There are many things I love about my original iPhone, but after one year of ownership, it’s lately begun to collect dust in its charging stand. I grabbed a BlackBerry Curve 8330 at the office, and after three weeks with the RIM device, I’m sure I’m not going back to my iPhone.
So what’s wrong with the iPhone? Two things:
1. One word: AT&T. I live and work in the greater Boston area, and AT&T’s network is pretty poor here and elsewhere. When I receive calls at my house, the iPhone rings only about 50% of the time. Sometimes calls don’t even register as missed. One of the first things I noticed after switching to BlackBerry on Verizon’s network is how many calls I was suddenly getting. And calls to my BlackBerry don’t drop off or become interference plagued anywhere near as frequently as those on my iPhone. Apple’s insistence on exclusivity with AT&T in the U.S. will keep me from going back to the iPhone until that changes.
So is this a regional problem? Not according to Consumer Reports, which has more than once ranked Verizon’s network as best or second best in most major markets throughout the U.S. Both in the Northeast and in my travels all around the country I have found this to be true. I was a Verizon Wireless customer before I bought my iPhone.
2. The virtual keyboard doesn’t work for me. People assume that it’s the lack of tactile feel when pressing fingers to glass, but I don’t think that tells the story. My frustration with the iPhone keyboard is that I cannot use my thumbs, but am instead reduced to stabbing with one finger, which is slower and less accurate. The worst part is that I frequently press the wrong keys while attempting to type without looking. On the BlackBerry, even though the keys are both much smaller and packed more tightly together, I’m able to “touch type” because of the little bumps that help you locate the keys by touch. The way I see this the problem is one of size. I could deal with lack of tactile feel on the iPhone if the virtual keycaps were larger so there were less chance of hitting the wrong key. Without those tactile bumps, me and my thumbs need larger targets.
That’s my short list of serious pet peeves with the iPhone. Were I to make a list of things I love about Apple’s smartphone, it would have at least a dozen items. But while it’s a short list negatives, they hard to get around: It’s not a reliable cell phone for calls, and I can’t really type emails and texts comfortably. The switch to the BlackBerry was a no-brainer for me.
Even so, I wouldn’t say I love the BlackBerry. The software syncing situation is terrible for Mac users. PocketMac is hopeless. (I’m about to try Missing Sync.) RIM needs to break down and write a true Desktop Manager for the Mac. I’m going to miss the iPhone’s seamless integration with all things Apple and Mac.
I also don’t like the BlackBerry’s over-reliance on email as a way to notify about voicemails and texts. I get so much voicemail that I need one place for that. I love the iPhone’s visual voicemail center and texting module (which uses more of an IM paradigm).
The BlackBerry Web browser and digital media features pale by comparison with those of the iPhone. I bought a 4GB SD card for the BlackBerry and still haven’t been able to successfully copy my songs and photos to RIM’s smartphone.
One BlackBerry Curve strength I hadn’t expected is that it’s noticeably lighter than the iPhone while being roughly comparable in size.
All in all, the iPhone is the most important smartphone released in the last three years. But Apple’s blind insistence on being exclusive with AT&T and Steve Job’s belief that buttons are bad — even keyboard buttons — makes the iPhone incomplete for me. I know other people who’ve gone back too. I’ll come back to the iPhone when and if Apple gets the message about the main things that a smartphone has to accomplish: phone calls and email.
If I could only get the BlackBerry keyboard and Verizon’s network on the iPhone, I’d have the best of both worlds.