Blackberry Versus iPhone

by Matt Mecham on June 2, 2010

in Uncategorized

Don’t worry, this won’t be another one of those dull “Versus” blogs where I bore you with technical specs and the merits of a 3G connection over a 2MP camera. This blog is merely a reflection of my personal experience using both a Blackberry Bold 9700 and an iPhone. This is not meant to be a comprehensive phone review. I’ve never used an Android phone so I can’t share my experience with one.

For the past few years, I’ve clung to my Blackberry like a starving man to his fork. I purchased a 2G iPhone second hand to have a play with but couldn’t get along with the touch screen keyboard and missed a few features from my Blackberry such as copy and paste and the customisable text short cuts. Of course, the iPhone has had several OS updates since then.

Recently, the lure of the iApps has proved very compelling. I recently signed up with DailyBurn and they have two iPhone apps; one a mobile version of their site and the other a food barcode scanner which saves a lot of time when entering new foods. High street catalogue store Argos have recently released an iPhone application which is very useful and of course, we’ve recently released our own application.

The more I use the iPhone, the more I am growing to appreciate it. However, I do miss certain things from my Blackberry. The gap is closing and I’m drawn more and more to the iPhone. What follows is mere observation from my personal experience. It’s completely biased and utterly unscientific.

It would be unfair to both handsets to label the Blackberry as a “business” phone and the iPhone as a “fun” phone although it is true that Blackberry has more tools that appeal to corporate users and administrators and the iPhone is first and foremost a consumer device. Howerver there is some cross over.

Operating System
The Blackberry OS is ugly. There’s no getting away from that. It’s largely text based with a few icons on the front end. Even the recent 5.0 update brought little flair to the OS. Apple get interfaces and there’s no denying the iPhone OS is very slick. More so, because Apple holds the keys to its kingdom tightly, most apps look similar or act similarly whereas Blackberry applications are at the mercy of the developer.

Blackberry Desktop
The official Twitter app for Blackberry is nicely designed…
Twitter for Blackberry

…but not all apps are the same. This is “Bolt” an aftermarket browser
Bolt for Blackberry

You don’t quite get the same unified feel as you do with the iPhone.

A lot has to be said for Blackberry’s proper multitasking. I know this is a sore point for all iPhone owners and it will be partially addressed in OS 4.0. Right now, I can browse Twitter, open a link in the browser, go back into Twitter and carry on reading Tweets while the URL loads in the background. With the iPhone, when you exit the app, it closes down and stops doing whatever it was doing. Even OS 4.0 isn’t true multitasking as it allows the app to ‘pause’ rather than close.

Purchasing Apps
It’s undeniable that the App Store is the jewel in the iPhone’s crown. Blackberry recently launched something similar but it doesn’t quite have the same slick feel.
App World
It lets you browse applications where you can read reviews, look at screen shots and download and install them. You need to pay via PayPal which is built into the system.
You can list which apps you have installed and archive them to the memory card (and you will not be able to use them) or uninstall them.

There isn’t the range or depth that the iPhone enjoys. For example, the eBay app is limited to US customers only. There are a few third party eBay auction managers but they are poorly designed. Worth noting the eBay mobile site does work well, though.
ebay mobile site

Notifications and Alerts
This is one area that the Blackberry scores very highly. It has a very flexible notifications and alerts system. For those that aren’t aware, a Blackberry has a little led which flashes when you receive a notification (new BB message, SMS, email, etc). You can configure this to flash for specific notifications. A blinking LED may seem a little out of place on a modern handset but it’s a great way of telling if you have anything new to read without having to awaken the screen and check manually.
You set up notifications via profiles.
You select the type of notification you want to edit and then fine-tune it:
Profile Edit

Even better, you can specify certain contacts and numbers as ‘important’ and have them override the active profile:
Override profile

The usefulness is obvious, I don’t want my phone vibrating and beeping all day while working, but I do like to receive notification of any messages Debbie sends, so I can use the ‘silent’ profile and override her number so I get a beep when Debbie messages me. This is a very useful tool and one I miss from the iPhone.

Blackberry also scores points for its email system. It allows after-market manipulation. I have a spam filter installed which reduces the number of emails that get through. I know you can emulate this on the iPhone by using IMAP and syncing with the desktop but it’s not a complete solution – especially if you shut down your computer at night.
You can also choose to Mark all items as read, or just the day’s items from a drop down menu. Something I miss on the iPhone.
The Blackberry also has a “Catch-all” icon for email, SMS, BB Messenger, Facebook and Twitter notifications. I tend to use this more than the individual mail folders. This allows you to quickly review new items regardless of their origin.

This is obviously the iPhone’s strong point. The full length screen is built for browsing. The tiny Blackberry screen gets cramped quickly. The Blackberry browser is also very slow and cumbersome. I have Javascript switched off as it slows it down further. Some pages take upwards of 50 seconds to show even with a WiFi connection when JS is turned on. No such slow down with the iPhone.
Blackberry Browser

I rarely use SMS or MMS, so I won’t bother commenting on that apart to say that both Blackberry and the iPhone have threaded SMS messaging. Both platforms have various AIM, Skype and MSN clients that roughly perform the same functionality.
What I want to concentrate on here is the Blackberry Messenger. This is the one feature that I use the most on my phone. Most of my family here have a Blackberry and I have them all at my fingertips. The Blackberry Messenger relies on push notifications to instantly deliver messages to other devices. This allows picture, text and voice messages to be sent. What’s more, each message has a status indicator. When you send the message (hit enter), the text has a tick next to it. When it has been delivered across the network, this changes to a “d” and when the recipient has read the message, this changes to an “r”. This somewhat primitive system is very useful at letting one know that the recipient has received and read the message. The vagaries of mobile internet make it all too easy to lose confidence in instant messaging so having a real-time notification system is very handy.
Blackberry expanded on this to include “Groups”. A group allows one or more persons to become an “Admin” and invite other users into the group. There, they can group chat, share pictures with the group and more. This is handy for our family to share pictures and calendar events.
Blackberry Messenger
This feature is one of few reasons for me to keep my Blackberry in daily use. It would be very easy to say “But you can just use AIM or SMS” but I don’t think you can understand the convenience and usefulness of the messenger app unless you use it regularly. It’s literally part of the OS. Also, as it uses the push notification system, it does not count towards your bandwidth or SMS costs and it’s always available without having to sign in or out.

The closest iPhone app I can find is WhatsApp which is only let down by its price. I couldn’t force other family users to purchase the app to remain in close contact. I certainly don’t blame the developer for wanting to get paid, of course, but it does limit its usage.

So where does that leave me? As with almost everything, it’s about compromise. Nothing is perfect. One has to weigh up the pros and cons when making a choice. Of course, I’ve barely scratched the surface. I could go on about battery life, the camera and more. Right now, I can’t be without the Blackberry messenger but I find myself using the iPhone more and more for daily tasks.

Do you carry around two phones? If so, I’d love to hear about your experiences.

{ 1 comment }

1 William Hook June 2, 2010 at 6:36 pm

I’ve personally never used a BlackBerry, so I’m going to also be biased and say the iPhone is the best one, but you do raise some fair points. I do quite like the idea of a blinking LED of some kind for notifications – my dad’s phone (a basic Nokia that – as my dad says – “makes phone calls, which is all I need”) and my old Sony Ericsson both had an LED and I found it quite useful. I also quite like the idea of “important” contacts, but it’s not something I’ve ever really wanted, but it’s still a nice feature.

As for BBM, I think it’s a brilliant thing to have IF all your friends have a BlackBerry too. I know one person who has one, so it would be useless for me, personally.

Finally, there is WhatsApp for the iPhone, but there’s another app called PingChat, which is available on both the iPhone and iPad (separate apps). There’s a free version that does text only, and also a paid version (or in-app upgrade, I forget which) that allows images as well – or you can use the Dropbox app instead, since it’s free. :)

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