Friday, September 14, 2012

My Blackberry Trials...

Last November, my work allowed me to purchase an iPhone 4s for my daily use.  It was easily the best phone experience I have ever had.  Everything worked very well. Of course, there was the occasional hiccup, but overall, the experience was as close to perfect as one could get.

Last month, my work (who was purchased by a much larger company) told me that I had to get rid of the iPhone and switch to the generic phone offered to all employees, the Blackberry Curve.  It has been one of the worst months of my life (#firstworldproblems) as far as phones are concerned.  I will skip, for the most part, my displeasure at a multi-million dollar company giving their employees the crappiest phone available.  Having said that, here are some of my observations of note:

  • First of all, I have really small hands for a guy.  Seriously, my hands are only slightly larger than the average woman's hands.  I have an egregiously hard time typing on this sucker. The buttons are too small, they aren't very responsive, and I spend more time going back and correcting words than I do actually typing out the message.
  • Work forces me to have a password on the phone, which I understand.  What I don't understand is that basically, the Blackberry is locked down and you can't do ANYTHING without typing in the password.  You can't set the phone on silent, you can't adjust the volume, you can't even start up the camera without putting in a password.  That is about as far from a good user experience as you can get.
  • The web surfing experience makes me want to shoot myself in the face.  It is terrible.  Nothing loads smoothly, the scroll button is inconsistent at best, and the back button doesn't work consistently.
  • I have dropped the phone three times on accident.  All three times, the back has popped off and the battery fell out, forcing me to restart my phone.
  • For a phone that doesn't do anything, the battery life is pretty bad.  I have unplugged in the morning, and had the battery run out in the evening several times.  What could possibly be draining the battery?  I don't talk on it that much...
  • Bing is the default search engine.  That should tell you enough about the user experience.
  • App support is abysmal, but I can't blame developers.  It is like retrofitting the Titanic.  Spending any significant amount of time on app development for the Blackberry would be counterproductive.
  • One thing that I really miss about the iPhone is the iPod part.  The Blackberry, for lack of a better term, blows in this regard.  I think I have attached a pair of headphones to it once, and it was such a horrible experience that I just gave up.

With all of the attention paid to Steve Jobs in the last 5 years or so, you would think that there would be some attention to detail that would float to the top, but there are so many little things that I notice that I would consider unacceptable in a product design.  For example:

  • The USB cable gets plugged into the side of the phone.  This is a bad choice for a couple of reasons.  One, it makes the phone hard to use when it is plugged in.  The cord sticks out awkwardly and forces you to only use it on one ear.  Second, if you have a desk, you better hope you can plug in in on your left hand side (of the desk), because it won't work on the right hand side.
  • This is a tiny detail, but one that didn't get by me:  The plug has a little Blackberry logo on it.  When you plug the cord in to power up the phone, the logo is on the wrong side of the plug.  Jobs wouldn't have let this happen. :)

 

It isn't all bad, though.  There are a couple things that are at least useful:

  • Google Voice is somewhat integrated into the OS, so at least that is easy...but the Google Voice app is barely functional, so you trade off a bit.
  • It is a good phone...

I do see why companies still use Blackberries.  People who use BB don't use data, so it saves them a ton of money on data plans.  My data usage has probably dropped 90% since switching.  It is unfortunate, though, because no one I work with likes their phone.  They look at it as a detriment, and in some occasions, feel embarassed to use it when in high-stakes sales situations because it is a bit of a status hit.

It is amazing to me how phone companies haven't tried to steal Apple's business model.  Make one kick ass phone and that is it.  You look around and you see every phone company making tons of devices to fit all different customer types, and none of them are really succeeding.  HTC has taken a nose dive in the last year. Samsung is paying Apple a billion dollars for copying the design of the iPhone, and Motorola still hasn't figured out how they are going to do anything since Google bought their mobile division.  I bet there is enough talent at RIM left to make one really great phone that people will like.  Sure, you aren't going to put a dent in the Apple juggernaut, but you could at least create some forward momentum.  

If you are fortunate enough to have a job that provides you with a phone that you like, make sure to tell them thank you.  It could be much, much worse.

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