It was more or less a case of "Is this it?" the first time I held my BlackBerry. It is unusually light and comfortable for a device that packs so many great features, and all for a relative fraction of the supposed daddy of mobile communication, the iPhone. Prior to receiving this BlackBerry 9300, I did indeed own Apples flagship device and decided not to re-new my contract purely for cost purposes. But as a rather brisk summary, my own personal experiences would suggest that I made the right choice switching to the BlackBerry and thus saving a huge amount of money in the process.
The only reason I wish to compare this device to the iPhone is because both are, arguably, in the spotlight of smartphones today. Both enable the user to text, to make phone calls, browse the web on 3G/Wi-Fi, listen to music, record video, take photos and more... All relatively standard functions in this product category.
As for the standalone cost of these two products, you'll be saving more than half your budget by settling for this 9300. My consensus with the iPhone is that you're paying more premium simply for the brand, although as far quality goes, I would agree that Apple's phone is genuinely well crafted.
Are their any more reasons why the BlackBerry 9300 is cheaper? From the spec's side, it would seem so. This phone has 'only' a 2-megapixel camera that doesn't compare to well with the iPhones, but as far as results go, it depends entirely on your proposed application. Uploading photo's to FaceBook? No problem - the quality is absolutely fine. Viewing on a computer? Sure. Printing off? Probably not, but then again, things such as the lighting of the environment greatly affect camera performance. I'm not entirely bothered. The camera is there as a novelty, and a way of quickly sending fun snaps to friends and family quite seamlessly by email or text, all through this device.
Then of course we may consider the user interface. Apples iPhone most likely has a more expensive touch screen/component ratio than the 9300, which is completely understandable. My stance here is that the two devices, quite simply, offer different ways of engaging with the software and neither are better or worse. Both have drawbacks and positives. As brief examples, browsing web pages on the BlackBerry can be tiresome due to its reliance on the centre scroll-button, whereas the iPhone allows the user to use many fingers to seamless interact with large pages on a large screen. Switch the balance around however, and I have found that the BlackBerry's messaging system is far more organised and accessible than that of the iPhone, for you can access emails, texts and BBM all through one folder, or through separate applications if you wish.
These are only two examples, but it proves that you're never going to be entirely satisfied with whatever product you buy; you therefore have to review what features benefit you yourself, and to this end, the BlackBerry is ideal for me. I'll therefore outline some of my favorite features:
+ The status indicator that blinks when the battery is low, or if you have a message/status update. Excellent for when your phone is on silent at work or somewhere quiet!
+ Battery life is decidedly better than the iPhone. Admittedly, I can still only get around 2 and a half days out of normal use (Wi-Fi off, 3G on, Sleep Mode at night), but the iPhone would rarely give me two full days without a charge.
+ Comes boxed with a nice Introduction leaflet, software disc, some headphones, a U.K "and" European wall-plug adapter (excellent for holidays) and USB cable.
+ If you have a Mac, you can download the 'Blackberry Desktop Software' application that allows you to sync your device with Address Book, iCal and more. Absolutely spot on, and far, far more options that iTunes! You can even transfer standard data/files.
+ The breadth of options for assigning 'alert' features for various Profiles (such as General, Silent etc) and more.
+ BlackBerry's official 'skins' for their Curve smartphones are far cheaper than the iPhones. You can get packs for two fifteen quid, as opposed to Apple's 'Bumpers' which are over twenty quid for just one.
+ 'BBM' (BlackBerry Messenger) is a piece of software akin to 'MSN' (Windows Messenger) that allows BlackBerry users to, for free, connect to each other via exchanging a Pin Code and basically text each other for free. Since it works through a data stream, the messages are sent/received instantly and its far more engaging than simply texting. I can't believe how often I now hear "BBM me later!"
+ Edit DOC, XLS and PPT on the go. Sure, its not as intuitive as being sat at a computer, but the effort is greatly respected. To do this on the iPhone, you'd need to pay for each of the Apps which support these documents; Pages, Numbers and Keynote.
+ The most obvious one: If you're considering this phone as a 'Pay Monthly'/contract option, you get far better deals than the iPhone, as previously mentioned. This includes almost twice as much Data, Texts and Call time.
However, the most prominent drawbacks are as follows:
- The 'BlackBerry App World' is, I hate to say it, awful. It has little over a few thousand Apps, and whilst this isn't the issue itself, I found the download speeds, installation times, compatibility and quality of these Apps no where near the standard of the iPhone. An un-expected loss, I have to say.
- The boot-up time of this device is longer than my old Windows XP computer. The chap in the shop said all BlackBerry's take forever to start up, so it must be a feature of the hardware (perhaps the CPU doesn't match the iPhones?). To get round this, you cannot actually turn the phone off 'entirely', per se. By telling the phone to Power Down, you merely take it into something akin to a 'sleep mode' that puts the device onto the lowest power settings with almost all functions turned off. Pressing the power button again brings the phone back to life within about 2 seconds. The upside is that you can save power when you go to bed or when you don't intend on communicating with the living world, but the downside is that if you don't want to use the device for an extended period, you have to actually remove the battery.
- Build quality is acceptable, but add on a bit extra to you budget for a funky 'Skin'. Dropping this phone or handling it daily without a Skin could, I imagine, reduce its cosmetic life very, very quickly. Even the screen, when pressed, is just made of flimsy plastic.
- No weather App built into the software. This was something I used on a daily basis with the iPhone, and not even BlackBerry's App store can offer a descent equivalent.
- A "scroll bar" isn't present when you move up and down a list of items (i.e Texts or emails), so its difficult to judge how long the list is.
Other good points that, whilst are of little use to me, are noteworthy:
+ Has a standard 3.5mm headphone jack.
+ Built in games of various kind.
+ Lots of lovely ringtones and alert sounds. Am I sad for thinking thats an interesting job, producing them? OK I'll grab my coat...
+ Additional Bluetooth connectivity.
To try and sum up, I can only suggest that the reader, whilst taking my personal points into consideration, just have a feel of the phone and maybe compare it to Apple's device or other models. Using this keyboard on such a small scale and adjusting to the more organised/clear user interface is not something that will happen over night. Heck, it took me a good week to get used to the keys on this smartphone and type properly without errors, but if you can see the benefits then this is a excellent value option. The BlackBerry 9300 offers everything you could wish for, and all with little interest in premium pricing.