Having been a BlackBerry user for a number of years, and then trying out the iPhone, I thought I could offer some perspective to those who are considering switching over.
To someone who has never used either device, you may find this piece extremely boring, as it is more technical than not, with none of my usual references to spirituality or meditation (well, with one exception at the very end of the review – of course).
When the new iPhone 3GS was released a couple of months ago, I was actually having some technical issues with my BlackBerry. My carrier (AT&T) offered to replace it, but instead I chose to see what all of the hype was about around the new iPhone. I dumped the BlackBerry with joy and got a shiny new, white 32 gig iPhone 3GS on 4th of July weekend.
Initially, I struggled with the keyboard and the interface. Being used to the tactile touch of the BlackBerry keypad made the switch to the iPhone’s virtual (yet ultra sensitive) keypad a challenging transition. This didn’t fully qualify as a red flag though because, oddly, I found it easier to type longer messages on the iPhone’s virtual keypad than I was able to on the BlackBerry’s smaller, less sensitive keypad.
The web browser was fantastic on the iPhone! It was like having a mini-computer in my pocket. Navigating when to use the 3GS, versus the Wi-Fi, versus the Edge network for best results and energy efficiency was a little confusing. And having the pop-up “Would you like to connect to Wi-Fi” screen was a little annoying. So I basically turned Wi-Fi off (since it only operates on open networks, or networks where you have a password), and just went between 3GS and the slower Edge, which was what I was used to from my AT&T BlackBerry days anyway.
Texting was interesting because again you had the virtual keyboard, which was a tad annoying due to it being so overly sensitive, but you could view your texts in conversational form, which is not a feature of the BlackBerry.
The Facebook interface is better on the iPhone than the BlackBerry because it’s more like the actual site. Similarly, the email interface on the iPhone is superior to the BlackBerry’s, and easier on the eyes. The voicemail system on the iPhone is incredible with individual messages you can listen to as separate files. The camera and video function are fun to play with as well. And the iPod is a cool feature – particularly being able to download music from iTunes right on the spot.
I downloaded a few iPhone apps, and within a couple of weeks of using it, I found myself forgetting about the BlackBerry altogether, and embracing the fact that I was now an iPhone user. I figured that any transitional issues would be resolved as I got more and more familiar with the device. Plus everyone says the iPhone gets used to the way you type and mistakes will happen less and less. So I kept plugging away.
Then I reached a stage about 3 weeks into it where I started to realize that the BlackBerry and the iPhone are for two completely separate purposes, and thus shouldn’t be compared to one another. The BlackBerry is primarily a business device that offers efficient and fast calling and delivery of messages, and secondarily a multi-media machine. The iPhone is more of a multi-media machine that happens to have telephone and email functions, but far from the speed and efficiency of the BlackBerry.
For instance, while the iPhone’s individual message interfaces are all superior in style to the BlackBerry’s, they are all separate. And to read a text message, an email and a Facebook message on an iPhone means that you have to open up three different windows, which takes time to do, and there will be some swiping, pressing and scrolling involved.
Compared to the BlackBerry, you open one message interface and you can see and reply to your texts, emails, and FB’s all in one shot via your trackwheel. This means, it’s easier to use while driving. Now, I know that you’re not supposed to be texting while driving, but if you found yourself in a pinch, you’d want to have a BlackBerry in your hands for faster use.
Also, the search feature on the Blackberry blows the iPhone out of the water. With a BlackBerry, you can search words in any message. So if all you remembered about an email you got weeks ago was the sender used the word “Beethoven”, you could search that word, and that email will come up. You can’t do this with the iPhone.
The magnifying-glass-style copy and paste feature on the iPhone is cool in concept, but practically speaking, it requires a lot of attention to detail and steady hands. I’ll just leave it at that. The BlackBerry blows the iPhone away on this feature as well.
Calling someone from the BlackBerry is also quicker and easier than calling someone from the iPhone. Making an iPhone call means you’re going to be pressing, swiping, pressing, scrolling and typing to find and dial a number. If you have a preprogrammed number on your ‘favorites’ list you’re still looking at a minimum of a press, a swipe and another couple of presses to get the person’s phone ringing. With the BlackBerry, you pick up the device and press one ‘quick dial’ button (for instance: ‘M’ for Mom) and your Mom’s phone is ringing. It’s that quick and simple.
Next, typing. Typing on the BlackBerry is by far easier and more efficient than the iPhone. The reason is two-fold. The tactile touch of a keyboard can’t be replaced by a virtual keyboard, no matter how stylish it looks. And there’s BlackBerry’s genius auto-text feature. If you have a BlackBerry and you don’t use auto-text you’re missing out.
Basically, with auto-text, you can program into your phone your own shorthand. That means, you can set it up so that whenever you type ‘sig’, space, your signature (‘~ Light Light’) will appear, or you can program it so when you type ‘directions’, space, this comes up: ‘the way you get here is you take I-10 to Lincoln Blvd, go south a mile and make a right on Navy St. I’m across from the school’. Or ‘wed’, space, and the full word ‘Wednesday’ appears.
I find this feature saves loads of time while typing on the BlackBerry because you don’t have to use text abbreviations to be quick, and you also don’t have to waste time typing everything out – especially words or passages that you use over and over, like directions to your office, or your signature, or the name of your website.
In fact, the BlackBerry is loaded with shortcuts that will allow you to complete almost any task in just a couple of clicks, like scrolling from the top of a long message to the bottom: press ‘B’ to go to the bottom or ‘T’ to go to the top of any message.
The iPhone has a downloadable $4 app that is an offshoot of the auto-text feature but it’s not nearly as seamless as the BlackBerry’s and it’s only useable for either emails or texts, not both, and I can’t remember which one.
Anyway, this was the biggest factor in my decision to switch back to the BlackBerry. The other major deciding factor was that I wasn’t using enough of the iPhone’s “play” features to justify a reduction in efficiency of messaging and communicating that is standard with the BlackBerry.
For instance, you can’t beat the speed and efficiency with which the BlackBerry delivers your messages – often times you will get an email on your BlackBerry before it even shows up on your computer! The iPhone on the other hand can pull your emails through once every 5 minutes (at the fastest) but this drains more battery power, which was why I had mine set for delivery once every 15 minutes.
Some people love all of the multi-media uses of the iPhone and don’t need to send a lot of emails and texts. My guess is these users will probably enjoy the iPhone more than the BlackBerry.
Another thing that I missed about the BlackBerry is the message indicator light, which works well if you keep your device on vibrate like I do. You can see that red blinking light from across the room and know that you’ve got a message. With the iPhone you’ve got to be looking at the front panel of the device in order to see if you have a message.
Of course, with the iPhone you can download plenty of cool apps to make your life efficient and more organized. But for me, at the end of the day, I needed a telephone and I personally didn’t care to have to go through a whole production just to call someone or send a text message, even if it meant I could no longer GPS any restaurant in the world by cuisine, price or location (like you can with one iPhone app called UrbanSpoon) or find the name of any song by putting the iPhone close to the speaker (as with another app called Shazam). I’m definitely a less is more kind of guy.
So figure out which type of person you are and decide from there. If you are less is more, and like instant gratification, I think you will enjoy the BlackBerry more so than the iPhone. If you like to play with YouTube while you’re waiting for your meal, or if you like the feeling of scrolling and expanding things with your fingers, and if you don’t receive many emails that need your attention right away, you would probably love the iPhone. They are both great products.
The good thing I discovered about trying the iPhone is that if you don’t like it you can take it back within 30 days. And switching back over to the Blackberry was as easy as pie. It only took one phone call and done. So like we say in meditation, don’t take anyone else’s advice as the absolute truth about anything. Have your own direct experience. Because the way you use the iPhone may be different from the way I was using it.
Apparently, Apple doesn’t sell iPhones without a contract, and some people want to buy it at retail and unlock it to use on another network. I tried returning the phone to the Apple store, but I missed the 30-day buyers remorse window by 2 days. So I ended up selling my iPhone for the retail price of $600 on Craiglist, which meant I made a $300 profit. Mind you, the buyer agreed to purchase it for $660, but I ended up knocking off $60 because the plastic sleeve protector that I purchased from the Apple store scratched the chrome frame when I slid it on. I’ve heard this from others as well. So if you get the iPhone, don’t use a hard plastic sleeve. Get the rubber one instead (although the rubber one has a tearing problem).
If you’ve tried both devices out as well, leave a comment about your experience so we can get an even more balanced view of what it’s like to use both.