Monday, July 7, 2008

iPhone and Blackberry

Been a while since I wrote anything for this blog. Life has a way of getting in the way of writing, especially when one is getting ready to move, and to change cities at that.

I have had this short post knocking about in my head for a while now. A few months ago a new, second phone appeared in my daily life. I now have a work phone and a personal phone. I wanted the new phone to be able to see and stay in sync from my calendar at the office (since we don't have enterprise iPhones... yet)

The new unit is a Blackberry 8830 "World Edition". It is not the latest and greatest, but I have since held and played with a Pearl and Curve, and they are not that different from the 8830. World edition in this case means it has both GSM and CDMA radios. CDMA for the US, and GSM for the more wirelessly sane rest of the world. Two radios! I guess the AT&T / T-Mobile version of this phone just has the GSM though.

Going back and forth between the iPhone and the BB requires getting used to a certain amount of cognitive dissonance. Modern phone. Ancient Phone. Intuitive interface. Learn by rote interface. Easy to use keyboard. Nasty hard to read hard to use keyboard. Beautiful screen. Not as pretty screen. Etc.

The BB does the one thing I need it to do: It syncs extremely well to my calendar. Meetings will get canceled 15 minutes before they start, and the BB knows about it right away.

Other pluses:
  • Battery life is pretty good
  • Sound quality of the earpiece is good, although the mic is tinny
  • Bluetooth headset works well with it: At least my Motorola H681 does.
When the new iPhone 2.0 firmware is released, and there is a real, enterprise way to get calendar and email going with it, the BB loses its only advantages except maybe battery life (and the new iPhone 3G may address that with a better battery). Then its disadvantages become even more painful by comparision:
  • Tiny, hard to read keys with lousy backlight and non-standard special symbols placement
  • Smaller screen
  • Worse Calendar app (if you can get a meeting onto the iPhone, it is much easier to read and manipulate there)
  • Worse email app
  • Worse phone book
  • Far far far worse browser. Did I mention far? And I have Opera 4.1 on the BB, but that only makes things slightly tolerable.
  • Both of my supplied cases broke within the first week! That would be a leather case with pivoting belt clip, and the hard plastic dock looking thing. Both broke at the same place too: who thinks a pivot made with a 1 or 2 mm plastic center axle is strong enough?
The whole thing has the feel of an OS / hardware platform that was not designed but sort of grew organically. Stuff was bolted on to the side over and over again. It is a hodgepodge of stuff, none of it intuitive. I had to read the stupid manual to find the *mute* button for the movie theatre, never mind the goofy way the ringer volume is managed!

I know a large number of people are not happy with Apple and the things they have been doing with the iPhone. Lock in to AT&T, controlling the application delivery mechanism, and so forth. I sort of agree, but you know what is also true? It is easier to hack an iPhone and install whatever you like on it than it is to use the approved install mechanism on the BB.

If the trueism about why Linux is not winning the market space is the MSWin has all the apps is true, then the same thing applies to the iPhone and the BB, with the BB playing the part of the application underdog. And all that is *before* the iPhone App Store even gets going.

One of unhappy sets of folks has to be RIM. They are really going to have to re-think their device line and their OS, and soon. Right now they are bringing a pen knife to a machine gun fight.


Akshun J said...

"I know a large number of people are not happy with Apple and the things they have been doing with the iPhone. Lock in to AT&T, controlling the application delivery mechanism, and so forth. I sort of agree, but you know what is also true? It is easier to hack an iPhone and install whatever you like on it than it is to use the approved install mechanism on the BB."
And here's my issue. Hacking on the iPhone is not a solution. I remember people saying the same thing about the iPod. "Just install Rockbox and you're good." Um, no. I work too hard for my money to fork it over to a company that is pushing a broken device that I am expected to fix before I use. Check this article over at PCMag:

Steve Carl said...

Thanks! Interesting article and point of view.

Here is another thought though: the BB is not hacked, and is not a shadow of the iPhone. It is far more popular right now than the iPhone at the moment in terms of total install base, and yet it is not meeting my needs the way the iPhone does.

Then there is the point I made a while back about the community fixing Apple:

The question then is: If the community had not hacked the iPhone and made it do what they wanted it to do, would there ever have been an SDK and App Store at all?

My take on it, from the outside looking in (I have no special optics inside Apple) is that there would not have been. That the Hacking and apping created the need to create the SDK and App Store.

To the point of the article, and tying it in to this, what will be interesting *now* is how much Jailbreaking will occur now that there are supported solutions for a lot of this. I know from talking to my iPhone bearing freinds that many are *not* planning Jailbreaks post the 2.0 release, hoping that the App Store will have everything they want in it.

And back to my point about the BB: Unless they want to find themselves suddenly in the place where Palm is now (after having totally owned the market for PDA's and having the best early SmartPhone with the Treo) they are going to have to make some serious hardware and software changes. They are not keeping up.

I do not actually care who wins the SmartPhone / converged device free-for-all: I have no dogs in that race. Right now, iPhone meets my needs better than anything else out there (and I was already with AT&T so that lock-in, while I totally get it as being a problem, was not one for me personally). In fact, I really rather wish Palm would pull it out and get back in the race. I was an early Palm fan and I hate to see them floundering so badly.

As a Linux person, I am watching Android of course. I have also been paying attention to Nokia / Symbian. Apple should not feel like their current success equals future dominance. To many players, and too many smart people who are mad at them. They need to keep an eye on what the hackers are doing because it will tell them what they forgot to do with the current product.

Akshun J said...

Don't get me wrong, I'm not a Blackberry apologist. I just bought a Palm Centro (I know. I know. Why would I buy a legacy device...) My real problem with Apple is that, as a company, they frown on customers hacking their devices. So, not only did you pay for their broken device, but now you have to play "whack-a-mole" as they release updates to confound your hacking.

I am equally anticipating releases from Android, LiMo and OpenMoko. Lots of interesting stuff is happening in the mobile phone space right now. Open API's, IMHO, will soon come to dominate the mass market. Although I believe the iPhone will maintain it's niche...

And I soooo agree with you on Palm. They should have just open-sourced their existing OS and let developers have at it! Supposedly their new Palm OS will be linux-based. But that's been the rumor for the last three years...

Steve Carl said...

Open is the mobile future, to be sure. I do not think Apple will be able to ognore it. I have a 3G now, and after 24 hours of playing with it, it is clear that Apple learned a great deal from the hackers. I am seriously considering *not* hacking the 3G... or more accurately, firmware 1.2.0. The App Store is nearly everything I wanted from the Nearly.

More on that in my next post.