Great Geek Debates: iPhone vs. Blackberry

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Smart Phone Battle Royale (image: RhysyNet)

There are plenty of smartphones, but only two celebrities. Like other big celebs, they go by one name: Blackberry and iPhone.

Oh sure, there’s the HTC powered by Google’s Android mobile OS. Palm is back in the game with the Pre. Nokia is a force to be reckoned with in most of the world. But, with the enterprise business pretty much sewn up by Research in Motion and consumers snapping up Apple handsets like there is no tomorrow, there is really only one question:

What are you — iPhone or Blackberry? It makes for a great geek debate.

For comparison, I considered the higher end Blackberry phones (Bold, Curve, Storm) versus the iPhone 3G. (It wouldn’t be advantageous to compare an iPhone 3G to Blackberry Pearl, when the Pearl is less than $50. Anyone on a budget would be inclined toward the Pearl; at least I know I would.) Mostly it’s just an overall comparison, iPhone to Blackberry. mano a mano.

I’ve broken it down into several categories and will assign a point to the phone that wins each category to keep it fair.

Applications

Recently, a co-worker wrote an application for his Blackberry that would automatically ignore calls to his phone from a particular mail-order steak company. The application allowed him to command his phone to ignore any number he specified. The call still rang through, but was ignored immediately. I found this to be the most helpful application I’ve ever seen.

That said, I’ve not been impressed by the application selection the Blackberry offers. While there are some free applications, most are second rate at best and the selection of pay applications isn’t nearly as robust as it should be. The Blackberry App Store is like a pawn shop that only sells used 8-track players.

Application development on the iPhone has been one of the highlights of the device since its inception. Developers are encouraged to design and sell their own applications, and there are thousands of applications available in the iPhone App Store. Even though there are several hundred useless applications, there are hundreds more to make life easier in the palm of your hand. Like the Remote application that turns your iPhone into a stereo remote so you don’t have to leave the comfy confines of your easy chair.

My personal current favorite is Urbanspoon. With a shake of the iPhone, it randomly selects the nearest restaurants so you don’t have to suffer through the predictable lunchtime negotiations about where to eat.

I have to mention this comment from @tmoney941:

Do you really need an application to help you decide where to eat, how much to tip, where you parked, and what to wear? I’ve got one of those … they’re called wives.

That’s pretty much my sentiment when it comes to most iPhone applications. That aside, due to the overwhelming availability of applications and the encouragement by Apple to design your own, iPhone takes this category by a wide margin. iPhone +1.

Physical Attributes

Early on, the iPhone had a bad reputation for being fragile because of the touchscreen face and slick feel. When dropped on the cement too many times, any phone would eventually break, but the iPhone proved that it actually is quite durable. As long as you don’t drop it on its face. Without anything protecting the glass, you are looking at a shattered iPhone. However, there are products on the market to help protect your iPhone, from rubber sleeves to hard plastic cases (though the plastic cases do add to the bulk factor). The real question is, will it blend? Hell yes it’ll blend.

The touchscreen and motion sensibility on the iPhone is unmatched by any other touchscreen devices. Bump to exchange contact information, play games by tilting the phone, zoom in with a finger slide motion. It’s simply amazing technology and even the touchscreen Blackberry Storm doesn’t come close. But you still wouldn’t want to drop an iPhone more than once.

Since I drop my cellphones a lot, I strolled over to talk to my IT friends about the durability of the Blackberry. They are about split even on which phone they carry. There are either Blackberry phones or iPhones in IT. I’ve never seen an Android or a Palm Pre in the building. They are not split on the durability however. Several of them have had to replace their iPhones due to cracked screens. Many of them have dropped their Blackberry over and over with little more than some scratches on the casing. The worst I’ve heard about the damage to a Blackberry is the scratching it gets on the back if you spin it around on the table too many times. Which is just too much fun not to do.

Even if it gets run over by a truck the Blackberry still holds its form, avoids cracks and doesn’t lose a key. The Blackberry, built for business and travel, is a durable and strong phone. Blackberry takes this category. Blackberry + 1

Gaming

The iPhone makes full use of the motion sensor and touchscreen to bring us dynamic games from flight simulators to action games to simple board games. Playing games on the iPhone is a fantastic and handy experience, especially multiplayer games. Plus, as mentioned before, you can design your own games if you have the know-how.

Blackberry has Brickbreaker.

No contest. iPhone + 1

Personal vs. Business Functionality

Companies run Blackberry server products. From the connectivity to Microsoft Exchange server and the ease of mobile e-mail, the Blackberry is far superior to the iPhone. Blackberry was created with business use in mind. While it may have a slower CPU, the Blackberry makes up for it with its office applications. There is a reason it’s nicknamed “the Crackberry.” Have you ever seen a sales guy not fiddling with or talking on his Blackberry phone? Also, when it comes to security on the Blackberry, well, let’s just say it’s secure enough for President Obama to use. Official statement from Blackberry as to the security:

The BlackBerry® Enterprise Solution has been approved for storing and transmitting sensitive data by the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) as well as government organizations in the United States, Canada, the United Kingdom, Austria, Australia and New Zealand.

The iPhone has more storage, a faster CPU and more RAM. All great attributes for playing games. As I’ve witnessed at work, the iPhone is the anti-productivity phone. Don’t pretend like you are holier than thou and don’t spend countless work hours downloading apps and playing the new Iron Man game or any of the thousand other games.

Recently, the iPhone became compatible with Exchange Server, which was a huge step toward integrating with business. The iPhone has made great strides in favor of business use. Many businesses are making the switch and many handy applications are specific to certain industries, such as medical apps for drug reference or symptom tracking that are gaining popularity with those in the medical field. However, there are still security concerns with the phone, though those are being addressed. It also doesn’t help the iPhone for business that it’s only available on AT&T in the United States. Companies like to price shop and AT&T’s service isn’t that great in all areas.

When I get a phone, I don’t want to wait for the patch that will make it secure: I want it to come secure. That hurts the iPhone for business use at its current stage. Apple is making strides in the security department, as all new iPhones come equipped with MobileMe, which allows you to find your lost iPhone as well as remotely wipe its memory clean.

As for personal usage, the Blackberry is a sturdy and reliable phone. But due to the wide range of applications and amazing graphical interface and selection of games, the iPhone wins the personal use battle by a wide margin.

So this category is a draw. Blackberry wins for business use and security, iPhone wins for personal use. Blackberry + 1, iPhone + 1

Never forget the Chuck Norris Factor.

The Chuck Norris factor

Really, it all comes down to Chuck Norris, because if he doesn’t like it, he’ll roundhouse kick it out of existence. The Blackberry sports a great game simply called Chuck Norris: Bring on the Pain. Meanwhile, the Apple store rejected a Chuck Norris app, a Chuck Norris joke generator, because they claimed it ridiculed a public figure. Don’t they know that it’s impossible to ridicule Chuck Norris? More importantly, shunning Chuck Norris in whatever format is like challenging Superman to a duel by slapping him with Kyrptonite gloves. Or, it’s like slapping Chuck Norris in the face with your ungloved hand. This round clearly goes to the Blackberry as it’s probably what Chuck Norris is using. Blackberry + 1

The Winner

Final tally: iPhone +3, Blackberry + 3.

Listen, I carry a Blackberry. I’m not going for hip or trendy, I’m going for functionality. I want to be able to check my e-mail at stoplights. I want to be able to picture message without jumping through hoops. When it comes to functioning in the business world and having a practical phone, the Blackberry wins hands down. The iPhone is a fun phone and has a lot of cool features and applications. I really wanted an iPhone, but realized that it was a want. It’s a neat toy, but I can’t see it moving into the business world and becoming what the Blackberry is to business — yet. The best solution I’ve seen so far: Many Blackberry owners I know also have an iPod Touch for all their entertainment and portable gaming needs. So it’s a best of both worlds if you will. I’m sure that waffling answer won’t satisfy the masses.

The bottom line is, we’re geeks. Geeks like awesome tech toys and the iPhone is certainly that. From its gaming to its thousands of unique and specific applications, it’s a device that every geek wants to carry even if they already have a Blackberry. So the iPhone gets a +1 for geek factor and wins this debate.

Disagree? Agree? Feel free to discuss in the comments. Don’t forget to vote!

Blackberry or iPhone? You decide.(answers)

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