The big question: iPhone or Blackberry

Recently I’ve started to feel the limitations of my long-term cellphone, a Motorola Razr. I’ve had it now for five years, which means it is “ancient” by cell phone standards. Yet it has served me very well for most purposes. However, a couple of years ago I started configuring various server monitors at work to send me email messages when they ran into trouble. These messages are generally too long for the SMS service provided with my Razr, and my latest round of updates has resulted in these messages becoming largely unreadable: the emails are too long and complex.

And so I begin to consider an upgrade…

It is important to note that my employer is not paying for my current cell phone, nor will they be paying for the new one if I upgrade. I *could* try to get them to pay, but frankly it is far more trouble than its worth- the justifications, monthly expense filings, and general frustrations involved (all intentional on the part of my employer, I’m sure) make it easier for me just to justify it to myself and leave them out of it. I hate coming in on Monday and finding a huge catastrophe in progress because a server went down, and would much rather find out about it on the weekend so I can do something about it.

If my employer *were* paying for the phone and phone service, the choice wouldn’t be a choice at all: I’d have to get a Blackberry. They won’t pay for any phone not provided through Bell (Rogers/Fido is the only supplier of iPhones in Canada), and the only “supported” smartphone regardless of carrier is the Blackberry. But since I’m paying for this myself, the iPhone is an option.

Now we come to my requirements:

  • rich email interface permitting full length (i.e.: > 200 character) emails, preferably including HTML and images
  • Bluetooth sync with 2004 Acura TL
  • good basic phone service in the British Columbia area

From what I’ve been able to determine via Google searches, both phones will meet my basic requirements. The iPhone apparently has a “richer” email client in terms of HTML and visual support: the Blackberry’s email apparently only permits some attachment types if you have a Business email service (I.E.: are attached to corporate email). But the Blackberry *could* be attached to my employer’s corporate email- there are hassles associated with that, but it is a possibility.

I don’t have any need at the moment to compose large or complex emails on the device, but if I did I’d probably want a physical keyboard. I don’t need a browser, or games, or fancy apps. I do however have a couple of Macintosh computers, and so there are likely a lot of things I *could* use some of those “fancy apps” for if I did have an iPhone. For example, there are ways to remotely control your Macintosh via an iPhone: I could see doing that to (for example) set up a movie or song download, or select a particular song to play if I ever get an iTunes remote audio solution.

I’m torn. I’m pretty sure I would have more “fun” experimenting and learning with an iPhone. I am also pretty sure that the iPhone would likely end up costing more per month to operate, although both are expensive- on the order of $70-$100 a month versus the $45 a month I currently spend. To an extent, I think I’m probably leaning towards the iPhone and looking for justification, but at the moment I am still far from settled. Note that I am quite well aware of the fact that I’ve made derogatory remarks about the iPhone in the past- those still all apply, but the intriguing factor of the device still remains.

Update: I’ve been digging around and found that one thing that is lacking with the iPhone is configurable/repeating email alerts. Apparently, short of jailbreaking the phone and hacking the firmware, there is no way (currently) to add this feature. Since most of the messages I receive are coming from servers in some sort of “emergency” state, I need pretty clear alerts. The Blackberry apparently has configurable alerts and can be set to have different behaviors depending on who the message is from:. By itself, the lack of this kind of feature in the iPhone is almost a deal-breaker for me.

11 thoughts on “The big question: iPhone or Blackberry”

  1. “By itself, the lack of this kind of feature in the iPhone is almost a deal-breaker for me.”

    *almost* ?

    Sounds like you have your mind made up, you just haven’t worked out the rationale / justification yet :p

  2. Actually, I have made my mind up. I’m going for a Blackberry Bold, which I will talk more about once I have it and confirm it does everything I want.

    One part of me really wanted to get an iPhone, the part that is enjoying the whole “Mac” experience. To my way of thinking there is no falsehood to the statement that Apple currently exceeds everyone in terms of usability, and that is hard to give up. I am sure that I’d spend more time exploring and trying new things out on the iPhone than I will on the Bold.

    But what I really need is industrial-strength email: I need to be able to selectively configure alerts so for certain kinds of messages the phone will bleep continuously/flash lights/fire rockets. The iPhone has basically one setting: beep or not beep. It beeps once, for email apparently rather anemically, then never beeps again. The basic premise: the iPhone is really a portable computer, not a mission-critical notification device. And one of the primary jobs of this device for me is that notification process.

    I also understand that Blackberry has invested a great deal in highly robust email delivery, whereas the iPhone… not so much. And then there is the fact that the Bold has a replaceable battery. That has always seemed like a rather essential thing to me for a phone to have, even though I’ve only had a couple of phones long enough that battery replacement became necessary (the Razr was one).

    I suspect some of the things that are missing from the iPhone, particularly more sophisticated email alerting, will be fixed once they get notification push working for non-Apple software. That will probably happen later this year, and a year or two from now there will be lots of choices. But I’m not choosing a phone six months or a year from now, and there are no guarantees that Apple will recognize the shortfall- they are focussed on a different market than the Blackberry.

  3. Actually, everyone I’ve talked to that NEEDS to be notified on important stuff – ala the movie scene where all the government folks at a the big dinner start getting called out because the end of the world is happening, uses a blackberry. The iphone just doesn’t cut it.

    And the funny thing is how many Apple “fan-atics” will give these guys grief.

    With all the apps the iphone is starting to look like a useful ( if expensive ) little device, but it isn’t the holy grail. So I’m not surprised you went with a blackberry.

    But it did sound like you were trying to talk yourself into an iphone 😉

  4. Apparently there is a way to change the email alert sound but I don’t know if you can make it repeat until you read the alert.

    change alert sound on iphone

    I am sort of playing devil advocate here. Personally I have an old simplistic cell phone that I pay 10 bucks a month for. I have never run out of minutes (I think I get about 20 – 25 minutes a month) which is a good indicator of how much I use the phone. I am not a huge Apple fan either but I have to admit they do make good commercials. I always look forward to a new “Hello I am a MAC and I am a PC….” commercial. The iPhone app commericals get the geek in me drooling and chanting “I need that, I need that….”. So far I have resisted since I don’t have any way of justifying a 1000% increase in my cell phone bill to myself (and I generally require very little justification for a new toy).


  5. Howdy, Jim! I didn’t know you were lurking here 🙂

    It is interesting that you refer to that particular link- I was reading that over the weekend. It is limited to changing the sound, so you could use a longer tone. But it doesn’t repeat, and there are no visual indicators on the iPhone (e.g.: a flashing light)- you have to activate the phone to see if you have a message.

    I’ve got my Bold and am learning some interesting things. Like the fact that it can connect simultaneously to an enterprise service (E.G.: your employer’s Blackberry server) and to the Internet. In theory, this means you can open a browser that allows you to access your employer’s Intranet sites- that would be handy for me, since the servers I monitor reside inside the firewall.

    The iPhone is definitely a more interesting device from an “experiment and play” perspective. But the more I play with the Blackberry, the more I appreciate why iPhone isn’t catching on in the enterprise yet.

  6. Yeah, been lurking around here for a while. Originally I was wondering if you and/or Shane had found a replacement for EQII. I just can’t seem to get back into it. I started a new character hoping that would reignite my desire to play but even after 18 levels it still just something do to when I am rally bored.

  7. Shane is basically retired from MMOGs- I think it will be a long while (if ever) before we see him online again. If I mention EQ or MMOGs in general when I talk to him, he tells me to shush. He’s playing single player games on an XBox 360 these days- he even cancelled his Internet, which would be pretty much like cutting off my arm if I tried it. I miss seeing him on-line, but I connect up with him in the real world now and then.

    As for myself, I have sort of been a “weekend warrior” with regards to MMOGs for a few years. When we stopped getting together on weekends to bash, I more or less stopped playing. I log in periodically to help Irene with a few quests (she logs in more than I do), but it isn’t something I currently feel compelled to do. I miss our weekend bashing sessions, though.

    I’m playing on the XBox 360 a bit as well, but frankly I’ve been too busy lately. When I was playing, it was mostly Fallout 3 and Fable 2 recently.

    Funny fact: now that I have a smart phone, I suddenly feel the urge to set up a Twitter account. God help me…

  8. Jim: sorry about the delay in getting your second comment above to appear- I have moderation turned on, and didn’t realize that one had been “held”.

    Also, I had already taken the liberty of fixing the link in your original post.

    Side note: I’m starting to get addicted to my Blackberry…

  9. so to reach you can you please send me your new #? as surmise not the same as your old cell #. now you can “twitter” the celebrities when CNN has another contest as to who can get the most messages? i am not so savvy with all this new technology& as have limited storage space left in my old brain have not really studied the process.kudos to you for all your research!

  10. Judy: my cell phone number stays the same- I had it transferred to the new phone.

    As for the twittering… I’m following tweets from folks like John Cleese and Adam Savage (from Mythbusters). And I’m posting a few twitters each day about what I’m doing or things I’ve found that are interesting. Is Twitter worthwhile? Hard to say, but it is an interesting diversion.

    As for using it: go to, sign up for an account, and type something in the little box. Then use the search function to find some people you want to follow. That’s pretty much it 😉

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