The topic of this post seems to be an exact inverse of what most people are talking about now a days. Especially, in the United States – everyone is talking about how the iPhone is going to take over the lucrative (and till now, largely elusive) corporate enterprise market.
Most points are very fair. For most user, the iPhone as a device presents a vastly superior overall experience to anything that BlackBerry currently offers. Its build quality is better than anything that BlackBerry produces (even though, BlackBerrys are built like tanks – they just dont feel classy). The UI cannot be compared. Not even to the BlackBerry OS 6.0. I just recently upgraded to BlackBerry OS 6.0 on my Sprint Bold 9650 – and while its a huge improvement to OS 5.0, it is still often laggy, vastly unpolished and generally doesn’t present that integrated user experience that the iPhone does with iOS. And perhaps most importantly, while web browsing has improved with the new webkit based browser, it doesn’t hold a candle to the Safari mobile experience (On my 9650, while I can resize any page, I dont have a “column view” which is equivalent to the double tapping action on Safari mobile – where the page is automatically resized to a text size with no lateral “play”)
BlackBerry Apps are for the most part vastly inferior to iOS based apps (there are some notable exceptions – Poynt, Pandora etc.)
But all that being said, I wont give up my BlackBerry in a hurry. Or possibly ever. Why? Here goes.
Reason 1 – Communication capabilities: Beyond all the tertiary activities that we currently indulge with our phones, communication remains the most important to me. And no other platform, bar none, has the integrated email capabilities that the BlackBerry does. What do I specifically mean by it. Seamless integration to enterprise and personal email. No “retrieving” emails – as I often had to do on my Microsoft Activesync on my Windows Mobile platform. No more “Send / Receive” that one often has to do on every other mobile platform. (e.g., on the iPhone, you often open Mail and then see emails syncing). No such issues with BlackBerry. Emails reach your handset often before it reaches your desktop. Without fail. And the Unified Message folder is a great help.
Reason 2– BlackBerry Messenger (BBM): Absolute best instant messaging platform in the world period. I use BBM to keep in touch with my colleagues all over the world, practically on every continent. And I don’t pay an extra dime for it. I am not sure I can give up the BBM ever – simply because then I lose the ability to keep in touch with my friends so effectively. Yes, yes, you can use Google Talk – but it kills the battery life to leave it on all the time. And you cant tell if someone read your messages or not (almost real time) as you can on BBM.
Reason 3 – Hardware Keyboard: I remember reading a BlackBerry newspaper commercial. It had a picture of the iconic BlackBerry keyboard and it talked about how much RIM had finagled with typing habits to come up with the best mobile keyboard. I couldnt agree more. Nothing I have encountered can replace the ease and satisfaction of typing on a BlackBerry keyboard (think the Macbook Pro or the ThinkPad keyboard and compare that experience to typing on, say a Dell laptop keyboard – you’ll know what I mean).
Reason 4 – Battery Life / Phone capabilities: Much has been said about the iPhone’s antenna design. Or weak speakers and battery life on some Android based phones. I love my BlackBerry because I can do the basic things that a phone was meant for very effectively. I believe that other than Nokia, RIM makes the best mobile phones in the industry. My BlackBerries have had solid performance as phones and absolutely class leading battery life. I am often on conference calls on my mobile phone and it is not acceptable to me to have 10 people on a call and either a) drop a call or b) have my battery run out because its my third 2 hour conference call during a busy day. BlackBerry delivers. Consistently and without frills. And there are no competitors in this department from any other provider.
Reason 5 – The OS – This is often an underestimated aspect of selecting a smartphone. Consumers often select a smartphone based on the features it offers. Not much thought is given to the stability of the platform itself. For those of us who have ever used Windows Mobile know what it means. Blackberry OS, in all its versions – 5.0 and 6.0 are rock solid. What I mean by that is that it just works. It takes a little getting used to. But once you get the hang of the OS – using the BB OS is a joy. It just works. Common tasks are easy to accomplish. Calls require one button press. So do checking emails. And you very seldom need to restart the phone. Overall, an absolute plus compared to most mobile OS.
And finally, Reason 6 – ATT: Currently, the only device that I would even consider replacing my BlackBerry with would be the iPhone. In the United States, that’s with ATT (and maybe with Verizon, soon). ATT is a non-starter for me – no matter how good the device is for obvious reasons. However, maybe its just me – but I am against being locked into a carrier to further fiduciary interests of Apple. And BlackBerry is commoditized enough to be available on every carrier, including my fantastic carrier, Sprint.
I realize that this point of view may not be for everyone. Certainly seems contrarian to the prevailing direction of the industry. However, as things stand now, I don’t think giving up BlackBerry would ever be a option for me. Especially (and hopefully), as RIM gets its act together and improves on the quality of its hardware and UI. The more I think about it rationally, I realize I only browse a handful of sites on my phone. So while not optimal, I can live with BlackBerry’s browser. However, what I cant let go is the BlackBerry’s communication capabilities, its solid phone credentials, the freedom that I have to pretty much move to every carrier in the United States. And finally, for a road warrior like me, the ability to have dual mode phones (CDMA / GSM) for my business travels outside the United States.
So BlackBerry head I am destined to remain, atleast for a while.