I’ll start with a confession – I’ve been using an iPhone instead of a BlackBerry for the past little while, because my company has been focused on developing some iPhone products. The iPhone is a phenomenal device, and certainly has to have RIM worried, but having used both devices now, there are definitely a lot of things that the BlackBerry does way better. I’ve picked 5 things that I really really miss about using a BlackBerry (and probably they’ll be the reasons that I go back to BlackBerry for day-to-day use soon). I think most of these are known to most people, but I’ve omitted a few things that are commonly thought of as BlackBerry’s advantages – I’ll explain why at the end of the article.
1. Push Email
Yes, iPhone does push email too, but BlackBerry does it better. You can sync an Exchange account with your iPhone and get push email, but only one. I’ve always got a minimum of 2 accounts I want to keep up to date with – currently 5 – but even with 2, I’d have to choose a preferred one (or consolidate everything through one account, which isn’t an option).
And sure you can get 3rd party solutions for iPhone that use the push notification functionality to tell you about new email – I’m using one called Mail Notifier – but it’s not the same thing. I get notified of a new email, which includes a snippet of the text, but I then have to go into the Mail app, select the account, wait for it to connect and download, and then click the email. With BlackBerry the email is already there, and I can even set the device to pop the email client up on new emails. No going through the list of accounts, remembering which one the email came from, speaking of which…
2. Multiple Email Accounts
Handled beautifully by BlackBerry. I can view the inbox for each account separately, but never do. BlackBerry lets me view all emails from all accounts in one place, and keeps track so that when I reply it comes from the right account.
There’s more! I can have separate signatures for each account (really really irritating missing feature on iPhone), and when I compose a new email to a contact, the BlackBerry usually guesses correctly which account I want to send it from – probably based on some analysis of past correspondence.
With iPhone I have to click on mail, click on the account, click on inbox. And then back out through those screens to check my next account. Just enough extra clicks to be annoying, and I can’t see all my emails from all accounts at the same time.
Email is part of BlackBerry’s DNA – it’s initial killer app was email, and the business and devices were built around that, and it shows.
3. The Keyboard
While the iPhone’s virtual keyboard is a pretty phenomenal piece of engineering, and amazingly usable (more than I can say for BlackBerry’s attempt at the same thing – but that’s a post for another day), nothing on any mobile device has yet delivered the same instant easy usability that the physical BlackBerry keyboard has. Not much more to say than that, but I will add that I’ve noticed a change in my behavior with regards to email, and I think it’s largely because of the lack of keyboard on an iPhone:
The iPhone keyboard, even being slightly more difficult to use than BlackBerry’s real keyboard, has put enough of a barrier in place (at least in my head) that I reply to a lot less email, and so get a lot less done away from the desktop. Meaning my response time has gone down, and there’s always more email waiting for me to reply to when I do get to a desktop.
4. The notification light
Yes, this thing:
Amazingly simple, but I really miss it. I’m used to glancing down at my device to see if anything new had come in – or looking at it lying on a table. iPhone doesn’t have an LED indicator for new email, so I can’t do that. Again, email is part of the core DNA of BlackBerry, all the way down through the hardware, and this shows it.
5. Total integration – email, calendar, contacts, notes, tasks
This is probably a bunch of things, but I’ll put them all together here. BlackBerry just delivers a better experience when going between all the above applications. It syncs them more readily, makes it easier to link calendar entries to notes to tasks to contacts, etc. It’s difficult to quantify but the overall experience is just smoother – obviously this is based on years of development and user feedback from RIM. It’s core to the BlackBerry experience and they still do it better than iPhone (even with it’s super slick UI)
Really great, and hugely popular, but I honestly never used it enough for it to make my personal top 5
The camera on my Curve 8900 blew away the iPhone (still does) but there are better mobile cameras out there than the best that BlackBerry or iPhone offer
Things I specifically left out
Yes, BlackBerry email (within a corporate environment) is very very secure. But for my use, I don’t really care. Most of my email is GMail based anyway, and so I’m always sending stuff to other people via plain unencrypted protocols. If I really care about security I send an encrypted attachment or use something other than email to do it.
I’ve gotten so used to plugging my devices in every night that this hasn’t been an issue with any mobile device (even though I use my iPhone for playing music as well as email/phone/etc). As long as the battery lasts the day, I’m happy.
True, BlackBerry does support micro SD cards, but the support is hobbled by two things: 1. You can’t use the SD cards for app storage, and 2. for most devices at least, you have to remove the battery to remove the SD card – no hot-swapping