In case you weren’t aware my order for a Motorolla Milestone finally came through – bought with my own cash to replace my BlackBerry Pearl 8120 business phone.
But how did I arrive at this level of contempt for BlackBerry, and why Android? It’s partly down to progress in smartphone tech and partly down to discovery of limitations with the Pearl – which led to inevitable smartphone envy.
When I first got my Pearl last summer, it was through our business account. At the time the Android didn’t exist and the only other cutting edge smartphone on the market was the iPhone. I turned down having an iPhone for £50. I’m still glad I made that decision.
I had just returned a HTC Diamond back to O2 because it was a 5 year old Windows Mobile interface with a skin applied to make it look new – but ran and responded 5 times slower than my old SPV C500 – incidentally running the same OS.
I was really pleased with the Pearl at first – the UI was very responsive, the wifi connected seamlessly and didn’t hang up or have trouble reconnecting like some Nokia phones I’d used. I immediately noticed the lack of file system manager, the lack of themes and the dated 2mp camera – but these things didn’t bother me – the GUI was responsive and worked, the wifi connected automatically.
Then there was the email – it took me a while to figure out that email is not configured on the phone but has to go through the BIS server. I had to call O2 get them to push a bunch of services and apps down then log into their website and setup my email accounts. After this it was no trouble – the email service is second to none.
However, the honeymoon was short. The limitations, particularly with the Pearl model, soon started to make themselves apparent…
Lack of GPSr (Pearl models)
I had just started Geocaching after discovering it in Canada and discovered a problem with the Pearl model in particular that wasn’t really a problem before – that is lack of GPSr. Every BlackBerry model seems to have a GPSr but the Pearl is the black sheep of RIM that doesn’t get one. Why is this? I get they were attempting to court the general mobile user crowd with the retooled keyboard but it’s still a smartphone, and not as cheap as a Nokia either.
Consequently a lot of GC apps I couldn’t use because they explicitly require a GPSr enabled in order to seek caches. I managed to discover CacheBerry – which does take PQs and doesn’t need a GPSr, but still.
At the time I got this Pearl, smartphones were already being made with 3+ megapixels. My other mobile, a Nokia N96 was 5mp. So it was a little disheartening to move down to a lower mp camera – particularly one a phone that is more socially network inclined than the Nokia was. I mean being able to load photos up on Facebook is great, but what’s the point when anybody looking at them is going to have trouble working out what the blobs are?
What else, the media library and camera are painfully slow. Sometimes I wanted to get a quick once-in-a-moment snap of, oh say, the nephew doing something cute and funny – too late it’s gone! A full 2 minutes later the camera app loads and is ready to take a picture. Of course better hope in your haste you didn’t accidentally click twice because actions are queued! Yes it will suddenly run everything you clicked all at once, then you have to start it all over again and wait… again.
Everyone applauds BlackBerry BIS email service. It’s fast, efficient and gives companies the option to manage it. But for a small consultancy that uses POP3- unnecessary. Furthermore I found it frustrating when we changed network providers – being without email access for a couple of days until I could get login details to the BIS portal and add email accounts. This is not really useful for consultants who work on client sites where access to their company email is blocked by the customers network.
During times when my BlackBerry was down I switched sim cards to the Nokia as a backup phone – email could be setup easily and I could get on with the job. Now that I’ve moved to Android, the BlackBerry will not be used as a backup phone – it’s useless without having to login to the BIS portal and reconfigure accounts – I’m not prepared to do that every time so the Nokia will stay as my backup.
BlackBerry have a Facebook app so I thought I might as well add my account. Sounds like a good idea right? I configure FB to only get alerts when someone sends me a message, but when I did get a message and go to the FB app – it takes forever to load and finally get to the message. Then there’s the pictures, on such a small screen what’s the point? It uses more bandwidth and I can’t see them anyway.
It’s junk, that’s all I’m going to say. I actually tried other apps that gave me FB access but then I encountered the other problem the Pearl has with apps…
My biggest bugbear about the Pearl. Out of the box the Pearl is quick yes, but install one too many additional apps (that means more than 2 or 3) and the Pearl will start to feel sluggish. Why? Because you just reached the 64mb memory limit, delete some emails and sms or you’re screwed! But don’t worry there’s an app that will help you manage that by flushing all your cache etc… Only trouble is that app will take up 1 slot that another app could have had instead!
Of course, you can expand the memory card up to 8gb, but you can’t install apps or even emails or cache on it. But at least I can store images… taken with… a 2.0mp camera, which means I’ll never fill up the wasted space on that card.
OK maybe this is going to be unfair because most phones have some kind of problems like this. As soon as you plug the BB in, you may only want to charge but the SSD card is no longer accessible. What’s worse is my data port has become really loose recently and I have to place the Pearl in an undisturbable position in order to keep the connection active. Why can’t the Pearl be told to behave like charging, not media card access?
Furthermore why no support for the Linux desktop? Sure other phone makers may be guilty of this too, but it does seem easier to find workarounds or partial support for the others, BlackBerry seems to totally ignore Linux.
Small Screen (Pearl Models)
Just one word – email. Ok maybe 2 words: html emails. 3? long html emails. I should have known. This should have been the giveaway I wouldn’t be satisfied long-term. After a 2.8′ N96 screen I should have made the vow never to go back. I’ve learned my lesson. I have a Motorola Milestone now.
The default themes are trying to be too… Windows XP. The carrier themes are not much better. Furthermore installing new, better themes takes up valuable memory space and you can’t delete the defaults without hacking it. Lame all round.
Sure BlackBerries are secure and they are corporate friendly. So corporate friendly in fact, to the detriment of the user and owner. I would sometimes need to plug my BB into a clients network machine to charge the battery. Trouble is these are XP machines and as customary they will pop up detecting new hardware.* It just so happened that BB Desktop Manager was installed by stealth on the machine I was using when I accidentally clicked for Windows to install the new hardware rather than ignore.
Installing the hardware and drivers allowed my clients corporate BB Security policy to be automatically installed on my Pearl without any warning or permissions given whatsoever. My BB previously didn’t have a security policy in place because our consultancy doesn’t have a centralised system. However my phone was suddenly locked out from allowing me to make all kinds of changes.
I had to find a crack on the tubes, download this and run it to reflash my BB. I lost my data despite backing up with my own Desktop Manager for some reason. Never again.
*Yes, I am now aware you can disable new hardware detection through the device manager on Windows. This shouldn’t have happened without consent though.
It’s just crap. Oh sure I installed Opera (until I ran out of memory), but BlackBerry refuses OTA installs through Opera which renders it only half as useful.
OK, so maybe you would say to someone like me that my experience of BlackBerry got burned by the Pearl – I didn’t get to fully appreciate the large screen, the GPSr, the full qwerty keyboard or the memory(?). But the fact remains is that if RIM want to introduce people to BlackBerry, this is not the phone to try it on. Instead it would be better sticking with the larger models – this way when someone does make the leap they won’t make some half-assed leap like I did and taint the brand.
For all I know the full size models are better, but I’m already put off by the BIS email, the lack of control and the OS itself, I’m no longer intrigued at what RIM have to offer. Besides I’m really loving Android right now – I can’t imagine RIM ever coming near to competing with the open platform.