Thursday, January 5, 2012

Blackberry vs Android

**edited for those who feel it should have been written and formatted in a more professional manner. **

I have been meaning to write this for a while now, and thought the time had come to jot it all down before I forgot what I was going to say. So here it goes.

I spend a lot of time talking about mobile devices, and moaning about the shortfalls and glorification of certain brands. Yes, Apple, I said it, so what! lol
But I like to keep my hand in and see what the manufacturers of the world are offering. Attached to my Blackberry by the palm of my hand, I thought it was time to take an adventure, and see what was going on in the world. Having recently had an iPad, and swapped to a Blackberry Playbook, and having previously had an Android handset, I decided it was time to take the plunge back into Android. The last handset I had was a Motorola DEXT, which was good, but nothing to write home about. In fact I think I may have mentioned it briefly a couple of years back.

Having done a few hours research, I decided that out of the 2 handsets on the market, the Samsung Galaxy S2 was the one to have. Without any messing about it was ordered and in my hand within days. Yes yes, another contract phone.

So let me start this of by saying. I have been a Blackberry user for years now, and am loyal to them purely because they provide a handset and service that matches my needs almost perfectly in every way. When you are set using one particular brand for a long period of time I think it is fair to say that you become blinkered to the world around you, and are at risk of believing there are no alternatives out there. The only way to truly avoid this is to keep your options fresh, and in my case I use various devices to keep my eyes wide open.
I can say without any doubt that Blackberry is still the device I would choose if I could only have one handset. The Blackberry 9900 offers everything I could NEED, and delivers it in a great package, and with power and punch. The speed and reliability of it suits me fine, and its adaptability to carry out the various tasks is excellent.
For me, the past month, having had access to use the S2 has been great, for a number of reasons. Allow me to explain in a little more detail. Having used both at great length I have been able to identify once and for all what it is about Blackberry that I like so much, and that keeps me hanging in there with them, even when they appear to be falling way behind the competition. While at the same time, it has allowed me to experience first hand what the touchscreen world of phones really offers the end user. The 9900 is also a touchscreen but has a full QWERTY keyboard too, so its not the same, much smaller real estate for the screen.

First up, the Blackberry Bold 9900.

Physical QWERTY keyboard
Solid build
Nice size and weight for the hand
Simple connectivity
BBM applications
Reasonable battery life
Notifications /LED
Touchscreen interaction

Reduced battery life compared to OS5 and 6 devices
Limited apps available
Browser still slow compared to some
No Flash
Poor camera due to no autofocus
Slippery and easily scratched battery cover.

Keyboard and input
The things I love and hate about it. The good stuff first. a full QWERTY keyboard is the making of a great phone for me. Perfect sized little buttons even for my quite large fingers makes writing long emails and errm blog entries a walk in the park. Chatting on BBM is also a delight, and leads me neatly onto the next plus point of Blackberry. I would be lost these days with BBM, and chatting to my friends around the world at all times of day and night. The build and feel of the phone in the hand makes these chats and extended uses of the handset great
Having the choice between using a trackpad or the touchscreen is a great improvement to the use of the handset. Added to this that the trackpad can mimic almost anything you can do with the touchscreen, and here you have a great hybrid which can be used with normal gloves on of your choice, and not specific conductive finger-tipped gloves. So the overall input to the 9900 is borderline perfection.

Application integration/BBM
Then there is the hassle free integration with Facebook, Twitter and other social network sites. I am a bit fan of taking random pictures and sharing them, and love taking my Blackberry on holiday and on trips with me to record ever lasting memories via social networking and blogging. New to some of the apps for OS7, there are a lot more options for sharing information via BBM. Instantly sharing web pages, sports scores, tweets, music with other contacts on BBM is a great improvement and shows RIM and developers are heading in the right direction to create their very own social network within BBM.

With a pretty good battery life for a smartphone, I can do the things I love like taking and sharing pics, and chatting to my hearts content for hours on end. The tech world accepted a long time ago that smartphone, and great battery life were never going to be found in the same sentence again. Compared to the handsets of a few years ago smartphones have terrible battery life. However given what they do for us day to day, the battery on the 9900 does a pretty good job.

The one thing I didn't realise I loved so much about my Blackberry is the LED. With a simple app added it can flash a wide range of colours, and at different speeds. OK not very exciting you think, but it is a game changer, for me at least. One thing Blackberry seems to do like no other is notifications. Being able to assign a sound and a colour flash or pattern to many contacts, as well as various different email addresses and applications means that I don't have to keep checking my phone to see if someone has text and I have just missed the alert. Instead I can look at the phone on the side, and if the LED is flashing I know something has occurred, and by simply looking at the colour of the LED, I will know what application or email address I have a notification for. From that I can decide if its worth checking, or simply ignore it.
No more picking my phone up every 5 mins. Just to add to this amazing function, the phone can be told to behave in a COMPLETELY different way once it is inside its holster or case, if you so choose to use one.

Remember these opinions are based on 2 handsets within the range offered on both the BB OS7 and Android 2.3 Gingerbread platforms. To recap that's a Blackberry Bold 9900 and a Samsung Galaxy S2. So now,the S2.

Samsung Galaxy S2 (Android)

Screen size
Resolution and brightness
Decent touchscreen
Spec, great speed
Application availability

Build quality / plastic feel
Handset size
Lack of physical keyboard

Screen size / display.
One of the larger screens in the pure handset market at the moment, and certainly brings quality to the game. Big screen in this case does not mean poor resolution. Bright and colourful and capable of displaying websites and apps in good colour and detail even when zoomed out. Amongst huge competition out there with higher resolution displays etc, for me the S2 gives me all I need.

Touchscreen/ input.
Given my experience with other touchscreen devices, such as the Playbook, the iPad and a long while back the MotoDEXT, I consider this one of the nicest I have used. Compared to the DEXT which seems like a decade ago now, things have improved no end on touchscreen devices. The Android interface offers itself well to this responsive touchscreen, and the options for touch and hold within apps are easy to use and plentiful. All in all, a pleasure to use, and one of the first touchscreens I have used that convinces me they are not evil.
The lack of any kind of physical input is quite daunting to me though. For my personal uses of a smartphone, no physical QWERTY is a real downfall for me, but I guess it IS a touchscreen phone, so ....

Weight / build
Quite an imposing size for some users, the Galaxy appears to be a bit of a heavyweight, until you pick it up that is. The weight for such a large and powerful device is really quite shocking, and it manages to weigh very little, while not feeling cheap. OK so its plastic, and not the robust solid feel of the iPhone or 9900, but it doesn't feel delicate or fragile, and you are happy to use and abuse it like any other phone. In fact in the short time I have had it, I think it has taken more falls than any of my other phones of the past, and come out the other side unscathed. So as far as build and ability to perform go it certainly scores well in my books.

Spec / Apps
With a decent spec under the hood the speed of the S2 is really quite something. No lag, no messing, just apps on demand that run smoothly. With a handset full of applications, and a whole bunch running in the background, the device still manages to plough on through whatever you throw at it, and deal with things in lightning fast time. The software build seems to be pretty stable, with no sudden closures of apps, or other sorts of hiccups. The availability of apps for the device is mindblowing, especially for a Blackberry user. And gone are the days of all the apps being novelty fart apps etc. Now the market is full of useful applications for every day use. So the number of pages available for putting apps on, and the use of folders is great on the S2

So that's the two devices. Now for my opinions on how they fit into my everyday life.

The overall point that makes my proper decision for me is my smartphone usage is HUGE in one area above all others, IM and email. As you can tell from a lot of the entries in this blog, most are done via the berry. For typing long emails, or having flowing conversations on BBM, Whatsapp etc, the only way is berry for me. This was proven when I reinstalled Whatsapp on my berry this weekend after using it for a week on the Android. Just the sheer speed I can conduct a conversation is unreal compared to on a touchscreen.

Interaction with the applications is a similar matter. For apps that just supply information for me, such as SkyNews, the format in which it is delivered on both devices is fine, however the Blackberry seems to receive a smoother more regular feed of updates than the S2. For applications that require a small amount of input, such as ticket booking or social networking like Twitter, the way the info is delivered is far superior on the Android, friendly to the eye, and with the use of dropdown menus etc, the input time is quick on both devices. However the more input required, the less appealing the Android becomes for me.

And finally there are apps such as blogging apps, Facebook and forums which require a much larger amount of input. As pleasing as they are to the eye on the S2, there is no competition, and the Blackberry wins this fight without any competition.

So I think I have said all I can on the matter. I can round up by saying a few other one liners... RIM, you idiots taking autofocus off the 9900, what were you thinking! 9700 amazing camera, 9900, PANTS! The S2 camera wins hands down.
Battery life... If any smartphone user thinks the batter life of their device is 'good' you are crazy. Given what they do,I concede its amazing how long the battery lasts. But given that the idea is to stay in touch, the battery lives of all devices don't do much for me. Especially when comparing them to BB's of a year ago, 2-3 days of heavy use no problem. Just goes to show pretty apps are a PITA!


Summing up I can only say that both handsets are more than capable of what is thrown at them day to day. Crossing over using the same apps on both has fizzled out now, and I have clear favourites on both. There is no winner or loser as such, and if I were a one handset kinda guy I would be happy with either depending on my input preference more than anything. To anyone in the market for a new touchscreen phone, I would recommend the Samsung Galaxy S2 any day.
However, for me a physical QWERTY is a must, so if one had to go and one was staying tomorrow.... The Blackberry Bold 9900 would be safe in my pocket any day. No winners of losers here, but the Bold 9900 is my handset of choice.

Right, I'm going to leave it there, otherwise it will sound like I'm obsessed or something..... Doh!

Thanks for reading and feel free to share your comments.

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