TechPublishing Now MS Certified

TechPublishing Now MS Certified
Professor Robert McMillen, MBA Microsoft Certified Trainer and Solutions Expert

Saturday, April 7, 2012

Should You Get a Blackberry?

Should You Get a Blackberry?

By Robert McMillen, Koin’s Tech Guru

I’ve received many questions about the brand of smart phone a person should get if they’re looking for a business phone. I have many years of experience with all types of smart phones and here is what I’ve found.

Q- “Should I get a Blackberry for my business phone?” Claire B. Portland, OR.

Well Claire, here’s the scoop. A lot of people have the Blackberry phones and most seem happy enough, but I think it’s because they don’t know enough about what else is out there on the market.
Here is a rundown of the other smart phones that are most used by business people:

Apple’s iPhone, Windows Mobile (lots of different brands), Android G1.x, Palm Pre and older models, Blackberry of all flavors.

I have installed dozens of Blackberry servers as well as Exchange Mobile and Novell’s GroupWise. I speak from years of experience as both an IT consultant and administrator.

A smart phone is defined as any modern phone that can receive email, surf the web with a built in browser, make phone calls, send texts, take pictures or video, and install useful applications. All of these phones can wirelessly synchronize your email, calendar and contacts. There’s no big difference in the functionality of the different phones when it comes to your email.

Let’s discuss each of the different features and how Blackberry stacks up:

For internet surfing, Blackberry’s late to the market web browser appears to be kluged together compared to other brands.  Most people complain it’s too slow and you have to disable photos to make it work. By comparison, iPhone’s Safari web browser is very fast, even with pictures. G1 is also receiving good reviews.

The camera isn’t all that important for most business users, so let’s just say if it has one that’s great, but it’s not a necessity that it takes great pictures. If you’re taking a lot of pictures and video with your smart phone at work, then your boss will eventually want to know why.

The quality of the phone itself is something that appears to have escaped most business users because there is a general consensus that they are all alike. Well, they aren’t. My experience is that the average Blackberry user breaks their phone far more often than any other brand of smart phone.  I have some users that break it several times a year. Are they clumsier than other cell phone owners or are Blackberry phones just poorly made? (Neither answer would be good).

The Blackberry Storm that came out at Christmas had so many dead phones out of the box that they discontinued it after less than one quarter. Shortly after that, they were in the “2 for 1” bargain bin. Now the Storm 2 is about to be released. Don’t make the same mistake twice.

Many of our customers claim the Blackberry call quality is so poor it’s hard to hear, and the volume levels won’t go high enough. The icons on the desktop constantly disappear, causing a reformatting of the phone.

Blackberry is the only service that requires all of its emails to go through a bank of servers on the East Coast before they get to you. There have been several outages over the last few years that have caused the entire country to be without email service for hours and sometimes days. With Exchange and GroupWise, the email sends and receives directly from the local server itself.

Blackberry synchronization is also a little tricky. If you buy the cheap plan, you synchronize by connecting a cable from your phone to your computer to sync calendars and contacts. The wireless synchronization plan is more expensive ($20 more per month per phone). This allows you to connect to a Blackberry server which sites on top of Exchange or GroupWise, so you end up paying twice just to use the wireless service. None of those fees apply to any other type of smart phone.

Well, how about security? Is that why business owners get Blackberry over the competition? Absolutely not! In fact, we have to lower the security in Windows just to make Blackberry work. By default Windows has higher security, but the design of the Blackberry is so archaic we have to allow the Blackberry account to have full send access to every email box. This means that if the Blackberry account gets hacked, the attacker can send email and SPAM out from every address in your company.

While every other smart phone manufacturer has created new features and more security for business customers, Blackberry continues to just ride the wave that marketing has set up for it. In 2008, we visited the Blackberry booth at the Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas. They literally had no new products to show us since 2007. In 2009, all they had to show was the poorly designed Storm which people were exchanging in droves by the time the show began.

The last area is applications. The iPhone has over 15,000 of them. G1 is not far behind. Windows Mobile has very useful applications, but not as many as iPhone and G1. Mobile does allow you to copy your documents from your computer to your phone wirelessly for free using Live Mesh.

Palm has been a disaster the last few years and the Pre is their last hope before filing bankruptcy. It looks and feels like a combination of an iPhone and a tiny G1. It’s hard to say if it will be enough to save them since their applications have been nonexistent, but there is hope.

Blackberry applications were a complete afterthought. There’s not that many available and most people say they slow the phone down when you use them. The Blackberry website shows about 40 applications, which is not enough to excite the market.

So why do business owners buy Blackberry after all of the failings mentioned here? I’m sure that it has to do with a lack of education on the subject by the average user, and the marketing machine that RIM has to advertise. It also doesn’t hurt that president Obama loves his. That isn’t saying much, however, because I remember when peanuts went up four fold when Carter was president, and Jelly Belly’s made a huge franchise from President Reagan’s endorsement. Don’t buy your phone because a commercial told you to. Buy it after talking to a professional.

By the way, they took away the president’s Blackberry his first week in office and gave him a more secure wireless phone. That should tell you something.

For more great tips, check back here and listen to me on the All Tech Radio show at 9:00 Sunday mornings on AM 1360 KUIK and at 10 AM in Seattle on KOL, or listen online at If you would like your technical question answered here, just email Even if it doesn’t get answered in the column, I will always answer by email.

Published Monday, June 08, 2009 2:07 PM by Katatkoin