SmartPhones? Not so much…

Keep in mind while reading this, I am a technology professional and while I may seem overly critical in some ways, I also try to objectively consider different angles of my evaluations.

The past couple of years I have struggled to find a good phone.  Like everything else in technology, they all have their pros and cons.  The key is to find one that does what YOU want and need and not because it is what everyone else has.  For years I was a Blackberry user and it worked well for me.  About four years ago Blackberry released the Pearl and in my opinion, this has been the best all-around phone to ever grace the market.  However, for a span of a few years I was constantly on the go, working 60-70 hours a week, traveling a lot, etc. The most important thing to me was communicating with my team members, vendors and clients.  Blackberry along with their Enterprise Service and push technology made this possible and it was flawless.  Emails arrived in my inbox only seconds before appearing on my Blackberry and the service  never wavered.  The level of service a Blackberry provides as a communication tool is unrivaled.

About a year ago I started to need something more.  I needed something that would be able to run a few applications and make me more productive.  I ventured to a Blackberry Storm and while I liked the unit, the performance was horrendous.  Following that small stint, I finally agreed to try the iPhone at the urging of my friends.  I was skeptical about how much I would like the unit but was able to find most of what I needed to in the App Store either free or very inexpensively.  Shortly after getting the iPhone I started having frustrations with a few things, but primarily Bluetooth audio levels and quality.  Perhaps I’ll post the details of that support request one day, but for now I will spare you the details.  The bottom line is that I was unable to rely on the iPhone for my business communications because of the audio problems and Apple was not willing to provide a resolution for the issue.  The iPhone lacks certain other features such as being able to change the email notification sound which is currently a dull “bong” sound that is easily muffled and you cannot set up sound notification profiles.  In my opinion, the iPhone certainly lacks other ease-of-use features that would just make it easier for those of us who would like to get control of the device.  If you are a Blackberry power user that has made the transition, you know what I’m talking about.  That said, the iPhone is certainly a great media device and runs applications well, especially games and will handle your email, calendar and contacts.  The iPhone was designed to appeal to 80-90% of consumers which is where the bread and butter is for Apple’s revenue stream.  It just so happens, those consumers are mostly also employees of a business and like to carry the iPhone’s functionality over to get their work email.  The vast majority of iPhone users are not power users and those that are, either deal with the shortcomings or they jailbreak their iPhone to give them the granular control they so desire.  Jailbreaking is a pretty simple task these days and someone with just moderate technical knowledge can understand what it does, but most consumers should stay away from it.

After using a wired headset for nearly a year with the iPhone, I ditched it for an Android phone last week.  I chose the HTC Aria which is a smaller unit than some of the counterparts like the HTC Evo or the Samsung Captivate.  I chose the Aria because of its size–ironically, only slightly larger than a Blackberry Pearl I so loved.  So far, I view it as a middle ground between the Blackberry and iPhone.  It gives me much more control than the iPhone, runs applications well and is a decent communication tool.  It does neither of those as well as the iPhone or Blackberry in their respective strengths, but is more than adequate and has fewer invasive flaws.  The shortcoming of the Android phone is the keyboard/typing, in my opinion.  I have tried a few of the custom keyboards available but they all just seem slow, so I am sticking with the stock keyboard and have learned to use it with fair efficiency.  For the most part, I have all the same applications I had with the iPhone.  Even one application on which I collaborated to develop for the iPhone has an equivalent for the Android that accomplishes the same goal with minimal difference.  Apple’s boasting of over 200,000 apps as opposed to Android’s 50,000 apps is misleading because many of them are repetitive or just plain useless.  Android and Blackberry have their share of useless apps, as well.  Bluetooth sound quality on the Android  is just as good if not better than the Blackberry.  The ability to use ActiveSync to synchronize my email, calendar and contacts is adequate and the small size makes it easy to type with one thumb.  I would compare the Android phone to the iPhone as Capitalism to Communism–at least with Android, if a problem exists someone will fix it or develop an app to get you around the problem or to add that missing feature.  With an iPhone, you get what Apple allows you to have and little else.  There are more applications available for Android that just give you more choices for the core components, such as different email client software in case you do not care for the stock email application.  One big difference with Android is if you buy an app and uninstall it within 24 hours, you get a refund–not so with Apple’s App Store.  On the plus side with the Apple App Store, all software updates and upgrades are free while Android leaves that to the developer to decide; however, some iPhone software developers charge additional fees for what they call “added features” or “plug-ins” that gets them around this restriction.  Learning how to navigate the Android phone has been a chore even for me, but now that I have spent a few days with it, I can barely use an iPhone because I have already retrained myself.

Battery life on pretty much all full touch screen phones is less than desirable.  Most all of them have to be charged two or more times a day depending on the level of usage, so don’t let anyone tell you otherwise.  They all have the ability to send/receive email, synchronize calendars and contacts and run applications.  Your choices are simple and ranked in this order:

Do you want a superior communication tool while apps/games are less important?
1.  Blackberry
2.  Android
3.  iPhone

Do you want to run more applications and games as well as have a great media player?
1.  iPhone
2.  Android
3.  Blackberry

Do you need to run applications and games as a somewhat important feature, but still need to be able to communicate effectively?
1.  Android
2.  iPhone
3.  Blackberry

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