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My slow dance with Blackberry

Now, before I get into this, let me make it clear to all. I am no stranger to Blackberries, if anyone should understand their abilities and limitations it would be me. I have used and supported these devices from the very first one in existence. Don’t believe me? Take a look at the pic below, I was able to find almost all blackberries in existence lying around the office. For the most part I have done so in a corporate environment, as it turns out; this plays a huge part in my experience I’ll be talking about here today.



Back in its hay day, blackberries were a technical wonder. These devices came along in a world where pagers ruled when it came to instant communication. Not only were you able to receive the same instant message, but you could reply back almost as instant. This offered a liberating feeling in the professional’s lifestyle that only came around once every 500 years. To have constant and instant contact to email while away from the office was like living life all over again. And so, I feel in love with the blackberry!

Alongside my love affair with blackberry was an equally healthy relationship with what was called Windows CE back in those days. As time passed, Windows CE and what would be later dubbed windows mobile, graduated to my obsession; while blackberry upgraded to a necessity. As glued as I am to my career, the idea of leaving my blackberry at home, even on the weekend was one that would invoke a cold feeling up and down the spine! The word Crackberry now had great deal of meaning to me, and I couldn’t care less! This thing was as much a part of my daily life as my toothbrush!

But times changed, RIM decided they wanted to take a more consumer approach. They started selling these things to regular people. This was an odd decision to me, I never thought of Blackberries as anything other than corporate or small business tools. To be honest, it just didn’t make sense to me. Blackberries had their fair share of inconsistencies when it came to functionality, usability and even device design.

But they made it work! Because the term smartphone was a relatively new one, RIM was able to secure their piece of the pie. They were able to offer power users and tech savvy people the ability to have access to not only email on the go, but access to PIM right on the device. People loved this, and they still do today. But with all the glory of the platform, the ugly was exposed. RIM made no attempt to make the UI useable, so the horrid navigation from the early devices remained. The devices, while always attractive in build, still always seemed underpowered and outclassed in specs. Especially in comparison to whatever else was out at the time.

Because of this, Blackberries never appealed to me for my personal device. Lucky for me, windows mobile was in full swing and my choice was clear. But I still maintained and swore by my Blackberry as the only device for my job. All I needed was reliable access to my email, daily agenda and tasks. There wasn’t much fiddling to be done when it came to my work device. But on a personal device, things like browsing the web, IM or even turning on the Bluetooth radio are things that needed to be done easily. Not that they were elegantly done on windows mobile or any other smartphone platform, but they were all much worse on a blackberry. Nothing was a simple task on a blackberry! You’d often have to click 7 times before you achieved your task, not cool, not cool at all!

Then came the iPhone. Apple changed the game for ever in an astounding number of ways. The device form factor, UI and app store all slapped the blackberry (and to be fair, all other smartphones) in one fell swoop. The iPhone was a juggernaut! People loved it from all different aspects for all different reasons. It was something fresh and it just worked. However, there were things about the iPhone that just didn’t rub blackberry users the right way. The most obvious was the lack of a physical keyboard. Say what you will about how quick you can type on the iPhone, but there is no denying you will never be as quick or quicker than doing the same on a blackberry. Then there was the battery life. Blackberry users often enjoyed great battery life from their devices, while the iPhone struggled to last a whole day of moderate use. PIM management was also a huge let down for some. Blackberries had and continue to perform in this area like few can match. The iPhone? Well, let’s just say not too many people are interested in managing their PIM in a music player.

But for the consumer, by and large, the iPhone was the clear choice of device. Again, to my surprise, no one cared. And up until lately, no one still didn’t care. With all the hype that is the iPhone, blackberry sales continued to be number one. Even with the retarded UI, lack luster device specs and lack of innovation, Blackberry was still the number one selling smartphone in America. WTF?! is all that comes to mind when I try to understand how and why.

While all of this was going on, the Tech Gods sent us a little company by the name of HTC. My beloved windows mobile was in great hands. And the little retarded UI of my own that was windows mobile was not so retarded any more. And so I was able to stay away from Blackberry even longer! Then one day T-Mobile announced the monster that is the HD2. So, I ran out and did what was expected of me. Started a new contract with T-Mobile just for the HD2. Judge me all you want, but I have a HD2 and you do not! So as far as I am concerned, my pointless monthly bill is justified. But I still had my Tilt 2 on my ATT line, what was I to do?

Well, I decided to trade up the Tilt 2 for a Blackberry bold 9000. Please insert ( o _0 ) here. The decision was driven by a few different reasons. First was the HD2. After user the HD2, trying to do anything on the Tilt 2 was almost laughable, I found myself going days at a time without even touching the Tilt. So why not just get another device and platform to play around with until WP7 arrived (and we all know it sure as hell wasn’t going to be an iPhone.) Second, was what I will describe as a very strange culture. I wanted in!

So I got the Bold all setup and ready to go. It was a very strange experience. Adding email accounts was a pain and had to be done on ATT’s website. Getting contacts on to the device took some thought. And actually trying to use the phone to do things was a nightmare. And still I dismissed it all, because I was used to it for years. I found myself in a frame of mind of “oh well, WP7 will be here soon, and I’ve got my HD2 anyway.” The fact that it was a secondary device, made it so much more usable.

But while struggling with the bold for everyday use (disaster struck,) I discovered the strange culture I made reference to earlier. Blackberry messenger, otherwise known as BBM. This is another one of those WTF?! things when it comes to blackberry. Being the social butterfly that i am, I would hear things like “hey do you have bbm?” a few times a week. Or my Facebook feed would read at least twice a week “new BBM pin 123456.” So I started to really pay attention to this. It was amazing! BBM had propelled Blackberry to a Sidekick status amongst 20-30 somethings. It was the strangest thing I’ve ever witnessed in technology. It’s almost as if people would readily give you their BBM pin in lue of a phone number or email address. I just couldn’t understand it, what is so special about BBM?

From my point of view, BBM was a poorly implemented version of IM. IM was a cross platform things, weather you used aim or msn messenger, you could always get a client to connect to on whatever platform you was running. Be it a smartphone, dumb phone, computer or even a web browser. But BBM only worked on Blackberries. And if you didn’t have BBM you didn’t exist. How could an entire generation lock themselves into a bubble like this and be completely content?

BBM offered come cool features, all of which had already existed on current IM platforms, but they were cool none the less. The ability to send objects through the chat, to have group conversations and even a delivery status for your messages. Then came the down side to BBM. Seemingly everyone in the world used this thing, so every morning; I would get a “BBM blasts” from everyone in the world. You can equate this to chain letters on AOL years ago. Oh how annoying! Oh how I hate you people who have nothing better to do than send me BBM blasts! So, I deleted them. Got my BBM friends list down to a nice 40 people or so. But the frustration continued and things got a little stranger! For some reason unbeknownst to man, once someone has your BBM pin, they feel compelled to talk to you every day. This ended up in the most random topics and conversations with people I really didn’t care to have. People I would only speak to once in a while about something very specific were now asking me if I saw last Sunday’s episode of family guy. Really? Yes I did, now go away! And go away they did! So after I deleted them, my BBM list is down to a nice 20 people. Problem is, these people are actually people I cared to talk to everyday, so I would have already established my preferred mode of commination with them. Be it Facebook, text or phone, BBM just had no place here.



So, here I am, stuck with this bold until WP7 can arrive to ATT. My lack of interest in Blackberries as a personal device has intensified a tremendous amount. What makes things worse, after taking a long hard look at the latest Blackberry Torch and OS6, I have decided to completely disown the platform. Even as an enterprise device, they have lost their edge. Even the iPhone can communicate efficiently with an exchange server (security is another issue.) With very little innovation in the enterprise field, I see no reason to recommend a blackberry as an exclusive enterprise solution.

I feel like I’ve been down this road before. A tear for my friends over at palm. Oh how I love thee so! And now, the fall of the tried and true blackberry? I am not exactly sure how RIM can pull themselves out of this one, but my first instinct is they better figure out a way to innovate faster. The incremental updates rehashed as a new OS just doesn’t cut it anymore (I’m looking at you windows mobile 6.5!)

But for what it’s worth, I will continue to be comfortable with RIM’s offering for my job preference, simply because it’s what I know, what I am used to. Even with the huge number of flaws around the platform, it serves me good enough at work. But my sediments that a Blackberry for a personal device is retarded have been reinforced by steel! Last but not least, it bothers me even less because “the return of the king” that is WP7 will be with us all shortly.

Blackberry, my friend, my final words to you are all too familiar. BBM smiley face….BBM big hug….BBM not interested!