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Tuesday, July 24, 2007, 07:00 am PT (10:00 am ET)

iPhone Review Series: iPhone vs. BlackBerry 8700


Video iPod

Unlike iPhone, the BlackBerry does not feature any digital media player functions. You cannot upload your song collection for listening pleasure, and, similarly, watching full length movies is not an option. This was never a big deal for me as I also have a 60 GB video iPod that I carry everywhere.

Upon getting the iPhone, one of the last parts I explored was the iPod section. After-all, I had an iPod, and I was skeptical of having a convergence device in my hands. I quickly learned that my skepticism was unwarranted, as the iPhone is simply the best iPod Apple has ever released. Listening to my music or watching movies has never been so simple and enjoyable. The first time I received a phone call when listening to music, I was pleasantly surprised at how the music faded out as I accepted the call. When the call had finished, the music faded back in exactly where it left off.

Watching movies is a totally different experience on the iPhone than on a video iPod. The wide screen and touch displays make for better viewing and control. The on-screen controls look like the same controls for watching videos and movies inside iTunes and Apple's DVD Player software.

The entire iPod experience on the iPhone is very intuitive even though the iPhone has a different menu layout compared to the previous iPods. The biggest surprise about the iPhone to me, was the iPhone’s iPod features. iTunes music and videos are loaded as if you had your iPod connected to your computer through iTunes, which is quick, painless and easy. I just wish the iPhone had a larger storage capacity since 8GB doesn’t quite meet my personal needs when movies, songs, photographs, and emails are competing for the same space.

For me, the biggest disappointment and almost temper-flaring incident was finding out that not one of my many wired headsets are compatible with the iPhone. It seems Apple decided to make the access port around the audio jack smaller than normal. This prevents you from using your Bose noise canceling headphones, Apple in-ear head set, and I am sure countless other wired hearing devices. This will no doubt result in millions of dollars wasted to purchase a new headset or to upgrade to something that works via an adapter. This is a big disappointment as the ear buds that accompany the iPhone are just as bad as the ear buds that accompany each iPod. I have a collection of them in the basement because they are truly that bad.

Bluetooth

BlackBerry's 8703e Bluetooth experience is one of flawless execution. At this point in the digital world, you would think the digital warlords could get a handle on other aspects of technology as that of Bluetooth. The only Bluetooth action my BlackBerry has seen was hands free connectivity within my truck. When using the hands free Bluetooth option on my BlackBerry, battery performance is degraded somewhat but not to the point I would deem unacceptable.

The iPhone performed just as well as the 8703e with the exception of battery life and having the feature hidden two layers deep from the home screen. Battery life was less than spectacular when the Bluetooth was turned on in my vehicle on travel days. Utilizing the hands free option via Bluetooth degraded iPhone's battery life to the point where I had to weigh usage time versus battery life.

Bluetooth connectivity is better managed on the iPhone since it keeps a list of the devices you have paired readily available for reference or deletion. This is a nice feature that the BlackBerry lacked. I could not find a way to turn off the “discoverable” Bluetooth mode on the iPhone unless I deactivated it before I exited the preference panel. This could be a cause of my poor battery life with Bluetooth enabled, but I have no way of knowing.

Battery Life

The BlackBerry gives about 4.5 hours of real talk time on good days with plenty of emails being sent and received and little web surfing taking place. Bluetooth affects battery life some but not enough to worry over. The BlackBerry does not have Wi-Fi to help drain the battery.

Four to five hours of continuous use meant I always had a charger or USB cable handy on heavy use days. I didn’t worry about my BlackBerry's battery life when I was in the office or in a vehicle with charger. This is not all that bad considering it takes only 90 to 120 minutes to recharge a drained battery. I would only notice drainage when traveling via plane and I had no means to recharge the phone when I needed. By the end of the travel day, I would start to catch myself only making and accepting calls that had to be made. There is always the option to carry an extra battery and replace it when one runs down if you are on the go without the choice to recharge, which is a big plus for the BlackBerry.

The iPhone delivers on its claim of eight hours of talk time. I have exceeded this numerous times getting roughly eight to nine hours of talk time while having the phone check email once per hour; however, this was with no Wi-Fi use. When listening to music, surfing via Wi-Fi, and talking, I get an easy six to seven hours of use, which depends on how heavily you do each of these activities. I can say that when Apple claims 24 hours of audio playback, I have gone past 12 hours in airplane mode and had plenty of battery left. This is encouraging for those long international flights.

Cases

The BlackBerry line of products are known for their holsters or phone cases. I have only one accessory for my 8703e, a black plastic holster that clips on your pants pocket, belt, or desk draw handle. I can slide my phone in and out with the greatest of ease and not worry that it is going to fly out. To a lot of BlackBerry users, their case is as much a part of the experience as the phone itself. Most people roll their eyes over how picky I am about my phone holsters, but this is something I don’t take lightly.

Therefore, the only accessory I have acquired to date are several holsters and cases for my iPhone. The iPhone really doesn’t require a case for casual trips out to the movies as it slides in and out of my pocket easily due to the smaller size and slick build. However, at work, I need protection. Since the iPhone is new I didn’t expect many holsters/cases to be available at the time of purchase on day zero. Was I wrong or what? I came home with two holsters and one case. As with my iPods, I find that using the Speck Tough Skin with holster clip is my case of choice for the time being. I like the fact that I can lay my iPhone down in the car and not worry about it flying all over the place because of the sticky rubber-like grip. When I do drop the iPhone, the case has extra padding in all the correct places to make sure I don’t dent my $600 investment.

Wi-Fi

The year is 2007, and Wi-Fi is on the iPhone. I know it is not the first phone to debut the wireless technology, but after using it on a phone, I believe Wi-Fi should be built into every smartphone produced. For those times when you are at home, work, or at the nearest coffee shop and have access to a wireless network, you can read your email, your favorite news web site, or check your weather forecast for the day on your phone. The experience is fast, very fast, and in a small package that can be tucked away in a pocket easily. The 8703e does not have Wi-Fi built in, leaving no comparison to make. I can say that if I had Wi-Fi available on my BlackBerry, I am not so sure I would use it to surf the Web since it would still take extensive use of the click wheel to do so.

Camera

Wow! I finally have a camera on my phone causing years of withdrawal from using a BlackBerry phone. The 8703e does not have a camera, leaving those special times in everyday life lost. This is one of those missing features that makes the BlackBerry a little too business oriented.

The camera on the iPhone performs great in well-lit conditions. Low light situations present a problem, and the iPhone's camera will not perform well in these situations. Pictures sometimes appear dark and grainy. But in well-lit scenarios, the 2 megapixel resolution makes for good quality photographs from a phone. What it won’t do is replace your 10 megapixel pocket camera anytime soon. Did I mention video cannot be recorded on the iPhone?

When photographs have been taken with the phone, iPhoto on the Mac is there to load the photographs into your photo library once you connect your iPhone over USB. This makes transferring photographs a breeze just like using any digital camera with the Mac.

On page 4: Needs Attention; Conclusion; and Rating.