Wednesday, July 9, 2008

Trade you an iPhone for a Curve? Ummm....

Reader Justin writes in:

What bberry did you end up getting? I'm getting ready to start medical school this fall and I want to be smart phone equipped before I arrive. I'm pretty keen on the new iPhone, but I know that proper due diligence requires me to look into the RIM options. You seem pretty happy with yours based on your blog--if you had to choose again now, with the 3G iPhone about to roll out, would you choose similarly again?

Thanks for the question, Justin. I got the Blackberry Curve and I love it. I've actually done quite a bit of customizing since I got it to make it the best cell phone I can imagine having. So, I will NOT be getting the new iPhone, despite its improved 3G speeds.

Here's why:

First, the iPhone does not have a native instant messaging app. I use Google Talk for the Blackberry constantly. I LOVE being on IM all the time, its infinitely better than text messaging (I talked about it here). So, even though Google Talk signs out sometimes when you lose reception (e.g., the subway), I still have Blackberry's proprietary BBM system that fills the gap and delivers messages when you get back in range. Seriously, I think this is the deal breaker for me. Not only does the iPhone not have mobile IM, it doesn't even come with text messages anymore, so the price becomes substantially more expensive while the usability actually decreases on my favorite feature. I know that Google Talk just launched an iPhone version, but I don't hear great things about it.
Reviews of iPhone Gtalk at VentureBeat, TechCrunch, GigaOM, CNet and Lifehacker

Second, the mobile internet. I thought this would be the game changer for the iPhone. However, the pages I use most frequently when I'm on the move are typically formatted for my blackberry (ESPN, Google Reader). I also just downloaded Opera Mini, which brings the FULL browsing experience to the blackberry (and is completely free). The navigation is not as cool as the iPhone finger flick, but the keypad and ball work just fine for moving and zooming. Opera Mini has a feature of saving pages down to the MicroSD card that I've installed. That makes offline reading possible, and opens the potential for me to read my RSS feeds on the subway (which is something I really want). Granted, it's still EDGE network, but I can deal with it (and frankly 3G still doesn't seem like it will be as fast as my home wifi connection, so it may be a bit overhyped). Also, I've grown to distrust Apple with their 'we control the ecosystem approach' and don't think they'll really let people put a web browser that is not Safari on their iPhones. And, Mozilla is working on a mobile browser that could be pretty sweet.

Third, the first reviews for the 3G iPhone indicate that it has poor battery life. That's part of the reason Apple does not let apps run in the background. The battery on my Curve lasts for almost 2 days of normal use (from morning day 1 to night day 2), which includes much mobile web browsing and instant messaging, a little bit of talking and taking a few pictures. The iPhone battery is said to last 10 hours with the 3G turned off and only 5 hours with it on! To me, that is in no way going to get it done.
Reviews of iPhone 3G from David Pogue, NYTimes and Walt Mossberg, WSJ

Fourth, the big benefit of the new iPhone is the app store, which is just launching and available to old iPhone owners as well. And, Blackberry has had developers writing apps for it for some time already (like Opera Mini or Google Maps). Also, there are a few other programs that I have tried to varying degrees of success. I wrote about voice enabled services, and I really want to like them, but they don't really have use for me since I basically never drive. GigaOM reviews Vlingo.

I really like having a physical keyboard. I haven't used the iPhone keyboard that much, but I do have some difficulty with it (though I'm sure I could get used to it). What makes me nervous about it is that in my effort to type more quickly, as I move my fingers to type, I would hit every key as though I dragged them along the keyboard. I haven't tried this, so I don't know, but I could imagine that I would have to lift my fingers a bit more and that would annoy me (though this has to be slightly insane on my part). Also, there is NO CUT AND PASTE on the iPhone. That amazes me as an oversight. I use cut and paste all over the place with my phone for emails, IM, text messages and adding contact information (so I don't constantly have to ask for people's addresses).

Admittedly, I have never had an iPhone, so I haven't been able to set it up to match what I want like I have with my Blackberry. I've set up the smart keys on the side of my Curve to launch the programs that I use most often and I've got my icons arranged in order of use. I use email a lot, so it goes first, etc. I feel like the blackberry has a lot of customization possibilities where the iPhone may not. The iPhone may get more options with new software from the app store, etc, but those will likely cost real money. But, I have to admit that the iPhone apps for jailbroken phones that are already out there seem pretty sweet (though I haven't met anyone who took the risk of jailbreaking).

All of this said, I may consider picking up a used iPhone 1.0 for cheap if the price is sweet enough (circa $50), though I mostly want to use it to remote control my computer. But, I have to admit, I think the games look really cool (sorry, brickbreaker).

Justin, I hope that answers your questions. And, if you decide on the iPhone anyways, I definitely want to hear all about it.

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