I have talked to a number of customers and seen a number of blogs where people are asking what device they should buy next? [One example here.] I thought I would take the opportunity to talk about devices based on operating system and my opinion of each.
My first entry is on BlackBerry devices.
- Simple design: screen and menu. Outside of shortcuts, there are very few “hidden” features.
- Easy to control with a single hand to look up a number or appointment.
- Tight integration between address book, calendar, browser and email to make phone calls and send email.
- Nice form factors on the new devices (Pearl, Curve, 8800 series).
- Easy to sync data with Outlook via USB.
- Standard USB connection for both charging and syncing.
- Solid battery life.
- Improved BlackBerry Internet Service to sync contacts, calendar and tasks to Outlook wirelessly.
- Better calendar, address book and tasks integration.
- Wider breadth of third-party software applications.
I hadn’t worked with a BlackBerry device until January, when Infinity Softworks started writing software for it. I always saw them as a bit bulky and as an email device for corporate folks. To be honest, I saw the BlackBerry as a step backward. No touch screen? No handwriting recognition? Ugh!
Boy, was I wrong. I have found the devices to be quite nice. I have worked with most of the recent models, while I carry a BlackBerry Pearl myself. I picked the Pearl (8100) because it is the right size for me. I was tired of carrying bulky handhelds and wanted something all-in-one. While the SureType entry method is adequate, it is not as consistent as the QWERTY keyboards on other models. Given that, I understand some trade-offs must be made for the smaller form factor and, after years of writing Palm Graffiti, that is one I am willing to make.
From a software/OS perspective, it is very straight forward. You use a small trackwheel to navigate around and select it to go to a screen, there is a menu button to display the menu, and a back (escape) button to go back to where you were before. There is tight integration to make phone calls and send emails. When any software application detects text that is a telephone number, email or web address, it underlines it. To call, scroll to the text and hit the phone’s send button. It makes the call. Selecting an email or web address pops up the appropriate application as well.
The areas where I can see some improvement is really in the way the core personal information is handled (calendar, contacts, tasks). These three could be integrated better. For instance, I should be able to see today’s tasks in the calendar and be able to click them off as I complete them. If I enter a contact name into a task or appointment, I should be able to click on that contact to see their details and call them.
In addition, I would like to see better email, contact, calendar, task and note synchronization with Outlook. Yes, it synchronizes the latter three when you connect via USB. I would like to see them sync wirelessly. I make a change on my BlackBerry it should show up automatically in Outlook next time I open it. The same is true when I make a change in Outlook. It should automatically show on my BlackBerry. And I should be able to “file” emails and have them sync to the desktop as well (I have had to blind carbon copy myself to get copies of the emails I have sent to others from my device.)
These, though, are minor announces that I have partly solved with existing third-party applications and partly solved with some work-arounds provided by BlackBerry.
To be honest, BlackBerry Pearl is the first device I have found that got me to use an all-in-one device. The biggest complement, though, is what I have seen from others. Customers who use BlackBerry devices seem to keep buying BlackBerry devices. Loyalty: the holy grail of mobile device manufacturers. And RIM, the makers of the BlackBerry, seem to have it.