What makes a BlackBerry a compelling device today?

What makes a BlackBerry a compelling device today?

Summary: RIM has dominated the mobile email market with their BlackBerry devices in the past, but with the other available solutions from Palm, Symbian, and Windows Mobile a couple mobile enthusiasts don't understand the draw anymore. You can get push email using a number of different solutions today, so why aren't IT departments looking at more functional solutions?

TOPICS: BlackBerry

I recently checked out a BlackBerry Pearl and after spending a few days with it I have to say I don't think people are choosing BlackBerry devices themselves as much as they are being assigned them by their companies. If people are choosing the device themselves, then I highly encourage them to check out the more capable Palm, Symbian, and Windows Mobile offerings and prepared to be blown away compared to the BlackBerry devices. Fellow Mobian, Steve Sande, must have been reading my mind and his new blog entry titled, BlackBerry - What’s All The Fuss?, practically mirrors all my same thoughts on the platform.

BlackBerry PearlThe first impression I had of the Pearl was checking out the terrible fonts and very basic looking web browser and PIM applications and I couldn't believe that people were actually accepting them on their devices. You can tweak many of the fonts to make it a bit more readable, but what a terrible out-of-box experience for new customers. I also find it much easier to switch between applications in the other competing platforms that have much more available software to help you get even more functionality out of the device. BlackBerry devices have always been promoted for their email support, but I found the email interface to be quite poor compared to that seen on my Nokia E61 and T-Mobile Dash. And the argument that BlackBerry's get push email is pretty much moot now that Exchange has Direct Push support and even the BlackBerry server works on multiple mobile device operating systems. I know security has been a concern with IT people as well, but Microsoft's latest Windows Mobile update addresses much of that with the capability for remote wiping of devices too. It will be interesting to see if IT personnel start taking an honest look at the other mobile device solutions that are available and what RIM will do to improve their operating system as they start to feel the pressure from Palm, Symbian, and Windows Mobile.

Topic: BlackBerry

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  • You are very Right but I still have to strongly disgree with your article!

    First, let me say I am a huge Microsoft fan. You are totally correct in that Microsoft OS offers so much more from a UI experience level. We develop business applications for both the MS OS and the BlackBerry OS and Microsoft makes it easy to create sophisticated applications. So you would think I would be cheering your column - the answer is not really. Let me explain...

    Yes, Blackberry fonts are somewhat limited and the Blackberry UI is very limited and "cool" Blackberry applications are extremely limited. Now I've tried Microsoft based SDA'a and MDA's and the latest T-Mobile Dash. So why after all that - would I still prefer my Blackberry 8700g? (Please - from a Business standpoint, SDA'a and Pearl and 7100 are far too awkward and slow with their predictive text. I see them as merely a platform to step-up those who are want a bit more from their T9 texting devices. MDA's are still quite buggy and bulky) So I moved to the latest and greatest Microsoft Mobile 5.0, the T-Mobile Dash ? umm.. for about 4 hours and then back to my 8700g

    The reason is straightforward. I accept less "coolness" from BlackBerry because the BlackBerry is designed for maximum productivity - BlackBerry gets the point. Usability is what I prioritize... and BlackBerry is currently the smallest QWERTY interface and the fastest most intuitive, ergonomic way to handle Email, Calendar, Contacts and typing.

    Let me give a few small examples. While my examples may seem trivial - on a mobile device they have a tremendous, measurable time-saving impact for me. I rarely have to write emails from my desktop anymore. I come home from work and my emails are done! If you were me, you get around 50-100 emails a day. I get 2-3 faxes a day on my BlackBerry. I respond at length on my BlackBerry and rarely use my laptop or desktop for any email correspondence. I prefer the handheld devices because it gives me more free time. I'll confess - bathroom breaks are my most productive email response time. :)

    Example 1.
    About 50% of my emails are client related and the other 50% are potential client related. Very few people send their contact info via the standard "VCF" card attachment which both MS Mobile and Blackberry OS accept and can insert as a contact. Just to add a contact on a T-Mobile Dash, you CAN NOT COPY AND PASTE! Can you believe it - it?s almost 2007, Microsoft is on version 5.0 and you can't copy and paste! That?s right - you'd have to swap back and forth between the Email and your Contacts application and then HAND type, that is COPY every character to the Microsoft Contact form.

    On a BlackBerry it is the opposite. The BlackBerry can infer much of from the signature and even better - it has sophisticated copy and paste commands.

    Example 2, 3, 4.

    Typing on a Blackberry is "smart" and intuitive.

    - I'm in tech and there are many acronyms that are capitalized letters. On MS Mobile I have to hit SHIFT for each and every letter I need capitalized. Blackberry's have easy to set caps-lock or even better, you just hold any key a quarter second and the character is auto capitalized.

    - On a Blackberry, I can create typing shortcuts like "u" = "you" , "ur" = "your" "w=" "with" as well as one/two/three letter shortcuts which expand to any large paragraphs I want. Microsoft Mobile doesn't have anything like this. Get it? On my Blackberry device mobile - Blackberry's save me time!!!! Look at any lengthy email and see how often you type "you" and "with" etc... If shortcuts save you 10-20 seconds per email, that adds up!

    - On a Blackberry, alt-key combinations are intuitive. Guess where the "%" character is - over the "P" key for percent. The tilde is over T. The backslash is over the forward slash key. Check out the keyboard UI on Microsoft - it is another "have it our way" from the Microsoft Mobile team. Why, Microsoft? Why do you have to be sooo.. lazy at our lazy expense?

    - On Microsoft Mobile / T-Mobile dash - if you were just to add a company name and then the phone number, you'd have to scroll down 27 items in the contact before you could enter the company name the back up to enter the phone number. . Considering the T-Mobile and like devices don?t have touch screens ? that is a real pain. Even Blackberry understood that First, Last and Company name should be right next to each other at the top. It?s like Microsoft just ignored common sense.

    These are just a few very real, time saving steps for me. I could go on and on. Even if the T-Mobile dash and like devices had touch screens - it still wouldn't make up for the awkward OS. If you don't use a mobile device like I do, then all these are trivial complaints and you will be fine. But remember, at some point, you'll become so familiar with your device and eventually want much more from it.

    I love Microsoft but I am very angry at them for their mediocre delivery of a Mobile OS. They can?t extract themselves from their internal ?user? perspective and deliver something based upon real use cases. Microsoft will get it one day - today's just not it.
    • Excellent and interesting response


      I thoroughly enjoyed your comment on my post and appreciate the insight. As I stated, the only BlackBerry I have personally tried is the Pearl so my experiences are a bit limited. That said, one business feature that is very important for me is the ability to receive and view email attachments in Word, Excel, and PDF format while on the road. My coworker has a BlackBerry and we have had to copy and paste text into the email directly for him to read on the road, which is unacceptable for business use. Is this lack of attachment support applicable to all BlackBerry models?

      I have tried S60, Palm, and Windows Mobile devices and find that WM has the best attachment support so when I am truly on the road for business I make sure a WM device is with me in my gear bag. S60 and Palm do well for most attachments, but sometimes they can't handle all that I need.
      palmsolo (aka Matthew Miller)
      • good points...

        Its thanks to articles like yours, the Mobile OS companies get the feedback they need. Thanks for the opportunity to forum this.

        You raise a very good point regarding the views PDF, Word, Excel, PowerPoint, etc...

        This is solved by one software add-ons for me. With Repligo - I can read ANY attachment in its WYSIWYG format which is optimized for your mobile device. In my case, its the Blackberry 8700g. It seems many Windows based devices subscribe to this service as well.

        There are 2 other add-ons (free) that may help your coworker. One is a free spell checker called BBCorrector. The second is called Berry411 which locates address and telephone information and is capable of forwarding it as a VCF card which can automatically insert itself into the contacts which of course synchronizes with the Exchange server. Yea - Kill two birds with one stone.
  • Your article seems full of bias.

    I could post a generous list of examples like the person before me but I will keep it short. Look blackberry makes you productive. I have been in the industry for 10 years and studied IT in College. Blackberry's competitors I have heard through the Providers are MUCH less reliable and not as good a product. What makes it compelling is it's size and efficiency. It is a cool product. When I went to a reseller, they said buy a blackberry they are much more reliable, my eye went to a Palm and he came and helped me out. I actually went to 3 places over the course of a month, and they all recommended the Blackberry. They were different providers by the way. and in this instance we aren't talking about the Pearl per se. We are talking about Blackberry products in general, but the provider I went to loved the blackberry and it is getting rave reviews from a lot of the online community.

    In conclusion to the author of the article posted in ZDnet, your article seems very biased and you should disclose if you have any investment relationships with the other products.
    • Bias or are there really other competing operating systems?

      While BlackBerry devices may be stable and may have been more reliable than other devices in the past, I personally don't think that is applicable today. I have had a Nokia E61 for several months and it has not reset or acted up on me once, even after loading lots of 3rd party apps and pushing it. Also, the Windows Mobile Smartphone devices I have used in the last couple years have been rock solid in stability and the argument doesn't hold any water today. Resellers in general are very unfamiliar with the high end Palm and Windows Mobile devices and with the Nokia E62 just hitting Cingular this month it is still a virtually unknown contender. BlackBerry devices are probably an excellent choice if email is your most important consideration, but other platforms are quite compelling for email and other features and as the market continues to be educated I think we'll see some resellers learning more about the device offerings they have on hand.

      I was pointing out in my post that there are alternatives to the BlackBerry for people and encourage people to be open-minded and try out different devices rather than just going with what seems to be the standard.

      I have no investment relationships with any products and write about mobile devices as a part-time enthusiast. With this blog, in addition to major mobile news, I post my personal opinions and experiences in regards to mobile devices. And if you ask the community I am sure you will see that I am one of the least biased enthusiasts in the mobile community as I switch between Palm, Symbian, and Windows Mobile regularly and have strong feelings for and against all of them, depending on the application of the device or operating system.
      palmsolo (aka Matthew Miller)
  • Horibble article.

    The good thing about this article is the bias. It's so pungent that readers will easily discard the rants here. ZDNet should review this.
  • the PDF, XLS, etc are SOLVED by BES

    The PDF, XLS, etc also solved by BES. No addon needed. Plus, this article seemed to be more about BES users anyway. I've never had to download or buy any third party apps to open attachments. Where did you get that from. A quick look at RIM's site and you'll find the extensive list of supported files type via BES.
    • Thanks for the info on the BES attachment support

      I appreciate the information regarding this support in the BES. The people I work with who continue to ask us for this information in the email either are uninformed about this functionality or do not have it properly installed on their servers. It is good to hear that there is some attachment support.
      palmsolo (aka Matthew Miller)
  • Don't judge BlackBerry only on the device - look at the total first!

    From a device-only perspective the writer *might* be right. However, when looking at a total mobile solution that services a business in a secure, cost-effective, efficient and manageable way, BlackBerry is still the leader, especially when loaded with business applications (eg GPXS Spellcheck or Print2fax).

    You don't judge UPS on the look of their VANs - it is about getting a parcel delivered at the right place at the right time. Serious ICT journalists should step away from 'look and feel' and understand first how ICT solutions contribute to a core business process before sticking a consumer opinion on a successful solution.