Back on the CrackBerry and Loving It!

It's Good to Be a BlackBerry User! 

Vive le BlackBerry! Wow, does it EVER feel great to be Back on the Crack again. The Smartphone Round Robin has had me going sans BlackBerry Curve for over a month, during which time I used the AT&T Tilt, Palm Treo 680 and Apple iPhone. And while I did manage to get over my initial BlackBerry withdrawal and survive the month on these other smartphones, coming home to my Curve quickly made me realize just how good us BlackBerry users have it. RIM got it right. They sell devices that just work – they are easy to use and get the job done fast and efficiently. BlackBerrys are the ultimate communication tool.

RIM can’t rest on their past successes though… there is still work to do. I come away from the Round Robin with a small wish list of things I want to see on future BlackBerrys, but the fact remains that out of the devices in the Round Robin, I think RIM has the best grasp of how a person actually integrates mobile technology into their daily lives. A device like a smartphone has to begin with everyday usability, and RIM has this equation solved better than anyone. It is the little things that put the Crack in CrackBerry, and because of that, RIM has by far the best foundation to continue building on as we see the next generation of smartphones begin to emerge. To see how I celebrated my return to the BlackBerry and for more final thoughts, Read On!

Don't forget, a comment to this post counts as an entry in the Round Robin Contest! Be sure you're logged in before you comment. The Round Robin comes to an end this Sunday, December 9th at Midnight, so get your final comments and forum posts in for your last chances to win a new Smartphone! Winner will be announced December 12th.

Party Time, Excellent!

I celebrated the return to my BlackBerry Curve. I figured it was well-warranted after having to neglect ‘My Precious’ (said like Golem) for so long. I wasn’t sure if she’d forgive me for my month long absence, so I took the safe route and showered her with gifts:

  • New Battery Cover -  had worn a spot where my index finger rubs on the battery cover.
  • 6 Gig Media Card so long 4GB, hello 6! When it comes to memory cards, bigger is better!
  • New Google Maps don’t have GPS on my gal, but I installed the new Google Maps and it seems to be doing a great job of pinpointing where I am with My Location.
  • FlipSide installed the new FlipSide Media Player… very cool and works great!
  • Holiday Theme – take a look at the sneak peak… we’re getting this tweaked up right now and it will be available next week  on the site for FREE! Three versions getting made up for 88xx, Curve and Pearl Series BlackBerrys. I just installed and tested it on my Curve and it seems to be looking and working great!
  • OtterBox Defender for the Curve just to make sure I don’t scratch up the battery cover like that again. I like to play rough.

So many BlackBerry goodies came out over the past month… I just had to spoil my Curve with some new software and accessories. It’s only been 48 hours, but my CrackBerry Addiction is already back in full swing (did it ever really leave? I think not!).

A New Battery Cover for my Baby
A New Battery Cover for my Baby was in Order!

6 Gigs of Storage!
While I had the Battery Cover off, I figured a new 6GB MicroSDHC
card would make a nice present to myself and my BlackBerry.

FlipSide MP3 Player Brings CoverFlow to the BlackBerry - it's cool.
I've decided anytime I show an Album cover on this site, it will
always be of Gordon Lightfoot. Gord is cool. Holiday Theme
The Holiday Zen theme. We'll be giving this away in
a couple of days for FREE as our little present to you. Just getting
some final touches taken care of. But it's looking great!

The BlackBerry Advantage

I tried to be really fair during the Round Robin and keep my articles from becoming too biased in favor of the BlackBerry. If you haven’t checked out the previous Round Robin articles, you may want to do so before moving on:

Back in September, the first BlackBerry 101 article I wrote was called Why BlackBerry? and in it I went through some of the reasons why choosing a BlackBerry over other smartphones on the market would make good sense for most people. At the time, I wrote the article based on what I thought was logical assumptions – I had not actually used any other modern day smartphone other than the BlackBerry. Thanks to the Round Robin I have gained hands-on experience with the competition and upon reflection can honestly say that first lecture was and still is right on the money. If anything, I am now that much more adamant about the arguments of why choosing a BlackBerry over another smartphone is the way to go. Check out the Why BlackBerry? post for more details, but here’s what I consider to be some of the CrackBerry’s most important selling points:

  • Easy to Learn – it’s often said the best way to sell a BlackBerry is to give a person one to use for a few days. That truly is the case. The only real learning curve on the BlackBerry is to realize the importance of the Menu/Option key. Once you know that, the BlackBerry OS is incredibly intuitive… it always seems to know exactly what you want to do (send SMS, place call, copy, paste, etc. etc.). And you don’t need to be a gadget person (or even know how to use a computer for that matter) to become proficient with the BlackBerry very quickly.
  • Easy to Use - the BlackBerry offers unparalleled one-handed operation. I talked about this lot during the Round Robin, but you barely need to move your thumb a half inch and you can fully navigate your way around the BlackBerry OS. The other phones in the Round Robin required a two-handed approach out of the box. With a lot of tweaking I was able to turn the Treo 680 into mainly a one-handed phone (which means I programmed the keyboard with a ton of shortcuts and took the touchscreen out of the equation), but even after these mods I found my other hand was often required. Chalk this up to the benefit of not having a touchscreen on the BlackBerry – as soon as you put one onto a phone it turns into a two-handed device. 
  • Best Email Ever – BlackBerry users are spoiled by the fact our email is wicked. Switch over to other phones and you won’t find yourself in the same position. BlackBerry Connect managed to save the day for me on the AT&T Tilt, but even after a week of playing with the email on Treo 680 it still never worked great and the iPhone with its “pull” email turned me into an email checker instead of an email getter. In other words, it sucked.
  • Faster to Use – Each of the smartphones in the Round Robin can do things that the others can’t do out of the box… the iPhone has full web browsing, the BlackBerry has BlackBerry Messenger, Windows Mobile has great multitasking, etc. But if you look at the common smartphone tasks that each of the phones can do (like make calls, send/receive emails and text messages, listen to music, pair Bluetooth devices, etc.) the time you need to spend on the BlackBerry to get things done is always less than on the other phones. Picture this: a BlackBerry User and an iPhone user are standing side by side. A third person sends an email to both the BlackBerry user and iPhone user (we’ll assume the iPhone user is on Yahoo and getting the email pushed to his device). For the BlackBerry user to check the email, he only needs to pull the BlackBerry out of his holster – the device automatically powers on and the email message is immediately displayed. The iPhone user will need to click a button to power on the device, slide to unlock the device and then tap the mail icon to open the email app, and then tap on the message to read it….SLOW. As mentioned earlier, RIM has figured out how people will actually use their device and have optimized its functionality to suit. 
  • The Crack is in the Details – The CrackBerry nickname is no accident. RIM has built devices that are addictive. None of the other devices in the Round Robin possessed that quality. Even the iPhone, which is flashy and fun to use (assuming you have time to kill and aren’t in a rush to get anything done), doesn’t have that same sort of magnetic draw that my BlackBerry Curve does. It’s the little things:
    • My Curve is Always On and Always Connected. You don’t need to hit a power button on a BlackBerry ever. Just pull it out of its case, or hit any button on the keyboard and its ready for service. 
    • The message notification light calls out to you. When you see it blinking you are compelled to reach for it.
    • Fits like a glove. The Curve is an extension of the hand. The iPhone was uncomfortable to hold – it felt good to put it away. On the other hand, when a BlackBerry is put away you feel like you’re missing something.
  • Best Community Ever - I had a great time over at Treo Central, Phone Different and WMExperts hanging out in their forums (everyone was super friendly and knowledgable) me biased but I just love our community. Best smartphone community website EVER. It's worth buying a BlackBerry just to be associated with this site! Thanks to all our members for making it that way!

My Wish List

The competition isn’t totally unfortunate. While the BlackBerry is by far the most usable, all-encompassing smartphone package on the market today, there were some features from the other phones in the Round Robin that gave cause for me to feel envy.

Round Robin Website
You Can Visit the Round Robin Website Anytime. It's a great resource for those
in the market for a new smartphone. Lots of perspective from different mobile users!

From the AT&T Tilt:

  • I liked the All-in-One nature of the Device. GPS, WiFi, 3G, Video Recording and Camera (no flash though!). The Tilt basically has every cool function you can get in a smartphone today crammed into one device. Are you paying attention RIM? No more of this you can have either WiFi or GPS stuff. I know there’s not a lot of room in the Curve and Pearl form factors, but come on…its almost 2008 and you’re a smart company – figure it out! Oh…and make sure you don’t sacrifice battery life while doing so!
  • Computer-like file system and document editing. Windows mobile offers the power of a personal computer in a smartphone. I don’t want to actually do work on my BlackBerry (like edit word docs), but if I ever NEED to I would like to have that capability built in.

From the Apple iPhone:

  • Nice piece of Glass. It’s big and it’s bright. I want it!
  • Full Web Browsing. I want the actual Internet on my smartphone. None of this wap.whatever stuff anymore.
  • Full Email Viewing. The Newsletter should not look better on an iPhone than on a BlackBerry.
  • Pretty it up! While the iPhone transitions drove me nearly insane, the iPhone looks modern. The BlackBerry OS still retains that “designed by an engineer and throw on some lipstick” look. It’s Texty, not Sexy. While it’s not right, in the world we live Looks Do Matter. I want to be around 50 years from now, so that means at some point (sooner than later I hope) RIM is going to have to take its operating system in for some cosmetic surgery.
  • Touchscreen? After the Round Robin, my opinion is that an OS needs to be either Full Touch (like the iPhone) or No Touch (like the BlackBerry). It seems this is the only way to create a really intuitive user experience. The hybrid Windows Mobile and the Palm OS devices botched that user experience for me. To compete in the consumer market, RIM will eventually have to release a touchscreen-equipped consumer device. I just hope that by the time they release it they really have that user experience nailed down tight.

From the Palm Treo 680:

  • Ummm…… Hmm… uhh…. Let’s move on! Slap! Ouch! 

Until Next Time

I’m going to Cuba for vacation from December 31st to January 7th. As it stands, I’ll have to take both my BlackBerry and laptop with me in order to stay on top of things. However, if we took the wish list above and crammed into my Curve, I would be able to leave my laptop at home. That’s what I want to see in my BlackBerry – the ability to do everything I need to do at my fingertips. I think the race is on to make that happen in the smartphone world (while retaining usability and battery life!) and the competition is not sitting still. I hope when it comes time for the Second Annual Smartphone Round Robin that the BlackBerry I am using won’t be just a Palm or iPhone or Windows Mobile killer… I want it to be a laptop killer!