I’m a little late with this review as many have already reviewed this latest Blackberry Smartphone. Instead, I will focus more on the emotional impact of stepping into the Blackberry world and why I chose it instead of the iPhone.
Blackberry phones have always held a mystique for me. It was a phone for people who had important roles of responsibility or at least a more exciting life. What other person would need a phone with that many buttons or just had to to edit documents on the go while chugging down their espresso coffees? Still, it was the phone’s enduring form factor and dedicated fan base that made me consider if I could be one of these people.
For starters, I own a 32Gb iPod Touch and the user experience is simply magical. I love the touch-screen of an iPhone/iPod Touch and the immediacy it brings. It is a welcoming device and over time I found that I could type with the virtual keyboard very quickly. The app store is brilliant. So why didn’t I move to the iPhone? My biggest deterrent was simply that I would find it too much fun and never get any work done. My conversations would be drawn to other users about the latest version of “Paper Toss” or how cool the camera photo filters are. By the time it came to actually use the phone I would probably have run the battery dead. Besides, EVERYONE has one. Apple is no longer the alternative, it is well and truly mainstream and they know it.
Since hearing news about Apple’s decision to sue the HTC mobile company on copyright patent infringements, I decided to punish Apple by starting a phone contract with the Blackberry Bold 9700. I had decided to choose a phone that would be a good phone, including long battery life and decent call quality. These Blackberrys have been around so long that I felt any bugs they had would have been worked out by now. My contract came with unlimited internet use and I was sold. I decided I would dedicate myself to learning all the buttons and forgive anything that the iPhone did better.
Upon starting up the device I quickly learned that this was not simply a different phone, it was an institution of traditions and sacred practices. What I mean is that it felt like Blackberry did not feel any need to update the user interface as the previous generation of users had already learnt of it’s secrets. Searching through menus and option screens was anything but straightforward. It seemed like everything I wanted to do or customise required a search on Google for forum discussions. It would be easier to find out the secrets of the Free Masons than to work out how to change the ring tone for SMS messages on this phone.
Typing with the Blackberry is supposedly a superior experience than on any other phone but I could never decide whether I should be using my fingernails or the corner of my thumbs to accurately hit the tiny buttons. Only elves or ninjas could type quickly on this device. I felt a strange desire afterwards to play Twister on the floor. The Bold did have some cool customisable buttons but that is a whole other tutorial that you will need to search for.
My heart started to shrink as I realised that I didn’t love the Blackberry. It felt like being stuck chatting with an accountant at a party about income insurance. I looked at all those teeny buttons and felt cheated. Then I realised that after two days of ploughing through every menu function and web surfing on this device, it still read 80% power. I remembered that I took on this phone because as a phone, it was pretty good. The calls were clear, I had usable internet connection with adequate browsing capabilities and the downloaded Google apps made up for many missing functions. The speakers were loud and clear and it had a slightly more flexible media player. It was a good workhorse and deeply customisable despite some glaring omissions like not being able to turn off the email message notification.
Learning a Blackberry is really like integrating yourself into an ancient alumni, where everyone seems to know more than you and some of the things they do simply baffles logic. However, I hope that once I’ve set up all I need to on the phone I can get on with my life, rather than dedicating my life and activities around a device. I’ll secretly envy iPhone users and the euphoric experience that is the iPhone but I don’t want to spend all my time asking W.W.S.J.D. “What Would Steve Jobs Do?”. Besides, I still have my iPod Touch.