Tuesday, July 24, 2007, 07:00 am PT (10:00 am ET)
iPhone Review Series: iPhone vs. BlackBerry 8700
Internet, Maps, and Widgets
Browsing the Web on a BlackBerry is painful to say the least. I have yet to run into a BlackBerry user who loves the way his/her phone navigates the Web. Recalling a bookmark from the web browser on the BlackBerry is a time consuming process in itself. This part of the phone really starts to show the age of the BlackBerry software design. Web pages are formatted before they are downloaded to the phone for viewing. Since the BlackBerry is incapable of scrolling left to right, everything is formatted for vertical scrolling
While the BlackBerry does a great job of performing this function as designed, it does not deliver the powerful feel and convenience of the Safari web browser. If having a computer-type web browser like Safari was not enough, the iPhones landscape mode allows you to flip the phone on its side and see a wider view, surely to the delight of even the most nonchalant phone user. On the iPhone, you can use your finger to scroll in any direction on the page. Zooming in and out by simple finger strokes make browsing the Web an enjoyable experience.
Apple doesnt stop with the Safari web browser. Maps, stocks, and weather forecasts are a finger tap away. Maps is a program that initiates a Google experience on a mobile phone like no other. Need to find the nearest Apple store or just a place to eat? Want to add the restaurant to your address book with a touch of the finger? Two finger taps is all it takes to add the information you have looked up on your favorite restaurant to your address book. Step by step driving directions is a so-so feature that may help some people out of a jam, but it's not rich enough to warrant replacement of many small GPS units on the market today. Who wants to tap "next" to see where they have to turn? I dont because I value my low insurance premiums. It was a nice try at replacing GPS functionality but unfortunately does not come close.
Following AAPL these days? Tap the Stocks icon and see how well your stocks are doing. The same goes for the weather. Need to check the weather at home and where you plane lands today? Tap the Weather icon and easily browse through the 6-day forecast for both cities. While you are at it, set up multiple cities as you many want and keep tabs on several places of interest.
The only downside to browsing the web and viewing live content updates on the iPhone is AT&Ts network speed. The speed is not as slow as some would lead you to believe but can be aggravating when downloading and sending large files. Apple gets around the network speed issue by offering quicker ways to access the data you need.
The built in Google search option cuts down on search times by allowing direct access to a search engine without first having to load a web page. On iPhone, I was able to load most web pages within 10 seconds of the BlackBerry's load time — and 10 seconds is worth the wait when you are getting a computer view of the web. Widget programs quickly present to-the-point data, giving the iPhone a big up side with these handy programs. The iPhone is light years ahead of the BlackBerry with Safari, Maps, Stocks, and Weather.
However, the iPhone drops the ball with one of the best features available on the BlackBerry - Internet tether modem. Take your BlackBerry, boot up windows, and connect it to the computer via a USB cable to surf the Internet on your computer at decent speeds. While I do not have the ability to tether my BlackBerry to the Mac operating system, starting up my Windows installation through Bootcamp is worth the trouble when I travel. Not having this option on the iPhone is yet another disappointment.
BlackBerrys infamous PUSH email and BlackBerry Enterprise Server (BES) combine to make an unequaled player in the mobile phone email arena. Meanwhile, iPhone's .Mac, IMAP, and POP email options are implemented well, but still don't compare with the BlackBerry email services in terms of speed and synchronization.
The iPhones mail program will sync .Mac accounts over Wi-Fi networks, which makes this feature nice for the office, home, and airport, but not feasible for users out of Wi-Fi network range. On the other hand, the iPhone's ability to access email accounts separately, but simply, really sets its mail application apart from those offered by BlackBerry. Each account is kept separate of other accounts so personal and work life can co-exist with better organization and routing clarity. The mail program on the iPhone is very Apple centric and gives Mac users a familiar feel.
The iPhones inability to perform over-the-air synchronization while on the go is where the Apple device really falters. Also of note is the poor method in which large file attachments are handled. Both these options give the iPhone a thumbs down for extreme users who need enterprise email support and/or receive large email attachments.
For instance, if you are emailed a 10 megabyte PDF document on the iPhone that you just want to forward to several colleagues, you must download the attachment and then forward it back out. With the BlackBerry email service, you can just choose to forward the attachment since the BlackBerry service does not force a download of attachments automatically. There is no long wait to see if the email went through before getting dropped or losing AT&Ts EDGE network. This gives the user of the new iPhone a slow and clunky feeling when forwarding out large attachments that are over half a megabyte in size.
The upside to the iPhones email package is the familiar look and feel of a computer-based email program. Unlike the BlackBerry where you have to use the click wheel extensively to view and/or open attachments, several types of email attachments on the iPhone are seamlessly integrated into the emails. To the casual user, iPhone email access will be sufficient, but for the corporate/extreme user, the email services will leave a lot to be desired. BES costs money, and casual users along with small businesses will never use the over-the-air synchronization. This gives the iPhone a foot in the door because most users will never experience the power of BlackBerrys full email services.
I have never been a fan of the BlackBerry calendar program. In fact, I try not to use it as much as possible. I only open it by accident or for those times I have to input a very important appointment that cannot be missed. It takes too much time and effort to get appointments in the 8703e. Monthly views are average at best, and daily views have a look that takes me back to 1999. Regardless of the 8703e downfalls, the BlackBerry's over-the-air synchronization is a feature that makes up for its below average calendar program.
By contrast, the iPhone shines with a calendar program that is superior in design, interface, and eye appea. It's also easily synchronization via USB cable. The program feels just like iCal, leaving Mac users feeling right at home. Entering and deleting appointments is quick and painless. Mac users will not know they are missing out on anything in this calendar program because it essentially delivers a mobile version of iCal for your pocket. Say hello to the Apple [i]PDA. Apple did well on the calendar program, and I find myself using it for all of my appointments. Still, over-the-air synchronization will have to be introduced to .Mac subscribers for this to completely dominate BlackBerry in this category.
The iPhone's Mac friendliness is one feature that cannot be overlooked. The Mac platform has been neglected by virtually every phone ever manufactured. If a phone supports Mac OS X, the implementation is usually an afterthought.
BlackBerrys PocketMac SyncManager for the Mac is sub-par and can sometimes do more harm than good when synchronizing in iCal. There is nothing spectacular or easy about the program other than it can keep your contacts up to date, but you must be sure you don't have too many phone numbers entered in one contact entry. Currently, this is the only solution I know of for the BlackBerry to synchronize directly with the Mac platform, excluding running the Windows operating system through Bootcamp and utilizing BES.
The iPhone is both Windows and Mac friendly. It synchronizes and works well with both platforms through iTunes. This is the first phone I have owned which has accomplished data synchronization tasks easily.
On page 3: Video iPod; Bluetooth; Battery Life; Cases; Wi-Fi; and Camera.
On Topic: General
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