The following Guest Post is from Dale Strauss, and it is written in response to my recent post about the iPhone vs. Blackberry debate. Let it never be said that I’m not willing to air both sides of a debate, even if one of them is not pro-Apple (LOL). I hope that you find it helpful and informative, and I’d like to thank Dale for allowing me to publish his great article:
Reading Ben’s references to the great articles by Jeff Richardson and Lee Rosen gave rise to one of my long-winded comments, which Ben graciously suggested we turn it into this Guest Post. I would like to make a plug for a different alternative to the iPhone, the Blackberry Bold. No doubt the Storm is RIM’s direct analog for the iPhone, however I believe the Bold is a more compelling alternative, particularly for lawyers.
I’ve tried the iPhone 3g twice (and my son has my original iPhone) so I believe I’ve given it a fair shake. It is undoubtedly one of the best electronic gadgets ever invented. It has no equal as a media device, whether music, videos, gaming, or even the internet. I hesitated a bit on that last one, because Safari on the iPhone is the best internet experience on a phone size device, but it is still too small. No matter how good the interface and translation of a full page may be, it is still an annoying WINDOW on the real thing. Even netbooks at 8" stretch the true usability of the internet. No device with a 3" +/- window on the internet world delivers the goods.
However, the iPhone falls short as a business device. First and foremost, is battery life (actually lack thereof). I know 3g is a severe battery drain, but in a recent visit to Austin, which has one of AT&T’s best and most mature 3g build-outs, the iPhone could not make it to mid-afternoon without the dreaded 20% warning. I was in a seminar full of other lawyers, and many were using the iPhone and fighting for turns to use the limited outlets to top off the device to make it to 5:00. That is totally unacceptable. In my case, this was only using push email and voice calls throughout the day (less than 30 minutes on the internet and NO video, music, or gaming). By comparison, my Bold will easily go 1.5-2 days under those same conditions, and even when browsing and using video or music never fails to deliver a full day of service on a single charge. The Bold proves that 3g does not have to be a battery killing option (my reading indicate the reason you can’t switch down to EDGE is that the device only uses 3g sparingly when needed) – and in a pinch you can still swap batteries if you want to watch that 2 hour movie on the flight. (PS – don’t even go there if you are going to point out all the after-market battery chargers for your iPhone – you either wait 1-4 hours for them to recharge the battery, or hang the whole contraption from your face as you try to make calls).
As for email and PIM functionality, the iPhone cannot compete with the Bold. When using the iPhone, you are literally tethered to the server because it is not stored locally. Likewise, searching and moving within folders is cumbersome at best. No task or notes synchronization, absent third party software which again MUST be connected to your server, there is no offline storage of this data – not only a problem when there’s no service, but when throttled back to EDGE as well. (Note – iMExchange was recently updated to permit offline storage of Notes and Tasks if you manually told it to ignore the warning to connect to your server, but I found that it wouldn’t work reliably for me).
I won’t dwell too long on the other missing functions, but after this length of time and the clamoring from the public, it is amazing there is still no cut/copy/paste, Docs-to-Go type Office document viewing/editing, MMS, Bluetooth stereo, video recording, and a raft of other small issues. Sure, it is the world’s best small device programming platform, but some of these are glaring omissions for an enterprise class device.
Let’s talk about "flick and swish" for a minute. While elegant, and making a great presentation on TV commercials, the constant need to flick and swish your way through the iPhone interface is much like the ancient (and never ending) debate between the mouse and the keyboard. Give most power users the option to keep their hands on the keyboard, and they will be much more productive than “mousing” around. It’s the same with the iPhone and Bold. That big glass screen is a marvelous beauty on the iPhone, but I can get around between and within programs much more quickly and efficiently from the keyboard using the old style menu system.
Physical or virtual keyboard – not to quibble with THE technology guru of America, but Mr. Mossberg‘s ease of converting to the virtual keyboard is a bit misleading. After you learn to “just trust the word recognition software,” you are then faced with a dreadful editing interface – just try to make changes or corrections with that glass screen and magnifier, and you will go nuts in a few minutes. It is particularly annoying coupled with the absence of cut and paste. This is where the Storm falls short as well; a virtual keyboard just cannot stand up to demanding email manipulation and production, let alone making edits or comments on documents or other attachments.
Overall, as a consumer device, the iPhone dominates and is likely to continue because of that elegant interface and media superiority. The Bold is an old draft horse next to the sleek quarter horse; but which one will tow that supply wagon better? The enterprise is in many ways the supply wagon, and despite its old style menu driven interface, the Bold is still superior in delivering the goods.
Dale Strauss is a thirty year lawyer with Bullock Scott, PC, in Midland TX, who concentrates in energy law and estate planning. He’s been tinkering with computers since Lunar Lander on a mainframe teletype console was high tech.