Most folks that know me well know that I am a huge fan of the BlackBerry. A few years ago I switched to an iPhone 3G, but ended up switching back to a BlackBerry a few months later. I found the iPhone slow and cumbersome and the virtual keyboard drove me batshit crazy. I loved the BlackBerry because it had awesome battery life, the interface was fast, and email and calendaring were amazing.
Since I switched back I have had two BlackBerry devices. The BlackBerry Torch (my most loathed BlackBerry ever) and the BlackBerry Bold 9900, which I got about four months ago. The Bold 9900 is a gorgeous, solid device and the keyboard is the best that the folks at RIM have ever produced, but the phone has two problems that ended up being deal breakers for me:
1. No Apps (Just crApps)
Everyone knows that there aren’t many apps in BlackBerry App World. However, the larger issue is that even if an app exists in the store, it often doesn’t work with RIM’s flagship phone. Developers have to certify their apps for each device and a number of them haven’t.
RIM has too many models, too many resolutions and too many OS versions. Developers are ignoring the platform because it is a pain in the ass to develop and test for. The apps that do exist on the BlackBerry are crap in comparison with their iPhone and Android cousins.
A great example of this is the Air Canada app. For a number of months the app wasn’t certified for the device. Air Canada finally certified the app and you could download it to the Bold 9900, but the app displayed sideways on the phone. If you somehow overlook the need to turn your phone sideways to use the app, it also doesn’t include a number of features the iPhone version does.
The only exception is applications written by RIM themselves, which are often pretty good (Facebook, Twitter, etc.). The problem is that RIM can’t write every app for their devices.
2. Battery Life
My BlackBerry Bold 9900 was getting 6 to 8 hours of battery life before per charge. Even if I had the device in airplane mode and didn’t use it, it would still use a significant amount of battery life during the flight. Battery life used to be RIM’s strength, but in becoming more like their competitors, they removed an advantage their devices always had — amazing battery life. I remember my old BlackBerry only needed charging once every few days. That was amazing.
So how’s it going with the iPhone?
So far I am loving the new Phone (4S). The device is speedy, and the app selection and quality is amazing, especially the travel apps like FlightTrack, Tripit, Air Canada, SPG, Hyatt and Marriott. I’m really impressed with the virtual keyboard — it has dramatically improved since the 3G and I can type with two thumbs. It still doesn’t provide me with as good of a typing experience as the BlackBerry but overall I’m pretty happy. I still find the interface cumbersome in places, but the device has a level of polish that is impressive.
The one thing I miss the most about the BlackBerry? BBM! BBM is a huge asset for RIM and they are trying to leverage this through the creation of apps like BBM Music to increase the power of the platform. My worry — it won’t be enough. As people leave the BlackBerry platform BBM becomes weaker. RIM should have developed a version of BBM for both the iPhone and Android. Hell, if they charged $10 or $20 I would have paid for it in a second. Might as well make $10 off an iPhone user than $0.
I hope RIM will make it, but the outlook doesn’t look promising. Calling the BlackBerry Playbook launch disappointing would be generous. The new phones based on QNX won’t be here until late next year. The folks at RIM haven’t really addressed the app issue, and are instead suggesting that they need to do more marketing. Blurg.
Nortel was sad enough, I don’t want to see another large Canadian technology leader die.
Why no Windows Phone 7?
I really, really like what the team at Microsoft is doing with Windows Phone 7 and think it has the nicest experience of any phone on the market today. I just didn’t want to switch from a platform without a number of apps to another. I wouldn’t rule out a switch in the future (especially with the Nokia partnership), although Apple is going to make this harder with iMessage, FaceTime and iCloud.