Deathmatch: BlackBerry versus iPhone

Is the BlackBerry really 'yesterday's mobile messenger'?

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The BlackBerry and iPhone are mixed bags when it comes to navigating messages. Both the BlackBerry and iPhone offer a quick way to jump to the top of your message list, but only the BlackBerry has a way to jump to the bottom. And only the BlackBerry lets you search messages.

The iPhone makes it very easy to select multiple messages to delete or move them, while the BlackBerry can only multiple-select contiguous messages, which in practice means you can't work on many messages at once. (There is a workaround for some situations: You can search your messages by name, subject, title, or attachment status, then select those files -- still contiguously -- to work on them.)

Both the BlackBerry and iPhone let you view common attachment formats such as Word, Excel, and PDF. But the iPhone can't handled zipped attachments, while the BlackBerry nicely shows you a list of the contents so that you can open the ones you want.

With both the iPhone and BlackBerry, you can add people who e-mail you as contacts, but the BlackBerry unnecessarily complicates the process. If it can't figure out the person's name, it forces you to enter that before it will save the contact. The iPhone, on the other hand, lets you fill in that information at another time, so at least the e-mail address is stored for easy access later.

The iPhone also notes who you respond to and adds them to the quick-selection list of addressees it displays as you begin tapping a name, even if they're not in the address book. The BlackBerry only displays names in the address book.

Both the BlackBerry and iPhone are annoying when it comes to handling calendar invites, but the iPhone is worse. If you get a calendar invitation as an e-mail attachment on an iPhone, you can't accept it from your e-mail; the iPhone can only sync calendars already handled by Exchange. Plus, you can't move an event from one iPhone calendar to another, such as from your personal calendar to your work one. That's just dumb.

But a BlackBerry doesn't recognize multiple Exchange calendars, so even if you distinguish private from work calendars in Exchange, the BlackBerry does not. The same is true if your desktop calendar app has multiple calendars; the BlackBerry sees them all as one. (The BlackBerry treats events in each e-mail account, plus those in your synced desktop calendar, as a separate calendar.)

Another area where the BlackBerry hung me up: I could accept some invites sent to me, but not others. The BlackBerry would often tell me that I could not accept invites because I was the meeting organizer -- even though I was not. The BlackBerry also overloads you with calendar item details when you open an invite -- it's overwhelming and not necessary.

The iPhone clearly has some issues, but for such a mature platform, the BlackBerry is surprisingly mediocre when it comes to e-mail. The iPhone makes it easier to read, send, and organize e-mails and contacts, but it falls short when it comes to zipped attachments, handling invites, and searching e-mail. Both disappoint for calendar management.

Deathmatch: Applications

RIM has made a lot of noise about its BlackBerry App World store, and Apple recently celebrated its 1 billionth App Store download. Make no mistake: The selection of BlackBerry apps is not only limited, but the apps themselves are typically pale, pathetic imitations of iPhone apps. (Compare the New York Times or Salesforce.com on the two devices, for example.) And downloading an app to the BlackBerry usually means wading through several pages and prompts.

I much prefer the iPhone's simple, fast approach to downloads. Like much of the iPhone UI, the App Store recognizes that you're using a mobile device and that six-screen legal agreements and endless "Are you sure" confirmations are not mobile-friendly. If you download an iPhone app by accident, deleting it takes a couple seconds -- and the whole download-install-remove process takes less time than just starting a BlackBerry App World download.

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