Second BlackBerry e-mail outage in a week rankles users

BlackBerry users were left without e-mail on their handsets for more than nine hours late Tuesday -- the second time the service has been interrupted in a week -- leading some analysts to question whether customers might begin canceling.

During the interruption, message delivery was delayed or intermittent in North and South America. Phone and text services were unaffected.

The exact reason the popular wireless e-mail service stopped working is “currently under review,” but Research in Motion, the Canadian company that makes the BlackBerry, said in a statement that the problem may have stemmed from a flaw in two recently released versions of its BlackBerry Messenger application software.

The company, known as RIM, said it was providing a new version of BlackBerry Messenger and encouraged anyone who downloaded or upgraded BlackBerry Messenger after Dec. 14 to upgrade to the latest version.

RIM apologized to its customers for the disruption, but that didn’t stop BlackBerry users from blasting the company on social networking sites like Twitter.

“My Internet is still not working so . . . BOO!” read one tweet. Another suggested a change of service altogether: “I might just have to switch from a BlackBerry to iPhone. I hate to say it.”

The outcry was unusual, said Jeff Kagan, a telecommunications analyst. RIM has developed a “cult-like following” with many of its customers, he said.

“I don’t see customers canceling service yet, but if outages continue that may start to happen,” Kagan said. “Every year or two, RIM suffers an outage. So far it hasn’t hurt them too bad.”

RIM experienced major outages in April 2007 and February 2008. And last Thursday, BlackBerry customers in North America experienced e-mail delays.

“This is the second outage,” Kagan said. “Customers listened to reports of the first and put a notch in their mind. Now there is a second outage and customers put another notch in the mind and pay more attention.”