The grandfather of all smartphones, the BlackBerry was the product that started the entire revolution. While some think that using a BlackBerry is the only way to do business, others feel that the Droid and iPhone have surpassed the BlackBerry and are in a league of their own. In the last part of this three-part series, we’ll take a look at the BlackBerry and see if it still remains the best choice for small business owners.
The first BlackBerry device was released in 1999 as a two-way pager. Then in 2002 the more commonly known BlackBerry smartphone was launched with capabilities such as e-mail, phone services, text messaging, Internet faxing, web browsing and a few other wireless services. Considering the iPhone wasn’t released until five years later in 2007, the BlackBerry has had a lot more time to make changes and upgrades to its services, as well as create a foothold in the market.
The BlackBerry has its own operating system that was developed by RIM, and almost all of the phones have the QWERTY-style keyboard and a track wheel, ball or pad. The current operating system, known as OS 5.0, allows wireless activation and synchronization with Exchange e-mail, calendar, tasks and notes, and contacts.
The current OS 6 is available on newer phones, and CrackBerry.com is quick to point out this new version isn’t an overhaul, but merely an upgrade. The new operating system changed the phone’s home screen and navigation tools, and also made the phone faster and “smoother.” Additionally, connectivity to computers and other devices has been improved―“There's a new pop-up that tells you your BlackBerry device is plugged in and allows you to choose if you want to use the USB Drive, Sync Media or Charge Only,” according to the site. “Bluetooth has been enhanced so you can now select to pair a new receiving device during the sending flow, and the user doesn't have to put their device into Receive mode for already paired/trusted devices. WiFi setup has also been simplified by automatically scanning for networks upon entering the app.”
In general, the BlackBerry offers the same calling and phone features as the iPhone and Droid, such as call waiting, call forwarding, holding calls and three-way calling. The BlackBerry also offers a special feature known as BlackBerry Messenger, or BBM, that allows BlackBerry users to send and receive instant messages locally and internationally to others with a BlackBerry, without the cost associated with regular text messaging.
On the same TopTenReviews site that lists the iPhone as No. 1 for 2011 and the Droid as No. 2, the first BlackBerry to place is the BlackBerry Torch 9800, which landed at No. 6. The only BlackBerry with a touchscreen and a keyboard (most just have keyboards), the Torch was released August 12, 2010. The BlackBerry Curve series (also known as the 9300) is slightly newer, having been released in September of 2010.
Listed as 4.37 inches high and 2.44 inches wide with a depth of .57, the Torch is smaller than the Droid, but larger than the iPhone, and weighs more than either of them at 5.68 ounces. The screen is 4.3 inches, which is the same as the Droid and larger than the iPhone. The battery life is listed as significantly less than its competitors at just 330 minutes. According to the TopTenReviews website, the touchscreen and keyboard are a plus, but ultimately, “The BlackBerry Torch 9800 has a few new features, such as the BlackBerry OS 6, but it still doesn’t feel quite up to par with other smartphones. Users who just want to perform business tasks will appreciate this phone. But if you want a few more smarts on smartphones, this model isn’t the best choice for you.”
Since the iPhone was released, many joke that the BlackBerry is a real phone for business, while the iPhone is a toy. The Torch has adopted the marketing motto “when business meets fun” in an attempt to strengthen the idea that though the BlackBerry is designed for business, it can still be entertaining. In a review by David P. of CrackBerry.com, he expressed his appreciation for the BlackBerry as a business tool, but doesn’t feel the Torch is the best option. “Overall I found it heavy and the BB6/Torch combination too bug-laden,” he said. “From a business standpoint, it is capable of doing all the things a BlackBerry should do across multiple industries. I just feel RIM has crammed too much into one device all at the same time, and in reality, it’s not one I will regularly use or recommend.”
In that same review, David P. did explain three reasons why he feels the BlackBerry product is a better choice for businessmen/women overall: speed of messaging, calendar and contacts. And while there may be less apps available, the “BlackBerry device is an instant connection to your network.”
As for whether or not the BlackBerry is really the best smartphone for businesses, many seem to think this is indeed the case. In an online poll conducted by The Guardian UK, 62% responded that BlackBerry's are the best for business. However, in an article written in September of 2010 that examines the three main options, while BlackBerry would’ve been the choice a few years ago, the reviewer believes that the iPhone 4 has taken over the throne of the best business phone. Yet another expert from Straight.com believes that for business purposes, the BlackBerry Torch trumps the competition. “The BlackBerry Torch isn’t for everyone; there is no perfect device on the market. That being said, if you’re a business executive like me or someone looking for a business-class smartphone, the Torch will suit your needs and provide an experience that I have yet to receive with the Android and the iPhone.”
In the end, though the iPhone and Droid proclaim that they are the right choice for business opportunities of all kinds, BlackBerry always has business in mind when designing every new phone and operating system. Before making your final decision, you should visit a store that sells all three and experience each one for yourself. Also remember that there are many other phones that are available, though the “big three” have names and reputations that you can trust. The Droid, iPhone and BlackBerry all have features that will suit your business opportunity needs, but in the end the final decision must come down to your own personal preference.