On Friday I transferred my Blackberry phone number from T-Mobile over to my Apple iPhone, effectively terminating my contract with T-Mobile and ending a 15+ year practice of taking a Blackberry with me everywhere I went. In January I’d purchased an iPhone (“just to try it out”). Like many iPhone owners, I’d been hauling two phones with me. The Blackberry was my main email phone. The iPhone the web browser, Twitter client, music/video player, and picture taker phone. During the past week I was out at the Sage Software Insights Reseller Conference where they’d asked me to speak about Social Networking and Marketing. During this trip I decided for the first time in 15 years to leave my Blackberry at home. When I walked out the door Blackberry-less (and without guilt) I knew this trip would spell the end to our 15 years together. Here’s why I dumped my Blackberry and why iPhone is now my full time ride.
First, let me begin by saying that I’m not recommending you dump your Blackberry. Use of a specific brand of phone is all a personal preference. What I’m about to discuss are the reasons that I cancelled my Blackberry and now carry only an iPhone. I give the reasoning in the hopes that anyone in a similar situation will have additional items to consider in making their choice of which phone to carry.
If you’re contemplating moving to the iPhone full time but are afraid of the lack of a keyboard – I’d say you have a good concern. Because the keyboard on the iPhone is all touch and frankly takes a lot of practice and getting used to.
After 5 months I found I was reasonably proficient. I also found myself asking why I was carrying both a Blackberry and an iPhone. In the end, I could not come up with enough reasons to keep carrying both phones.
My Blackberry Usage Profile:
-200 to 400 emails per day
-under 10 SMS text messages per day
-around 20 to 40mb monthly Blackberry data used
Here’s what prompted me to dump my Blackberry:
#1 – I Watched Kevin’s Video Of The Blackberry 9000 At Crackberry.com
My very first thought was “wow, that looks like lipstick on a pig”. With the exception of a much clearer and sharper video screen – there wasn’t a single compelling feature that I wanted. The browser was still displaying the same dowdy WAP-like capabilities.
(Note: Very important to note that what Crackberry showed was a beta and incomplete version. Features of this phone probably will change when it ships. Yes, I have seen that RIM is indicating that the browser will be better in the shipping version – but HOW MUCH better is the million dollar question for me.).
In the demo there was no HTML email. While the multi-media player had been beefed up some – I’ve become accustomed to subscribing to my favorite shows through iTunes (something the iPhone naturally is well designed for).
# 2 – I didn’t want to continue on with a third point of failure for email delivery.
As it stands with Blackberry, each time my device stopped delivering email it had me guessing whether it was: (a) my cellular carrier, (b) my device, (c) my email provider (GMAIL) or (d) RIM’s data center. Increasingly unacknowledged outage issues were starting to appear with RIM. It’s always difficult to tell where the outage comes from – because nobody in the “connection chain” likes to own up to an outage. Because Blackberry devices REQUIRE a separate Blackberry data plan – and since all of your email is required to be securely routed through RIM, there is one extra point of failure present with the Blackberry. Within the last year I’d become increasingly uncomfortable with RIM’s network going down for periods of time without advance warning or acknowledgement.
#3 – I’m sick of waiting and wondering when HTML email and better web browsing will arrive
When iPhone shipped with HTML email and a world class mobile web browser, my eyes really opened. I wondered how Apple got so much right and left most other email devices (including Windows Mobile) looking like something the 1980’s left behind. I resolved to wait for the invariable Blackberry OS upgrade that would add HTML email and better web browsing. I’ve stopped waiting. Maybe the Blackberry 9000 will have this world class email and web. In my opinion it darn well better or RIM will face a gradual erosion from disappointed customers like me.
#4 – The Blackberry 9000’s screen size is smaller and cramped.
Because the Blackberry lacks a touch screen, extra space is given for things like scroll bars and borders. I’m sure Blackberry will copy touch this up nicely to compete with the iPhone. But when? And will the Blackberry touch interface ever be as good as the iPhone standard design? (Note: See #7 below for my thoughts on the announced Q3 Blackberry touch interface).
#5- Push Email Is, well, nothing that evokes oohs and aahs anymore.
For several years Blackberry’s owned the “push email” space. Suddenly though push email doesn’t seem that necessary or “game changing”. The present iPhone can be set to poll for email every 15 minutes – and that’s fine with me. Version 2.0 of the iPhone software adds Exchange Activesync support (aka push email without the need to pay any extra fee).
One of my 2008 resolutions is to spend less time doing the “Blackberry Stare” (that’s where you are simultaneously reading email while walking). I was increasingly unwilling to pay for an intermediate service (BIS or BES) that promises to interact and deliver push email. If in addition to Exchange synch, we don’t see iPhone push email from common email providers like Yahoo or Gmail later this year I’ll be very surprised.
# 6- I’m cabling my iPhone daily, synching my Google Calendar – making wireless Blackberry synch almost obsolete.
Wireless synch of calendar, contacts, todo lists and notes via Blackberry is nice. Remember though you have to pay for BES service (usually an extra $20) to get the full benefits of synching up calendar, contacts, tasks and notes on a Blackberry. There are several programs – namely Google Mobile Synch – that help work around this requirement. Suddenly I found I just wasn’t as spellbound by the concept of wireless synchronization. Especially not when Google is promising to deliver all their apps on the day the iPhone v2.0 upgrade arrives.
#7-Blackberry’s roadmap?: In Q3 we’ll copy the iPhone touchscreen = not exciting to me
Beyond the Blackberry 9000 launch, the other exciting release is going to be a touch screen Blackberry set to launch exclusively on Verizon in Q3 2008. Sorry – I’m just not that excited by phones that set out to improve themselves by seeming to copy another design. The HTC Diamond looked a lot like a copy job. I’m not on the edge of my seat with anticipation about how accurately RIM will copy the iPhone’s touch screen feature set. This may save Blackberry from being ejected from some corporate sites where the CEO is clamoring for an iPhone lookalike. Ultimately there’s still too much that won’t be copyable (namely iTunes integration) that I think could leave the Blackberry touchscreen looking like a an iPhone wannabe.
#8-Touch typing on the iPhone sucks less than Blackberry’s lack of: (a) Desktop-like web browsing, (b) fast html email, (c) customizability, (d) iTunes integration
Sure you can make up for a lot of missing Blackberry features with third party applications. But having to do so makes the device more costly and requires a little more maintenance to keep all the apps running. With the iPhone all I needed to do was get used to the lack of a keyboard. Admittedly, the lack of a keyboard is a pain. But it’s less of a pain that making do with my Blackberry and the features that I was starting to miss (because I was actively enjoying them all on the iPhone).
#9-I’m not expecting 3G alone to breath new life into the device
The Blackberry model I recently used was a T-Mobile 8320. It ran on Wi-Fi (15mb connection at my home) and the speed was never anything that made my eye’s pop out of my head. When the Blackberry 9000 adds 3G (and assuming that it will optimally go to the 3mb download limit that people claim to get in places AT&T has 3G) – I’m not sold that the performance is going to be “game changing”. I’ve already seen what a Blackberry does with a 15mb Wi-Fi connection – and it’s not terribly impressive. I do think at launch date you’ll probably see Sling release their Blackberry client – which will be a nice feature to use on 3G (provide you get a 3G data signal). All told, I’ve already experienced 3G speeds and walked away unimpressed – so I don’t expect the 9000 addition of 3G to add much more.
#10-A prediction – opening the iPhone platform is going to produce a “huge sucking sound” as developers rush to create cool software for the iPhone – and gradually ignore Blackberry applications
I don’t think on day one you are going to see wholesale defections of developers. But I think it is going to happen. The iPhone has the cooler “buzz factor”. I predict that’s where the really neat applications are going to happen. The Blackberry platform will be relegated to interesting business applications like remote access to CRM software. Beyond that it’s my guess that interesting future development happens on the iPhone platform FIRST.
Can you imagine a developer NOT providing an iPhone app where one already exists for the Blackberry? I can’t. Google again has committed on day one to have their apps shipping for iPhone. I didn’t see a similar announcement about Google’s products being upgraded/tweaked centered around the the Blackberry 9000 launch. (Note: This comparison is partly unfair because Google already ships applications for the Blackberry – but you’d still think they would have mentioned something about developing for the new Blackberry 9000 if they thought it would garner interest).
Don’t drop your Blackberry just on my say so. Make your device decision based on a careful weighing of the pros and cons of each platform. What’s important to one user may not be so crucial to another. The new line of Blackberry’s have yet to be released (they’re expected in July 2008). When they are released in final form they could surprise us all and have game changing features that exceed those found on the iPhone. I’m betting that’s not going to happen – so for now I’m Blackberry-less.