Once upon a time, choosing an enterprise class business phone was simple: just get a
BlackBerry. Throughout early decades of the 21st century, the BlackBerry was synonymous with business connectivity. Its strong support for email, messaging, global roaming and mobile document editing made it the best in class among the other fledgling smartphone platforms. But today, the up and comers have arrived—and BlackBerry faces stiff competition from the likes of the iPhone, the Windows Phone 7 and Android smartphones. In spite of the heavy representation that the Apple and Google-backed mobile operating systems receive in the consumer sector, BlackBerry remains the top choice for certain business users. That being said, being the oldest doesn’t always equal being the best—and the BlackBerry lags behind in some areas that may matter to you.
Research in Motion excels in hardware and user interface design. And just like the iOS smartphone operating system is exclusive to Apple hardware, the BlackBerry OS is exclusive to phones created by Research in Motion. This means much better stability, consistency and reliability across all aspects of the phone.
Specifically, BlackBerry phones tend to have better battery life—including talk time and standby time—and are durable enough to stand up repeated rough deposits into airport security baskets or briefcases. BlackBerrys are also renowned for their superior physical keyboards, that, with a bit of practice, allow road warriors to pound out emails, memos and other text-based communication at lightning speed.
As a company that’s built its name on business class features, Research in Motion also stands head and shoulders above the rest in terms of security. In fact, BlackBerry’s email servers are so secure that many governments have banned the phones in country, since it bars them from spying on their own citizens.
Bottom-line: Email, calendar management, messaging, durability, battery life and security are the areas where BlackBerry stands out. Given that these are the precise features that many business users are looking for, the BlackBerry remains a favorite among professionals and corporate users.
Android and iPhone smartphones are the platform du jour, which means that the latest fads are going to hit these phones first. This has the biggest impact on the app selection. Like Apple and Android, BlackBerry has its own dedicated app store, called BlackBerry App World. While the selection of free and paid apps is extensive, chances that when you hear about that newfangled app that’s trending like crazy, it’ll be for iPhone or Android—with the BlackBerry version “coming soon.”
The plus side of this is that most of the trendy apps don’t tend to be particularly business oriented. For example, Instagram, Words with Friends and Angry Birds all debuted on the iPhone and slowly trickled to the Android (no Instagram on Android as of the time of this article). But social networking through artsy snapshots and beating strangers in Scrabble have little business application—so you’re not missing much.
The more significant drawback of a BlackBerry is that in order to tap the full potential of the BlackBerry mobile platform, you’ll have to have BlackBerry enterprise software installed back at the office. If your company has invested in the technical infrastructure to support their employees’ BlackBerry phones, this is all well and good. But if you are a small business user or an individual considering a BlackBerry, know that yours won’t be nearly as powerful as that of an employee who received his as a company phone from a Fortune 500 company—at least not without a little bit of investment of time and money.