for cheaper methods of doing it.”

By this point, Xora supported a variety of platforms besides BlackBerry, so UrbanVirons had a variety of devices to which to change. Xora is a Telstra service so the company had to stay on Telstra. Another key requirement was that the device was rugged and would not break in the field.

About 12 months ago, UrbanVirons began to trial a variety of new handsets, including models from Nokia and HTC, Hawkes said. The company immediately ruled out BlackBerry 10 devices because of the same high price, she said.

The company briefly considered a bring-your-own-device (BYOD) approach, but decided that it wouldn’t play well with Xora, Hawkes said.

“To run the Xora application, you actually need an ABN number, and it has to be linked to the business,” she said. In addition, the phone must be on the company's Telstra plan.

Last week, the company decided to go with Telstra Dave handsets, an Android-based phone that is dust- and shock-resistant and waterproof to one metre.

The phone was easy to use and the price was “fantastic,” said Hawkes.

She estimated that UrbanVirons is now paying half the amount it did on BlackBerry. That’s because of both the device cost and the fact that the Dave phones do not require BES, she said.

Follow Adam Bender on Twitter: @WatchAdam

Follow Computerworld Australia on Twitter: @ComputerworldAU, or take part in the Computerworld conversation on LinkedIn: Computerworld Australia

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