Google the phrase, “iPhone vs. BlackBerry” and you’ll be presented with upwards of 150 million results. What makes this blog post unique? Well, I’m taller than most of the people who wrote those other comparisons, so that’s one thing. More importantly, this post outlines a more real-world approach versus a play-by-play comparison between Apple and RIM (maker of Blackberry).
So is it time to hit the Apple store and swap your keyboard for the touchscreen? The iPhone is certainly sleek, elegant and almost mocks you and the old-school “corporate” Blackberry in your hand, as if taunting you saying, “You still using that thing?”
This blog was a blast to write because during the time I put it together, the hits kept on coming related to the topic. The timing was classic. I had literally a half dozen calls from clients and friends recently asking what they should do because their old Berry was lost, dead or they were just plain craving the iPhone (as well as worried that RIM was dead). Their tone was cautious but hopeful that I would tell them to go get the iPhone, but they knew better. Their logic centers knew that move was probably not the best decision for them, but they just wanted the thing! A few days later, word on the street was flowing that RIM was all but dead, and the world was finally writing them off as road-kill.
Don’t Believe the Hype
Estimates have the Blackberry subscriber base at roughly 75 million users globally, and in some markets they dominate. Blackberry isn’t disappearing, which is a key point in this discussion. Then there’s “BES” – Blackberry Enterprise Server – in short, it’s the corporate software solution to phone (mobile device) management in terms of email, messaging, security, and deployment. It’s got serious traction and also isn’t going away any time soon. This isn’t to say that RIM won’t be here in 20 years (and Apple may not be either), but don’t make your decision because you think RIM is dead.
Make your decision based on how you use the device, your preferences and what works best for your specific situation.
Don’t Hate the Players, Hate the Game
Quite honestly, both phones have a long way to go before reaching a point where I would be thrilled to get a new cell phone. We’ve all been there – your device dies, falls in a toilet, or you leave it on an airplane. And migrating to a new (or replacement) cell phone is a pain (the word “dread” comes to mind). Today, you have only two choices if considering the best phones available.
Wait, I hear some of you yelling out “Droid!” as a third option (you probably own Google stock, right?) – forget it. I won’t even get into it, but for now let’s just all agree that Droid isn’t an option for a serious business user. We’ll save any discussion for an e-mail exchange (you can contact me here). Droid isn’t a true player in the business market as I see it -- it’s a consumer device.
It’s a two player game today, and one that feels like Apple has already crushed RIM and will continue doing so moving forward. But don’t let that affect your decision. As I said, RIM isn’t going anywhere and their technology is still far superior to Apple’s when it comes to e-mail / messaging, keyboard, battery life, security and being supported in the large-scale corporate environment. Enough said. We still have the two players to choose from and I know the Holy Grail (that would be the iPhone) is so sleek and cool that just looking at one makes some people’s palms sweat. But again, this is not the reason to get an iPhone.
Making a Quick Decision
Quick notes on the iPhone and Blackberry: If you love the Blackberry keyboard, don’t even consider an iPhone. If you love longer battery life and being able to swap batteries to keep your day going, forget the iPhone (remember you can’t flip open the back case and replace the battery on an iPhone so you’re either looking for a power outlet or using a 3rd party device that plugs into the base connector in order to get more juice). You love apps? There’s no comparison here as the Blackberry is pathetic in this area. And the same goes for browsing the web, a major advantage for iPhone.
So how do you use and need your smartphone to work? If you’re like me, you’re all about messaging with a touch of web browsing required – and Blackberry is clutch there. The iPhone keyboard makes you want to chuck it against a wall unless you love the single finger typing and speed doesn’t matter.
Also, I must mention that if you have flexibility in when you would like to upgrade your phone, then consider what’s coming soon. Rumors on the iPhone 5 have it jumping in your hands by end of summer or into fall (let’s go with end of 4Q to be safe – and remember don’t be the guinea pig – let it get seasoned for 2 or 3 months, minimum) with a larger screen (4.2 or 4.3 inches), a serious leap in performance (download speeds up to 21Mbps) and seriously slick 960x540-pixel qHD touch screen (simply means the new touch screen will be spectacular). Word also has it that the iPhone will include 1GB of RAM (that’s memory for the device to run apps, etc. – not storage – and again kicks up the performance compared to the iPhone 4s) and a new voice-control system known as the “Assistant”, basically taking “Siri” to a much more usable level and making it more of a truly effective feature (Siri is more of a fun distraction than anything else on the iPhone 4s – for more info check out the Review of Apple’s Siri on Mashable.com)
The Blackberry on the other hand is releasing a new operating system (BlackBerry 7.1 OS) which is major for them, as well as a new block of devices. But, as will probably always be the case for Blackberry, it’s not nearly as exciting or popular to read about as the iPhone. What I’m looking for from Blackberry first and foremost (hey, I can dream) is better performance and a more efficient operating system (their version 6.x operating system was sloppy and slow). I would also like a bit larger keyboard as far as the individual keys and less “angle” when it comes to the tactile feel of the keys. I prefer the flat face on the older devices to the newer style, but Blackberry isn’t going to bring back the old classics like that wonderful keyboard and the infamous "push wheel", so I’m not even crossing my fingers. You think these companies will ever be smart enough to “go custom” and think like Nike (build your own sneaker) and allow us to “Build Your Own Blackberry” online – and pay extra to get exactly what we want? Blackberry has the ability, the corporate following, and the know-how to make this a reality – but do they have the guts to do it? No way.
The Pad-Berry Solution
So what was my own solution? Simple, I went the Pad-Berry route which is an iPad along with my Blackberry and then my wife gets the iPhone (kid gets the iTouch). Now I must make it clear that our firm develops mobile apps, so I need all of the Apple products. But I think it’s safe to say even without that factor, my decision would have been unaffected.
Performance is key when it comes to typing, and the decision for me from a business standpoint is a no-brainer – Blackberry all the way. It’s not about glitz, sleekness and trying to impress the neighbors – it’s about performance and ROI (investment being my time). The keyboard and battery limitation kills any chance of the iPhone being my primary device for business. For many others, the iPhone is a better choice – and that’s the key – go with what works best for your needs. Sounds simple but for many people the lure of the iPhone overpowers them. Also, remember that you can actually get a physical keyboard for the iPhone – one that’s built into the case – so there are options out there many people aren’t aware of when it comes to going with Apple if your decision comes down to one factor that may be easily addressed by a 3rd party add-on.
Also, the major feature missing from both Blackberry and iPhone is LTE support – and if you need more speed when it comes to Internet bandwidth, that’s a huge short-coming to both devices. So if you’re waiting to make the move to a new phone or model – definitely wait until you can get LTE service (again, I recommend Verizon because no carrier comes close to their performance and coverage). You’ll be glad you did because 3G is pathetic, plain and simple. Also, if RIM can dig deep and deliver with their next new operating system, they’ll make a lot of people much more satisfied with their devices. It’s not a given, but with their backs up against the wall, hopefully their best will come through.
The iPhone and Blackberry both still need lots of work to be what they should be, and I still think the world needs what I call the “generic black box” phone that is lightning fast with a rock solid operating system, phenomenal battery life and a black and white screen. Basic web browsing would be a plus, but as long as there was a phone that covered the core messaging, and lasted a true 3-4 days in battery life, never dragged, crashed or got in my way, well I’d use that phone for the rest of my life. Blackberry was the closest I ever came to such a device back when their old “wheel” was king. But now, 95% of the features on the phones these days are overkill and stats show that most people just want reliable messaging and phone service first and foremost.
So do what you need to do, and forget the hype when it comes to making the decision. Dance with the one that works best for you.
For some additional info, here are some excellent feature comparisons:
iPhone vs. BlackBerry: A mobile device comparison - Sophos
Good-bye iPhone, hello (again) BlackBerry - Review on CNET.com
BlackBerry vs Apple: Which is better for business users?
Disclaimer: As a side note, I’m long Apple and have no holdings in RIM.