Is Now a Good Time For BlackBerry Users To Consider an iPhone 3G?

by Jeff V. on July 3, 2008

Let’s have some long weekend fun.

As we approach the holiday break (at least here in the US), I’d like your iphone_blackberry_image thoughts on the ongoing iPhone vs. BlackBerry debate.  I ask mainly for my own purposes, but I know for a fact there are others out there considering a similar move, so I hope this is useful as a larger discussion.

I use an 8130 BlackBerry Pearl on Verizon right now.  It’s a fine phone, but not without its shortcomings.  I’ve long wanted an iPhone but have resisted the first generation due to a lack of 3G and business-class email, and now that most of my concerns have been addressed, I’m really considering the 3G.

I have some questions, however, that I hope current iPhone owners (preferably those who came from a BlackBerry) might be able to answer.  If I move to the iPhone, I have a pretty clear understanding of what I will gain, but I want to be clear on what I will give up.

So, here goes.  Your thoughts welcome in the comments.

  1. The keyboard.  Oft-maligned, it is the sole impediment for a few of my colleagues.  While I know the touch keyboard will never equal a physical keyboard in terms of tactile feedback, how is it day-to-day?  Does it get more livable as time goes on, or does it remain the Achilles heel?  From friends who own an iPhone, I do understand there is a learning curve — which is to be expected.
  2. The AT&T network.  Verizon has long touted the strength/reliability of its network as its prime asset, and for the most part, I agree (although, let me tell you, I drop on the average of one call per day given 60-90 minutes of talk time a day).  I spend most of my time in the suburban Detroit area, so I would imagine coverage between Verizon and AT&T would be largely the same.  If anyone else has moved to AT&T from Verizon, what are your impressions of AT&T’s coverage?
  3. Non-SMS-based chat.  For chat, it blows my mind a bit that the first-gen iPhone had nothing more than a glorified client for SMS, which might be the most expensive data service on Earth.  On BlackBerry, I use BlackBerry Messenger (direct device-to-device communication) every single day, and it doesn’t cost extra and can transmit media, like pictures and video.  Because I don’t feel like routing all of my IMs atop SMS, what is the most viable workaround that’s not web-based?  (I know about the newly-announced Google Talk for iPhone, but the jury is out on that one, as it still requires a Mobile Safari instance to be active in order to work.)
  4. Battery life.  Since the battery is sealed, how reliable has the battery been?  What’s the average charge yield in terms of talk/standby time?  How quickly does it recharge once its plugged in?
  5. Reliability.  About once every 10 days, my BlackBerry becomes gunked up internally and decides to crash, forcing a hard reboot.  Other times, I have had to manually pull the battery (a move familiar to all BlackBerry owners) to force the device to reset from a stuck state.  Does this happen with the iPhone?  If so, how often?  What does it take to enforce a reset?
  6. Physical size.  The iPhone’s size — for now, at least — is dictated by the requirement to have a touchscreen large enough for multimedia use as well as to accommodate the virtual keypad plus application content.  I get that.  But overall, how does the size wear on a daily basis?  Easy enough to slip into a pocket?  By contrast, my BlackBerry Pearl is downright small.
  7. Form vs. function.  What I’ve heard iPhone opponents say the most is that the iPhone is a great UI wrapping a pretty mediocre smartphone, browser excepted.  iPhone enthusiasts say the UI is just the topmost layer of the most sophisticated and well-designed mobile device on the market.  Which is it?
  8. HTML email.  One thing I can’t stand about the BlackBerry is that it’s useless for HTML email, which, for me, is about 30% of everything that I get.  Does the iPhone do HTML email accurately?
  9. Bluetooth headset compatibility and overall Bluetooth signal strength.  I have two main headsets that I use: an Aliph Jawbone and Motorola H700.  Both work just fine with my Pearl, but the signal range absolutely sucks.  In fact, if I’m wearing a headset and my BlackBerry is in my pocket, I will get oceans of static if I so much as turn the wrong way.  Does the iPhone support full, modern Bluetooth hands-free profiles (meaning: will my headsets be supported)?  How is the signal range?
  10. YouTube.  The Pearl does YouTube fairly well, albeit slowly and on a very small screen with a tinny speaker.  Can I assume that the iPhone’s YouTube application is nearly as good as watching YouTube on a desktop computer?  Can I access all of YouTube and not just select clips?

Summary

The pure upsides of the iPhone are quite clear, given that it’s a device based on a web-first design mentality with strong plays in multimedia.  I know the browser is the best mobile browser on the planet, its music capabilities second-to-none, and its video handling unparalleled.  Its user interface is better than what you see in most desktop PC applications.  I also know that with the release of iPhone 2.0, we have a bona fide platform on our hands rather than merely a device.  I sincerely believe the pending explosion of iPhone applications will make the device into something that nobody can compete with — a mobile platform with the virtues of a desktop computer with almost no concessions on its mobile communications side.

The BlackBerry, on the other hand, does email better than anyone.  It’s an email-first device.  It’s meant for data entry and text communications.  Its BlackBerry Messenger is perhaps its most unsung asset, as it enables BB-to-BB chatting easier than anything I’ve ever seen.  Aside from these core strengths, however, the BB falls off.  It’s browser is mediocre at best and its multimedia is functional but clearly secondary to the device’s main focus.

Like anything else, a question of which is better depends on what you’re using your phone for, but you can’t ignore the explicit competitive tension between these two devices.  If you had to pick one for daily use for, say, the next three years, which would it be?

{ 13 comments… read them below or add one }

Jim Gibson July 3, 2008 at 4:40 pm

Thoughtful questions. Here are the answers from my experience …
1. It gets better and faster with practice. The real hurdle is to trust the auto substitution and just charge ahead. Being a perfectionist I find myself always tempted to fix errors myself, which slows me way down. My old Treo had two wonky and unreliable keys which were much more annoying than any issue I have with the soft keyboard on the iPhone.
2. AT&T network has been great here in central VA. Definitely check with someone in your area, though. This is totally dependent on geography.
3. AIM chat will be available on 7/11 as a free download (along with a tsunami of other great apps, some of which are being written by friends of mine. I have never seen developers so damn excited about their work before. It’s cool.)
4. Battery life is top notch. I WISH my laptops had the same characteristics. I worry about the laptop almost all the time. Hardly ever think about the iPhone battery. It charges remarkably fast for me.
5. Can’t say the iPhone has never gone haywire, but it is rare–and I have splashed around extensively in the unapproved third-party app pool. Hard reset is a long hold of the power button, then slider to a complete power down.
6. Definitely bigger than some of the Blackberries, but sooo thin. Feels very slick in the hand and going in and out of the pocket. If you haven’t held one, go do it. The very definition of great fit and finish, in my mind.
7. I have heard this too and don’t really understand it. I guess someone who is getting crappy network service would feel this way. For me the UI just about IS the phone. See a phone number–anywhere–tap it to make the call. The direct manipulation metaphors throughout the entire UI are so damn natural that they spoil me for my return to the desktop.
8. HTML email on the iPhone is excellent. You can also click through attachments to view .DOC files, Excel spreadsheets, PDF files, and soon, PPT and iWork files. I do not do a lot of email work on my phone because I like to separate my work life from my home life, and email is a “touch-type-big-screen-work-life” sort of thing for me. But when I need to do it, mail on the iPhone is a pleasure. (It was a horror on the Treo.)
9. Don’t use a bluetooth, so can’t help you here.
10. YouTube is quite nice on the iPhone. The speaker is loud enough to share in a small group at parties, which can become contagious.

The “minuses” you did not ask about.
* No copy and paste. Bummer, but doesn’t come up as often as I thought it would.
* No spam filter in email. I use IMAP to make the server do the work.
* No mass delete in email. Will be fixed on 7/11 with software version 2.0.
* The Safari browser has been a little more unreliable than I would like. This exhibits itself with spontaneous quits to the home screen when I have 6-8 windows open at once. Feels like some kind of memory leak and I hope they fix it. A hard reset makes the problem go away for the next few weeks.

The “plusses” you did not ask about:
* The Google maps function is revolutionary. Hard to get it until you experience it. And my original version doesn’t have GPS. Still revolutionary. Check it out.
* It has become my favorite alarm clock. Effective, reliable, infinitely customizable in ways that no other alarm clock is.
* I am an ardent baseball fan and for $4.95 a month MLB sends me updates on every Red Sox game played. For all the good plays they send me links to video. Since I have fast Wi-Fi at home and office I can quickly and easily view them in their large screen glory on the iPhone. Heavenly.

One caution: the most revolutionary thing about the iPhone is that the browser is so good that you are never more than a few seconds away from a definitive answer. As a good friend of mine said one day “it turns know-it-alls into really obnoxious know-it-alls” if you let it. A certain amount of restraint is recommended.

Jim Gibson

Jeff Ventura July 3, 2008 at 4:57 pm

Jim, very thoughtful answers. Thanks.

Jennifer July 3, 2008 at 5:23 pm

Here from GF. :)

1. Learning curve, but you get very used to it quite quickly…. (but I did not have a blackberry, so I can’t compare…)

2. Had about one dropped call a day for the first 6 months…I believe ATT upgraded their network right around then and the dropped calls went away quite quickly, now it’s just during thunderstorms.

3. As Jim Gibson said, yes, the messaging system was weird on the first gen phones, but the new chat apps coming out on 7/11 will be nifty. If that is a Major concern for you, wait to see what they look like and their usablity, and go from there…

4. Again, I’m with Jim Gibson here. Not been an issue at all. Charges quite quickly, and lasts all day with no issues, even after heavy EDGE browsing all day at a theme park. :)

5. Wow. That reliability sounds like an issue. Your anecdote alone tells me I will never get a blackberry. You use a mac, how reliable is your mac? This is a mobile phone and web/email platform built on top of a rock solid OSX core. Yeah, the only crashing it does is when Safari encounters scripts that it doesn’t like or too many windows open. But it just quits to the home screen, start it right back up, no harm no foul.

6. Uh, I’m a girl. By nature (or clothing manufacturers) we have much smaller pockets. I have my iPhone in a cork case (which adds quite a bit girth to the iPhone) and it is STILL small enough to fit in my pocket!
It’s no iPod nano, but it works for me. :)

7. My boyfriend (Windows/firmware programmer) and I have had this discussion quite a bit. He finally bought the iPod Touch and agrees that it is ALL about the UI.

8. um, yes? Can I see a full html page in email, correctly? yup. I’m confused by the question.

9. I bought an Aliph Jawbone just for my iPhone. They were released at the same time and were marketed as “THE” headset for the iPhone. It is very spiffy. I love it. (When I can find it that is…) :)

10. All YouTube videos that have been converted to h.264 from flash work with no issues. In fact the YouTube app will open automatically, which is kinda neat.

Everything else I second Jim Gibson on. No copy and paste, annoying, but you get used to it. The maps function? Has saved my ass several times when lost in the Metro Atlanta area. Way spiffy.
Also, yeah…looking up credits after a movie on imdb….kinda neat, but probably very very annoying for those around me. :) Wikipedia on iPhone is made of WIN!!! (And turns you into an immediate smart-ass (or encyclopedia – take your pick.)) :)

Citizen Z July 3, 2008 at 6:22 pm

blackberry 7130 to iphone.
1) KEYBOARD. 2 days into it I thought it was dumb and something that I wouldn’t like. 2 weeks into it I was at least 2x faster.
2)NETWORK. Unless you are in the 3G area(check the map) Verizon is faster. I haven’t noticed any differences between Verizon and AT&T. AT&T’s 3G network has been tested as faster than Verizons EVDO.
3)CHAT. Expect many chat clients shortly. Not to be a snob but I believe they will all be better than RIM offerings, based on Apples much deeper and richer mobile SDK and OS. However nobody knows yet. The key thing here is that with the touch of a finger over the air you will be able to download really useful apps that do real things. I would urge you to go to apples website and take a look at the keynote speech in between the 21 minute 30 second mark and the 54 minute mark to get an idea of the type of and quality of apps that are just the tip of the iceberg.
http://events.apple.com.edgesuite.net/0806wdt546x/event/index.html
4)BATTERY LIFE. the iphone 1.0 is just amazing!! You will not have any problems, leaving on the the wifi, the 3G and the bluetooth and the GPS probably wouldn’t be the way to go with iphone 3G, but I don’t have it yet so I don’t know.
5) STABILITY. Excellent. I have had an app crash (mail maybe two times in a year), but I’ve just opened it back up and started using mail. You must remember the phone is updated regularly with feature and stability enhancements the phone you by will be better in a few months and better still later on.
6) SIZE. works for me. slips inconspicuously in most pockets yet very usable. your mileage may vary.
7)FORM vs FUNCTION. I can’t believe this is a question but this device is years ahead of anything else. The Blackberry is good, It can’t touch the iPhone.
8)HTML EMAIL. As good as your desktop mail client, maybe better.
9) BLUETOOTH. I have an Aliph and it works just fine. But I never really leave the room, but it works fine across the coffee shop.
10) YOUTUBE. I rarely use it, but I do know you don’t or didn’t have all of you tube.

CONS: For me, no cut and paste and that’s it.

Tom July 3, 2008 at 7:47 pm

1) Give it time, and learn to trust the system. When I spell a word wrong I resist the temptation to fix it as it will usually pick the right word anyway. This is especially great for contractions as I now usually don’t even try to type the apostrophe.

2) There are places AT&T is better than Verizon, and places where the opposite is true. I left Verizon and used the 14-day grace period to rate the AT&T strength against my wife’s Verizon phone. The signal strength for me (in SoCal) was very similar.

3) AIM will have a chat client the day the 3G comes out, and I’d bet other vendors will as well. Keep in mind, however, that initially they will not be able to notify you of incoming msgs if they are not the front-most app, which kind of defeats the purpose of IM. Apple is implementing a solution for apps like these to use, but it will not be rolled out until September.

4) I’ve never comes close to using the battery in a single day, and I listen to a lot of music and do 1-2 hours of wen browsing. I do charge it every evening.

5) At initial release, I had the occasional Safari crash or freeze, but with the latest software I rarely see such events. If you think an app is acting funny, hold the home key down for about 6 seconds and the app will force quit so you can launch it again.

6) I think the size and weight are great. I use a hip holster, but it fits in the pocket nicely and I have friends who only carry it that way.

7) I’ll never understand people who think a great and simple interface must somehow be flawed, or a toy, or hiding something sub-par underneath. None of that is true in the case of the iPhone. Quite the contrary, it’s the load of crappy phones that are slapping a “touch” front-end over Windows Mobile that are hiding the sub-par goods.

8) HTML email look fantastic on the iPhone.

9) Jawbone works great, don’t know about your Motorola.

10) YouTube is excellent, and even sends a lower-quality (read: smaller) version of the video when you’re on EDGE so it’s still usable.

Like most radical departures, I strongly suspect for the first couple of weeks you will miss what you don’t have from the Blackberry more than you’ll appreciate what you get from the iPhone. But I also suspect that tide will begin to turn and you’ll likely not want to trade back after a couple of months.

Citizen Z July 3, 2008 at 8:40 pm

I just want to add, The iPhone has the single highest satisfaction rating of any wireless phone by far. So what you are hearing is pretty typical. What it does it does very well.

Andrés July 3, 2008 at 8:41 pm

Comment on virtual keyboards:

I used Palm Tungsten E PDA with a tiny screen. Compared to the iPhone’s, the Palm’s screen is small (2.5in vs 3.5 on the iPhone [about a third smaller] ) . It was an old device, so the touchscreen was sort of wrecked to use the stylus. I couldn’t input text using character recognition with the pen. To input text I used the small, not-meant-for-fingers on-screen keyboard to actually type with my thumbs.

It turns out that I became a sort of a master at it. And it didn’t featured a spell checker. I had to calibrate the display very often for it to workproperly because my thumbs were ruining it (the screen is no multitouch).

I think I would be able to do magic with the iPhone: bigger screen, meant-for-thumbs multitouch keys, AND type assistance.

** I do would miss the copy paste with such a capable machine.

Plus, it would be good bonus if Dataviz’s Document’s To Go for very fine Office document editing (Word, Excel, Powerpoint) actually made it to the AppStore.

Andrés July 3, 2008 at 8:43 pm

Just would like to add, as conclusion:
Virtual keyboard is better than whatever other method for inputting text on a device. Fast enough for mobile needs.

gctwnl July 4, 2008 at 9:46 am

Can you turn auto-substitution off? I work in multiple languages and auto-substitution is a pain generally. Or is it easy to switch typing language? Use multiple languages in one message?

Jeff Ventura July 5, 2008 at 7:32 pm

gctwnl: Yes, you can use multiple languages/keyboards in the same message. Simply enable what language keyboards you want in the settings, then you will see an icon on the left hand, bottom side of the email screen that allows you to bring up the keyboards you have enabled.

Chris Pesola August 13, 2008 at 11:32 am

What about Windows Mobile?
I use a Sprint HTC – Mogul running Windows Mobile 6.0 and direct push email from MS Exchange 2007.
1. Slide out keyboard. Easy to use
2. Network – I hate the Sprint network, but the data is pretty fast.
3. Chat – uses Mobile Windows Messenger and I can IM with Yahoo folks, Google folks, AIM, etc. no issue.
4. Battery – MUCH better than my previous Sprint device. It’s constantly receiving emails and I can go about 3 days without a charge.
5. Reliability – no issues and I run a HTC Customizer to edit the Today screen and other options and other 3rd party stuff.
6. Size – thicker than iPhone, but overall manageable and it has a real keyboard so that makes it thicker.
7. Form/Function – for business use for people with Exchange email – no better option. For personal use, yeah, the iphone is sexier.
8. HTML email – no issue at all
9. Bluetooth – works great
10. YouTube – works fine.

And Google Maps is not an iPhone only thing. Many mobile devices can use it for free. But the Mogul has built in GPS so when I fire up Google Maps and turn on GPS, I not only see how to get somewhere, but see where I currently am! Aside from the voice prompts of fancier GPS, this works GREAT!

Just my thoughts on this topic.

-Chris

Fommy August 22, 2008 at 6:22 am

We know that the Blackberry users are incrediblyenamoured with the capabilities of their BlackBerry smartphones.

SenoSkync July 7, 2009 at 7:40 am

Лучше других скрасить расслабление имеют возможность только девочки по вызову. Ведь именно они знают тайные желания мужчин гораздо лучше, чем многие дамы. Как правило, элитные шлюхи настолько умелы, что их секс услуги никогда не оставляют заказчика неудовлетворенным. Проститутки и шлюхи часто ищут клиентов на улицах и в метро.

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