17 September 2010

Cyberspace October 2010

The contenders

I’ve been using a Blackberry Pearl 8100 for over two years, and for the last year I’ve simultaneously used an iPhone 3GS. Which do I prefer (considering the 8100 is old and doesn’t have 3G)? The iPhone, but it comes at a cost in an enterprise environment.

Email: I use them both with a personal Gmail account and my corporate Exchange account. I’m advised that the email on iPhone is not as secure as Blackberry, so we are looking at extra software to achieve this for our iPhones. It will also let use segregate personal and corporate data, which allows us to remote wipe corporate data without touching anything else. The BlackBerry email interface is faster and has access to all the Exchange functions I need, including setting up out-of-office. On the iPhone you need to log into Outlook Web Access (assuming you offer this service) in Safari, which is a hassle. The iPhone can often struggle with (read “not display”) Rich Text emails sent from Microsoft Outlook, which can be a huge problem. You should ask your correspondents to set the default format for Outlook to HTML.  It also frequently shows an attachment named “winmail.dat” rather than the actual attachment.

Meetings: Dealing with meeting invitations is much slicker on the BlackBerry. In fact, any inbound message whether email, SMS or meeting invitation is all in the one inbox. On the 3GS that requires three applications.

Documents: Our document management system provider (Objective) has apps for both devices, but document reading is much easier on the iPhone. Only a few BlackBerrys have large screens.

Phone: The BlackBerry’s phone is excellent – great call quality, voice recognition, volume and battery life. A new battery will give 5-7 days between charges (using a mini-USB charger). The iPhone must be charged every day using the Apple cable. The iPhone phone volume is a bit quiet. The Bluetooth on the BlackBerry to be easier to use than the iPhone. On the 8100 I leave it on all the time and it seamlessly connects to my various car and other devices, whereas the iPhone is a bit more fiddly.

The BlackBerry’s data connection is also more reliable – it works in many places where the iPhone says it has no reception (both are on Optus). The BB also doesn’t throw lots of on-screen error messages when it loses connectivity.

Looking up addresses in the corporate address book (i.e. not local) is faster and easier on the BlackBerry.

Applications

The Maps application on the iPhone is easier than the BlackBerry. Out of the 200,000 apps on the iTunes store I’d say 50% are worthless, 30% of marginal use and 0.5% are really good. BlackBerry has App World, with vastly fewer but high quality apps. However, it’s not broad enough for me. Non-factory iPhone apps I have used extensively and relied on are TomTom GPS, iXPenseIt, RememberTheMilk, RoboForm, TuneIn Radio, Evernote, TripIt, Darkroom Pro, Google Reader, Paris Metro and PennyTel. The lack of all of these would be a deal breaker for me. Both phones have games, but these aren’t important for me.

Typing on the 8100 is too quirky for some, but I think it’s great. The predictive text is very good and the half-qwerty keyboard keeps the phone small and light. The iPhone is much bigger, and a bit slower to type on. It’s a trade-off between size and functionality.

Other players

Windows Mobile has been a pretty horrible product, but there’s hope. Version 7 due later this year looks like it will finally become something really good to use. Quite a few manufacturers will build the hardware. Avoid a 6.x phone in the meantime. Android phones are also built by several vendors, and some of them now such as the Samsung Galaxy S are great devices, rivalling the iPhone in bells and whistles.

Cyberspace is published each month in the Journal of the Law Society of New South Wales.