BlackBerry, iPhone, or Android? Pros and cons of mobile devices for business

With Research In Motion unveiling last week its latest flagship smartphone, the BlackBerry Torch 9800, as well as its new operating system, BlackBerry 6, competition in the mobile-device market has heated up for consumers and business users alike.

From a business perspective, BlackBerrys have dominated the corporate world for the past decade. However, the tides are slowing changing due to the release of Apple’s iPhone and of course Google’s Android operating system, which being used by many mobile-device manufacturers. As a consumer and a business user, one must be thankful that we have the power of choice. It was not too long ago when Nokia and Motorola devices ruled the marketplace and smartphones weren’t really that “smart”.

The question I keep hearing these days is “Which device is best for me?” In the end it boils down to your business needs. Whether you’re a road warrior or someone who is at their desk all day, each person has specific needs when it comes to a mobile device. My own personal evolution of mobile-device ownership started with a regular cellphone, went on to a Windows device, then to a BlackBerry, followed by an Android smartphone, back to a BlackBerry, and most recently ended up with an iPhone. I am going to summarize the top-three types of smartphones—BlackBerry, Android, iPhone—in an attempt to assist you with your purchasing decision.

Android: The new kid on the block

Google’s Android operating system hasn’t been around for that long. It made its debut on the market on Google-branded hardware, which Google later retired, deciding to focus on the operating system. You can now find Google’s Android OS on devices from most of the top hardware manufacturers. By now you’ve likely seen the Droid commercials, which I’m sure have contributed to the rise in market share. Android prides itself on being open source and also boasts an extensive application store containing thousands of free and paid apps for your phone. 2010 has been the year of the Android thus far, as its smartphones are now outselling the iPhone and it recently surpassed BlackBerry as the number-one selling mobile OS.

Pros

Google Apps: You have seamless integration with your Android smartphone.

Android Market: Extensive application library rivaling Apple’s application store. Lots of bad applications, but lots of good.

Choice of hardware: You can find the Android OS on a variety of phones. No other provider, outside of Research In Motion, offers such a vast choice of hardware.

Open source: This creates flexibility and allows vendors to develop platforms for their specific hardware. This approach will fast track the evolution of the Android OS and its acceptance within the market.

ActiveSync: The Android OS leverages Microsoft ActiveSync for integration with corporate messaging systems. This is unlike the BlackBerry, which requires a server and software for full integration. Android has this out of the box.

Cons

Battery life: The poor battery life of my Android device caused me to return it within a month. This comes down to the hardware but most devices aren’t sufficient for business purposes.

Applications: Although extensive, there are hundreds of horrible apps that you must sift through to find something decent.

Fragmentation: Because of its open-source nature, the platform as a whole feels disconnected. It’s hard to describe unless you use one for a couple weeks, but the term “fragmented” came to mind on multiple occasions. Because the Android OS can be found on various pieces of hardware, your Android experience will differ as you move from one Android-powered device to another.

iPhone: Sexy, trendy, versatile

Apple’s iPhone made its debut in 2007 and has since gained a large share of the smartphone market once dominated by Research In Motion. Apple, from a brand loyalty standpoint, is one of the strongest in the world and has a dedicated fan base. Apple has introduced many innovative features in its smartphones and has redefined the mobile-device landscape, forcing the competition to evolve and play catch-up in many cases. Apple’s latest smartphone, the iPhone 4, recently hit the market, running the latest operating system, iOS 4. Unfortunately, the device has suffered a lot of bad press, mainly due to the hardware, but also due to the new OS causing older devices (3G and 3GS) to experience performance issues.

Pros

Operating system: Apple’s mobile operating system is one of the best on the market. It is a little consumer-centric but Apple has introduced many key features that cannot be found on other devices.

App Store: The iPhone leverages a vast application store, which allows you to obtain apps for almost anything you can think of. The iPhone has a strong developer following, which leads to some amazing applications.

Web browsing: Apple takes the cake when it comes to Web browsing on a mobile device. Safari does a great job of rendering most Web sites and the large screen definitely helps the experience.

ActiveSync: Like the Android OS, the iPhone OS also leverages ActiveSync for integration with corporate messaging systems out of the box.

Hardware: Just take a look at the latest iPhone 4 and you will be wowed by its slick look and feel. Cosmetically, it looks great and under the hood it is a powerhouse.

Flexibility: The iPhone has successfully bridged the gap between your average consumer and your corporate user.

Cons

Battery life: This is the biggest personal gripe when it comes to the iPhone. Unfortunately, you cannot remove the battery and over time it slowly loses its charge. From a business perspective, battery life is critical, and the iPhone falls way short.

iTunes: I don’t know many people that enjoy iTunes. I, for one, find it cumbersome and non-intuitive, and having to rely on this application to manage my iPhone is a con.

Durability: Unlike some other mobile devices, the iPhone is rather fragile. Reading and watching some of the latest iPhone 4 reviews would make me want to purchase a wrist-strap with my phone. For example, the latest iPhone has chemically treated glass on the front and back of the device. Drop it from 12 inches up and say hello to cracks.

Consumer-centric: The iPhone hit the market as a consumer device and over time made its way into the corporate environment. That being said, from the ground up it is designed for the consumer, whereas the BlackBerry, for example, is designed for the business user.

BlackBerry: Tried, tested, and true

Research In Motion’s first smartphone hit the market in 2002. Since then, RIM has focused heavily on e-mail and corporate messaging, becoming the dominant player in this arena. Only recently have Apple and other smartphones made strides within the corporate environment, forcing RIM to evolve and upgrade their offering. Like Apple, RIM develops its own operating system on top of its own hardware.

Pros

Battery life: Overall, the BlackBerry provides the most optimal power consumption for the business user. Weeks of standby time, hours of talk time, and a removable battery all contribute to the BlackBerry taking the crown from a battery-performance perspective.

Operating system: The BlackBerry OS is one of the strongest platforms on the market. In my opinion, it has the best contact management, calendaring, and e-mail client of all the devices. It is built for the business user and has extras for the consumer.

Durability: BlackBerrys are known for being rugged devices which can sustain the daily abuse of the workforce. Whether you’re a road warrior or jumping boardroom to boardroom, BlackBerrys are reliable devices.

Productivity: With its renowned mechanical keyboards, the BlackBerry is perfect for the road warrior. You can pound out e-mails, SMS messages, and take advantage of multiple keyboard shortcuts to get the most out of your phone in an efficient manner.

Hardware: Research In Motion, like Apple, produces great quality hardware that is also aesthetically pleasing. RIM also offers freedom of choice, unlike Apple; you can purchase many different BlackBerrys in different form factors.

Cons

Applications: RIM followed Apple by releasing its own application store, called BlackBerry App World. The lack of applications and cumbersome interface lead to slow adoption. The latest OS, version 6.0, comes with App World 2.0 integrated within the operating system; it will be interesting to see if this makes a difference. On average, BlackBerry applications are also far more expensive compared to the iPhone and Android.

Web browsing: BlackBerrys, in comparison to the Android and iPhone platforms, provide the weakest Web browsing experience. This has been recently addressed with RIM’s latest operating system. However, they are still playing catch-up in this area.

Business-centric: The iPhone succeeds in bridging the gap with the average consumer, whereas the BlackBerry is still deeply rooted with the corporate community. To me this is an advantage, but many will see this as a weakness. The BlackBerry started as a corporate device, while the iPhone started as a consumer device. The iPhone seems to have had an easier time making its way into the corporate environment, compared to RIM’s battle of trying to make its way into the consumer market.

Server software: To achieve full integration with corporate messaging systems, one must install BlackBerry Enterprise Server or BlackBerry Express. This adds another layer of complexity, management, and cost for a business. Recently, RIM released BESX, a trimmed down version of BES which eliminates the need to pay for the server licensing. It also can work with a BlackBerry Internet Service plan from carriers, eliminating the need for users to pay for expensive BES plans.

There you have it, an overview of the top-three business-class mobile devices and platforms. Unfortunately, there is no such thing as a perfect device, which means you will need to weigh the pros and cons when making your purchasing decision. Who knows? Microsoft may come out with the perfect device later this year, when it releases Windows Phone 7. On paper and in person, it appears to have serious potential.

Martin DesRosiers is the director of technical services for Fully Managed, a Vancouver-based technology management services company. You can follow him on Twitter.

Comments (36) Add New Comment
Matty K.
For business I'd go with BlackBerry since it is much more encrypted, closed-off, and durable in the sense of hardware. RIM is reportedly planning on releasing a 9.7 inch iPad competitor, that may be running Android or BlackBerry 6 with the ability to be connected to a BlackBerry handset for 3G access/tethering. Search "BlackPad" for pictures and more or just click here http://www.engadget.com/2010/08/09/rim-blackpad-tablet-priced-at-499-whe...

Using an iPhone for business, or even an Android phone? Risky, as evidenced by the BBC who created their own app to test the theory. Turns out that a line of code in your smartphone's apps could be sending passwords and numbers to an outside email collecting your information.

BlackBerry ftw?
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xiaoa
i don't care about android, i just blackberry and iphone ~~hehe~
last week RIM released the BlackBerry Torch 9800,and Apple released the iphone 4.i seems that the torch 9800 is the start for blackberry developing the fation smartphone like iphone 4.the new multimedia player and "universal search",that is so cool for Blackberry series .Blackberry finally begin to pay attention to themselves in entertainment
and search function, but Compared with open and fashionable iphone,,there are still many needs to improve ,To tell you the truth, I prefer iphone and i am using iphone 4.
meanwhile, combining my aneesoft iphone video converter, i really think my iphone 4 is
perfect!!!
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J Jones
I love my blackberry, but I have to admit, my husband's iphone is incredible. I was thinking of switching over, but after using his phone for emailing, I realized that I need the keypad, the touch screen just does not work for me. Does that leave me with the new Blackberry as pretty much my only option for getting an iphone style with keypad, or are there other phones out there that would serve my purposes?? Thanks so much!
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Johan H
@J Jones, depending on the screen size you need you could go for a slide-out keyboard, such as the Sony Ericsson Mini Pro, but don't even think about it until they upgraded to Android 2.2 (or perhaps 2.1), since the current 1.6 doesn't really deliver on the business support end.
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Robert W
Your Comment on the Blackberry "This is unlike the BlackBerry, which requires a server and software for full integration." isnt true. Blackberry has the BES which is the Blackberry Enterprise Server (as you mentioned) but it has the BIS also, Blackberry Internet Server. Google Blackberry BIS "Provider" and you will have the login page for it. This will give you the same functions as the BES (just not contact sync)
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john d
I need the qwerty style tactile keys for typing. Tried a few times on an iphone and android system but I'm all thumbs. Noticeably more on the left thumb. If android can come out with a blackberry style phone with keys I'd drop rim in a heartbeat. Zero apps but the email and text messaging is rock solid. The blackberry's built in browser sucks but try opera. It's awesome. version 4.2 is my choice on the 8330.
thanks
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Robert H
My wife bought a BB9800 and I bought an IPhone4 both connected to the Bell Network. We live in a rural area with erratic signal sterngth. The BB9800 stayed connected with a much (2Bar) stronger signal in all areas. The IPhone4 had many drop outs. I returned the IPhone and am now happy with the BB9800. I much prefer the mechanical keyboard of the BlackBerry
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T Le
I'm reading all this info to choose a new phone, have to agree with most people here, I have a bb curve 8100(old) and HTC magic android, and Iphone 3GS and I am using my curve cuz of battery and reception, both the android and iphone drops the signal here and there when I walk around . specially lower grounds. Think I'm going to get a BB9800 or maybe something new in BB in the next 2 months.
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Zippy
Right now I have the BlackBerry 9700. I am quite happy with it, but as a student, I would like more games. I also can't live without BBM. I absolutely love it. I cannot type on a touchscreen device if my life depended on it so that rules out the iPhone for me. Even though the apps are extensive, I can't type anything. Androids caught my attention, they have a great OS (Android 2.2) and the app store is extensive, but cluttered with horrible apps. Most Android phones are touchscreen for me and I find that a negative. I would go with BlackBerry for the convenience.
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Rob H
this article is making my choice so much tougher. i need something that i can quickly get a hold of someone without having to call them and something with internet access for school email. iphones are sweet but touch screen kills me and i've been told there very fragile. on the other hand the BBM thing where people can tell when you read a message kinda worries me as i ussually take time to text people when im busy. also i was told blackberry users can tell exactly where you are which also creeps me right out. im sitll unsure about android but all iv heard is good things but that messenger barrier is still there.

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Xebec
Rob H,
I think you should pick iphone, regardless of its fragility its quite impressive when it comes to business and connectivity, the iOS which is Unix based is such powerful platform to deliver optimum performance for your device. I bet you could find a rubber bumper for your iphone so its more durable, the touch issue is simplified when you use its touch functionality for more than a week, you'll sure improve by the impressive touch functionality iOS is offering.
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greggron
Personally, I prefer my Blackberry, but obviously the future is Android. Be afraid of Google.
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LS
I am looking for a new phone and I am leaning towards an iphone simply for the apple integration but I have to say that I cannot believe that anything will ever come close to the BB for toughness. I have an old curve held together with duct tape and its case but it never misses a beat. It'll take more than a week to get comfortable with the touch screen. For me that is the biggest drawback but if you are not using a BES for work then the iphone is the way to go...just don't drop it.
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Harrylotus
It is usefull review as I have none of these but it help me to make up mind that which phone is better for me, Thanks.
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LeslieC
I'm with Rogers, live in a rural area (already a bad combination) and have no smart phone expereince. I am looking for something that is east to text and email with, can be linked to my work and hotmail accounts, and will also work well with facebook and other internet uses. I think the decision is between blackberry or something android as I often drop my phone, wouldn't want to add any bulk to an iphone, and would probably do better with keys than a touch screen. Any suggestions? Please!
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Canadian
Apple & Google are eating Blackberry Pie :)

While the Crackberry was content to iterate it's established technology, Apple introduced disruptive Touch Screen & Graphics, which has seen customers both Consumers and now Business switch from their crackberries.

Sa la vie...:)
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Frankie R
BB uses as little as 10% of the bandwidth (amount of data transferred ) for doing the same internet thing as Android and iPhone and has much better data security for a business and is more rugged - perhaps not as slick and exciting as iPhone but more rugged. Android lacks continuity between releases meaning that apps that run on an older version might not run on a newer version...iPhone does much better in this regard...I think BB is still best for business and iPhone best for consumers...
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Canadian
Frankie...What u think is irrelevant the Market DATA CLEARLY SHOWS Android number 1, Apple number 2, crackberry number 3 and FALLING!
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You
Well, sa la vie, right?

Oh wait....it's "c'est la vie" and any Canadian should know that....

But back on topic---I like the android platform on a Samsung phone (I've always been 100% satisfied with my Samsung products), but as long as I have to type and send work emails on the go, I'll be sticking with my Bold's keyboard.

When it comes to apps, how many does one really need? I regularly use Facebook, banking, weather, and maps. Do I really need access to a million others to occupy my growing generational ADHD? No, I have things called books to peruse during my daily commute.
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Claudia
I have tried the iphone 4 and I have the blackberry bold 9800 and I have to say that a really prefer my beautiful white blackberry. I had no problems with it in 1 year of use, NONE! I even dropped my Blackberry in the water once, for the first few hours i was hearing noise on the line due to the water, but then i let it dry and since that event it still works like new. I didn't even needed to bring it to my service provider. I have to say that the Blackberry is very tough, well made, and resistant. What phone can you drop in water and still works like a new one?
My boss has the iphone and he always complaints about the poor signal strenghts, especially when he is in hotels or in a garage, and I have no signal problems with my blackberry. He also dropped his first Iphone 4 in the pool and had to throw it away since there was nothing left to do with it, it was dead, the service provider could do nothing with it. The compagny sent him a new one that he dropped and the screen broke, he thew it away, this is his third Iphone 4 and still he has problems.
Also he showed me that, when he receives a text message and a phone call at the same time on his iphone, the phone automatically blocks the call and shows the text message which is totally annoying when you have a call from another country for buisness. I also know a couple of people who also have an iphone and they reported the same problems.
Iphone is really cool for the applications, nice screen and camera. But if you want something you can rely on, I would say go with the Blackberry Bold, which is the best from Research in Motion (RIM).
I have the Ipod Touch 4th generation and the iphone, I'm totally in love with the ipod for games, touch screen, but i totally hate to type on the keyboard. So I keep my ipod for games and music, which is the best ever, and the Blackberry Bold for buisness.

So that was my review, I hope it helps!
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