My BlackBerry year - and why I'm back on iPhone
An Apple iPhone is seen in New York on July 13, 2011. (AP / Richard Drew, File)
Published Wednesday, December 28, 2011 7:21AM EST
A year ago I received my first work phone: a BlackBerry.
Having been a first-generation iPhone adopter, the elusive straitlaced business phone had held some fascination for me.
Unwilling to give up my personal cell number, I put my iPhone on a cheap data-free plan and used it as a secondary phone for personal calls and my preferred method of texting.
"BlackBerry for work, iPhone for play," I would say to anyone eye-balling my duelling smart phones side by side in their matching pink cases.
Yes, my first call to action for my BlackBerry was to buy it a pink case. It was just so bland looking. I felt like it belonged clipped to the belt of a middle-aged accountant. A pink case at least made it purse worthy.
I spent the next 12 months trying to love the gadget that put Waterloo, Ont., on the silicon map. Or maybe "love" is too strong. Respect? In any case, it didn't happen for me. Just one day shy of a year, my inner iUser cracked and I gave back my BlackBerry, prompting me to reflect on the trials and triumphs of the cold war between these fruit-named gadgets. So here it goes.
BlackBerry Excels at Email
As a work device, BlackBerrys own the email field. When you hit send, the email sends. Period. There's no spinning, spinning, spinning wheel followed by a jet-engine sounding 'whoosh' (that I suspect is actually a 'Phew!') like on the iPhone.
The seamless connection to my Exchange server was also a welcome change.
With nearly 1,000 emails landing in my inbox daily, I've come to accept that checking, deleting and filing emails while you are away from the office is the only way to get anything done at the office. My BlackBerry loyally cleaned up my inbox with ease.
Surfing Seriously Sucks
But what if someone sent me an email with a link? The spinning wheel of death returns, but this time it's a BlackBerry blue line forever inching across the word "Requesting" -- and there's no jet-engine whoosh when the page finally loads.
Really? More than a minute to open a basic webpage? Not impressed. But with a screen that size, who really wants to be browsing?
Okay, so surfing sucks. But who needs to surf when you have BlackBerry's Messenger service, BBM?
All those years that I saw BlackBerry users dutifully tapping on their keyboard I never suspected they were simply exchanging 'wazzups' or gossip with co-workers via BBM. It looks so official.
After using BBM with some of my closer contacts I understood all the fuss. Being able to know when a person has read your message, how long they take to respond and how long it takes to type is a true window into the human psyche.
Digital voyeurism? Maybe. Entertaining at times? Very. My BBM correspondence will be one of my most-missed features.
I remember excitedly asking a BlackBerry aficionado about a list of the best apps. I think I even Googled it. The bland results ended with me downloading a safety driving app that promised to read out the dozens of emails I get during the 25 minute drive from my front door to my desk. It never made a peep once inside the car -- not one email or text.
The only time the app made its presence known was when I would leave the car and in a big fake voice it would say it was now 'TURNED OFF'. That joke got old after a few months and I deleted it. Or at least I thought I did. Now and then, after a reboot, the voice would come back to keep me on my toes.
Network Security Fears Passé?
Research in Motion's airtight network security is what made their smart phones the first choice of businesses and governments alike. But, in a somewhat ironic twist of fate, BlackBerry's superior security features are now becoming a source of strain. Last year, RIM was forced to make a deal with Saudi Arabia to install servers inside the country, in order to avoid a nation-wide ban. More recently, BBM came under fire for providing a secure and untraceable communication method for rioters in London to organize violent mobs.
On the Apple front, the initial fear that weak iPhone security features would result in corporate espionage has eased. As a result, more and more companies are beginning to embrace, or at least consider, using Apple phones as their business communication tool.
Not Quite an iSaint
Now, don't get me wrong, I am fully prepared to regret my decision to replace my work phone with my ‘fun' phone. I even talked the tech guy into letting me hold onto my BlackBerry for a week or two during the "transition period."
I am dead worried about what the massive influx of emails will do to my dear iPhone and its battery. And what about that spinning wheel of death? Will the jet sound begin to grind on me again while I try to rapidly respond to multiple emails while chanting 'send, send,' and possibly holding the phone up to the sky at an odd angle hoping to expedite the process?
Ultimately, I worry that perhaps my love for my iPhone is rooted in the fact that it reminds me of play, not work. I can't say I have bought many business-y apps. Not yet at least.
So, let the wheel spin. In my books, the fruit war has ended.