Will I be trading in my Blackberry for an iPhone?

I love my BlackBerry. It does exactly what I expect it to do. After years of disappointment with technology, this is as strong an endorsement as I can think of.

I have the same feeling every time I use my Apple MacBook Pro. I can see my daughters having the same experience every time they use their Apple iPods.

Coming from this perspective, the anticipation I have for the Apple iPhone is nothing short of spine-tingling. It’s all anticipation at this point because all I know about the iPhone is what I can read online.

Of course, that won’t stop me from compiling a list of considerations on whether or not I will trade in my BlackBerry for an iPhone:

  • Physicality – RIM nailed the physical aspects of the Blackberry. Apple nailed the physical aspects of the MacBook and iPod, but what about the iPhone? For example, I’m concerned about trading in the highly tactile experience of my BlackBerry 7290’s real keypad for a touchscreen-based, soft keypad. I’ve had the soft-keypad experience via various Palm devices, and that’s precisely why I know I prefer the real keypad on the BlackBerry.
  • Footprint – RIM nailed device footprint. So did Palm. So did Apple with the iPod. In my estimation no handheld representation of a PC, based on some pared-down version of Windows (WindowsCE, aka. “WINCE”), even comes close. Device footprint is the cumulative effect of the operating system, applications, data, etc. In the case of the BlackBerry, Palm, or iPod, there is minimal bloat. The iPhone has to deliver a low-bloat device footprint. Although I like Apple’s chances here, the challenge will be significant as the iPhone is based on Apple OS X. It’s not clear whose CPU will be inside.
  • Propriety – According to one source:

    Apple has long preferred to develop products built on closed, proprietary technologies rather than open standards. Its proprietary iTunes music software, which will not work with devices other than Apple’s iPod, is one example of such a system.

    To some extent, of course, this is true. To a greater extent, however, it is a red herring.

As RIM has demonstrated with the BlackBerry, integration is the real issue. The BlackBerry is proprietary hardware. Because the operating system and applications are all J2ME-based, third parties can and do develop for the Blackberry platform, and RIM facilitates this. This is only the handheld portion of the picture, as integration with enterprise-scale messaging platforms (Microsoft Outlook, IBM Lotus Notes, etc.) is also key to the BlackBerry’s overall delivered value. Given that the iPhone is based on Apple Mac OS X, there are clearly prospects for integration.

  • Software
    • Office software – Like the Blackberry, office-productivity software is absent on the iPhone. Although this doesn’t mean you won’t be able to find such software for your iPhone, it does underscore the fact that office apps are not a focal point. From one perspective, this is an omission. From another, it is highly consistent with closing the expectation/experience gap I raised at the outset.
    • Chat software – RIM provides its own chat software (BlackBerry Messenger); it works well between BlackBerry’s. However, it’s the third-party chat applications that amplify the integration of the BlackBerry with enterprise-messaging systems (via the RIM BlackBerry Enterprise Messenger, IBM Sametime, etc.) or with Internet messaging systems (Yahoo! Messenger, GoogleTalk, etc.). Frankly, I’m surprised that some variant of iChat wasn’t included with the iPhone. Even from the non-business perspective, iChat would be a phenomenal way of further capturing the mindshare of the iPod generation that is currently umbilically tethered to MSN Messenger. I predict Apple will address this oversight before product release.
  • Legalities – The impending legal battle between Cisco and Apple is generating almost as much attention as the iPhone itself. As someone who lived through the RIM vs. NTP situation, while traveling extensively in the US, settlement of this legal matter will be a precondition of purchase.
  • Connectivity – I’ve used BlackBerry’s on CDMA and GSM-based cellular networks. With today’s expectation of IP everywhere, one wonders when an IP-ready version of the BlackBerry will become available. (Today, I only care when I run a Web browser on my BlackBerry.) The iPhone will grok both cellular and IP-based wireless networks on release. Even more, the iPhone is ready for next-generation wireless networks based on the emerging IEEE 802.11n standard. From the connectivity perspective then, the iPhone presents a phenomenal convergence play. RIM has less than six months to ensure it retains mindshare on this increasingly important front.

So, will I be trading in my BlackBerry for an iPhone?

It’s too early to say, but I’m definitely keen to learn more.

6 thoughts on “Will I be trading in my Blackberry for an iPhone?

  1. I posted an entry today about the differences between the Pearl and the iPhone. For me, it’s a tough choice for a few reasons.

    1. My wireless carrier (Rogers) doesn’t offer an unlimited data plan. That might mean loads of extra charges when I start getting into the Safari browser. Today, it’s easy to avoid web browsing on the Blackberry because the browser kind of.. um… sucks.
    2. I want at least 30GB in my iPhone. Steve Jobs bragged about playing movies and songs. How many movies will you fit after you’ve already uploaded your songs and photos? 8GB is not enough.
    3. I don’t have a lot of confidence in the touch screen. I type fast on my 8700 blackberry. I can’t see the multitouch screen keeping up. Plus… what about scratches, etc?

    Those are the biggies for me…

  2. 1. I only use the Web browser on my BlackBerry when (a) I absolutely need to, or (b) I find myself needing to kill time. Sadly, there are some things an unlimited data plan, and/or better connectivity won’t impact very much … Before the iPhone came along, I found myself lusting over Palms with WiFi capability just for Web browsing when WiFi is available.

    2. A surprising allocation indeed!

    3. Perhaps our touchscreen concerns aren’t justified. Unfortunately, I think they are. I don’t worry about scratching up the screen on my BlackBerry, but was always concerned about my Palm devices. I don’t want to revisit that fear!

    Thanks for dropping by with your $0.02, Ben.

    I encourage others who also drop by here to read Ben’s
    on the iPhone vs. the BlackBerry Pearl.

  3. Pingback: With the iPhone, The Pie Just Got a Whole Lot Bigger! « Ian Lumb’s Blog

  4. Hi,
    Ive used the blackberry 8800 for about 6 months before i switched to the iphone. it hasnt been easy, iv had the iphone for about 2 months as well. the main differences or places where the blackberries score over the iphone are battery life, typing(which is a pain on the iphone) as i travel over 3 hours a day and do most of my mails on the move. I have an unlimited data plan and if compared, the speed on both the bb and the iphone is similar. but when it comes to user interface for the internet then the iphone is by far the best thing yet, but do we really need to do more that mails on the move.. what could be so important that i cant get to my laptop. moreover the fcat that you cant forward messages, cant do anything except connect to a wireless headset with bluetooth, just plain simple nags that we come to expect as givens rather than features that have just been ignored. its the small things that have made me want to dispose of my iphone which i now regard as a gadget rather than a utility like the blackberry.

  5. “While many iPhone users swear by the accuracy of the iPhone’s keyboard, independent tests have found iPhone users make way more errors than users of handsets with tactile QWERTY keyboards.” You can read the rest of the story in Information Week.

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