Blackberry vs. iPhone vs. Neither

The Blacker The Berry, The Sweeter The Juice

AKIE BERMISS: I love my BlackBerry.  And I have loved it since before I even laid hands on it.  I have claimed, throughout these blogs, to be both a geek and snob; both a lover of gadgets and a lover of arcane media; a champion of progress but a devout advocate for simplicity.  So yes, I’m a bit mixed up.  Certainly — And who ain’t?  But when I first saw the BlackBerry I knew I had found a friend.  For the BlackBerry, above all things, is a smarthphone/pda/gadget that’s just a little bit mixed up.

Like everyone else I know when I first heard about the iPhone I drooled over it for months.  Being an AT&T subscriber I had every intention of getting one as soon as I saved up the money to pay for the plan.  But something happened to me in the months leading up the debut of the first iPhone.  I became disenchanted.  Something about the critical mass of people drooling over the latest from Apple, Inc. just made me a little ill.  And then I began to examine the phone more harshly.  Like waking up from a drunken one night stand to find myself next someone totally different than I’d gone to bed with (so to speak).  The iPhone is sleek.  Its sexy.  Its fast and small and bright.  Its wide window is a like a beautiful single eye looking out on to the world with wonder.  It can shake and twist and turn.  It lights up, it works as an iPod, it works as a phone — it works as a computer.  You can read eBooks on it.  You can read the NYTimes.  It has a billion awesome, too-cool-for-words apps.  And when you take it out of your pocket at a party — everyone wants to have sex with you.  Oh yes.  Its that powerful.

But something occurred to me.  Its too sexy.  Its too cool.  Its too sleek!  The iPhone will look good in my hand at a party, but it’ll never stick with me — it’ll be looking for someone better to answer to.  The iPhone could never be my friend — with me through thick and thin.  By my side.  Ride or Die.  None of that.  There would always be an off-balance-ness.  It would always be the George to my Lennie.  And when it comes down to it, I need someone I can trust.  And the iPhone — it ain’t that.

Something about the iPhone began to rub me the wrong way.  So exclusive you can only have one?!  Hey Apple, this is America. I have ready-money.  If I want seven iPhones — I should be able to buy seven iPhones in a sitting.  One for works, one for gigs, one for parties and social events, one for travel…

And the touch-sensitive screen has always been a bit a no-no for me.  I’ve got big clumsy piano-player hands.  that means small things get man-handled in my grasp.  And since my fingers are used to percussive trauma on a regular basis, I tend to hit things pretty hard.  You should see the ATM as my bank — dented as all get-out from my finger-whoopings.  And then when I try to use the iPhone my fingers are always hitting two letters or numbers on the punch pad instead of one.  Sure the little slide-me-to-wake-me-up stroke is cool, but if i need to send a text message fast, I can stop and sit down and start editing my many typos.  Its a sexy feature — to be sure.  But what’s it going to do for me?

I need something else for my day-to-day.  The iPhone is the girl you call when you’re single and you need to impress other single ladies at a party or something.  But she’s too much work for a grumpy old troll like me.  She won’t abide by the cigars and the whiskey and the vinyl LPs in my cardboard shelving units.  She’ll glare at all my leather-bound books; laugh haughtily at my extensive science fiction and fantasy collection; give my iPod classic an inferiority complex — and finally, she’ll be cooler than anything else I have around me.  Just too hip.

And when it comes down to it — there is a limit on how hip I really want to be…

Design: Form and Function

Now, the BlackBerry is a different beast altogether.  Where the iPhone is sleek, slim, and tall, the BB is short, boxy, and stout.  Where the iPhone is all transparencies and brilliant white, the BB is grey. and black.  And sometimes silver.  The BB isn’t made up and dressed up and gorgeous around the clock, the BB drools in her sleep.  She snores a little bit (hey, maybe a lot).  She likes to wear loose clothes and stay at home on weekends and eat burgers.  (Ok — so I’m romancing this up a little bit. And making the phone a woman — as suits my personal taste.  But whatever your predilection I’m sure you understand the contrast: one can feel comfortable and reliant on the BB to be there and do what it does without feeling like it disdains you for touching it…)  See, my first cellphone (back in ’98) basically looked like a graphing calculator.  It was a sad affair, but it lasted me a good long time.  And it got through all the dangers, toils, and snares I threw at it.  But when it died — years later — I decided I wanted something a little smaller and hipper.  Because, after all, the sign of progressive technology is just how small and weightless it is, right?  So I got smaller and smaller phones until, at last, I got myself a RAZR.  Well, friends, we all know how cool that phone is.  its so small, you can basically fold it up and put it in your wallet.  I would lose the damned thing in my pocket four or five times a day.  Like I’ve said, I’m not a small man.  And I’m not too clean and neat either.  My pockets usually contain about five dollars worth of change (and most of that is nickels), a couple of pens, my car keys, a bunch of receipts, napkins, pipe and cigar implements, lighters, and scribbled notes to myself on looseleaf.  In all that, I’m supposed to find a phone the size of baseball card when it starts ringing?  Are you kidding me?

And something occurred to me in those crazy RAZR years: there is a point where things get too small.  There’s a point where scientifically, yes, one could get smaller and lighter and less obtrusive — But why?  If I’m carrying my phone, I’d like to at least know it.  I know we all want to feel like we’re walking around with nothing on cause that’s so much cooler than carrying a bunch of crap any where.  But why should I aspire to that?  I’m already carrying around several books, a computer, music, headphones — why should I try to find something that weighs nothing to be my phone.  A little weight is nice.  In fact, a little weight is better than nice — its beneficial.  If a gentle breeze can knock my phone of the table, I’m in bad shape because control environments are hard to come by.  If I drop my phone on the floor and it breaks — then I’m out a phone.  If I drop my phone on the floor, and it bangs up the wood — well then my floor is nicked up.  I’m already something of a clumsy brute.  Everything I own is dented or cracked or scratched.  I don’t even really make an effort to preserved their out-of-the-box perfection because i know its pointless.  I need good, stout, strong tools that can do their work well in wind and rain and dark of night.

That’s the BlackBerry.  Its got a good heft in my hands.  Its screen is clear, but not fragile. I’ve dropped it a bunch of times.  Its still ticking.  I like the tactile feeling of pressing the actual buttons on the phone.  Their ebb and flow under my flashing fingers.  I enjoy the crinkly sound of the rolling trackball.  And the apps I use on the BlackBerry are not as varied and awesome as those for the iPhone, true.  But they get the job done.  I’ve got all my google applications — Gmail, google maps, google calendar — all synched up perfectly.  I’ve got a Twitter app (yes, and I use it even though people hate on Twitter with passion… despite, and I think it a worthy digression, twitter being influential in organizing the Iranian election protests this week).  I use miniOpera to surf the web and its less convenient than a real browser — but I didn’t really get my BlackBerry for surfing the web. Or playing video games, or shaking babies.  I still think of a PDA as a communication device, mostly.  So miniblogging on Tumblr, or Twittering, or Facebook posting.  Along with calls, and texts, and emails from my various accounts. Even GPS directions and listening to music!  With the BlackBerry, I am integrated.  And that, my friends, is very much the point.

When I take it out at a party, no one gasps.  And no one wants to sleep with me.  But, mind you, I’m still connected.  And me and my Blackberry — we’re fine just sleeping alone.

I almost didn’t meet this deadline, because I was so distracted by my iPhone.

JILLIAN LOVEJOY LOWERY: I think I’m in love with my iPhone. I really do. I never knew it could be like this – I’m not tech-savvy, I don’t know what half of the features actually do – but in the approximately 81 hours since I purchased this little wonder, I have fallen deeply, unequivocably in love.

And the best part? We’re still learning about one another, we’re in that blissful getting-to-know-you phase of the relationship.

You see, I have a rocky history with mobile devices. I’ve bounced back and forth with multiple carriers. I’ve been careless, dropping phones in toilets and breaking the flip-top of my flip-phones. I dropped my cranky old Razr so many times that it could have probably filed a Protection From Abuse against me.

But with the iPhone, my possibilities are limitless! I am no longer burdened by clumsy texting or confusing T9. I have an actual QWERTY keyboard, for the very first time! And internet access, regardless of whether or not I’m in a wireless hotspot (even though it’s hard to find a place without wireless these days)!

Truth be told, I know precious little about my iPhone. I know I got the $99 one, and that if I download some thingie, I’ll get most of the perks of the new iPhone. I know that I can check my facebook account anywhere, anytime – something that has become disturbingly important to me. I’m pleased that I will be able to view my favorite videos on YouTube whenever I like (do yourselves a favor and watch “Drinking Out of Cups” once you’ve read this discourse).

I have already wasted hours upon hours browsing the App Store and procuring little extras that range from silly (Pac Man, anyone?), to smart (New York Times, NPR Mobile and BBC), to functional (Flashlight), to Zen (that Koi Pond sure is relaxing). If I tire of my iTunes, there’s always Pandora to suggest new artists for me. And Weather Bug ensures I will always be dressed appropriate to my local forecast.

In this short time, the iPhone has improved my quality of life by giving me immediate access to both essential information and some frivolity, too. I feel more connected, more in the know. This device puts a spring in my step, ups my cool quotient, and gives me some things to do while I’m waiting to meet my friend at the bar.

I’ll get pregnant/switch to AT&T when I’m good and ready—and not before.

MOLLY SCHOEMANN: I will readily admit that I have spent little time fondling either a Blackberry or an iPhone. And I don’t really have anything against either one—yet somehow, my ambivalence comes across to devotees as a thrown gauntlet. Yes, your iPhone is neat. Yes, I’m impressed by the ingenious App you just downloaded for free. I’m sure it’s already saved you lots of time. Look how quickly you found us a local restaurant. ENOUGH ALREADY.

Sure, tell me more about your iPhone. How long have you had it? What do you like to do with it? How has it changed your life? I’m sorry, but listening to someone tell me about their iPhone is only a little more entertaining than hearing them talk about their children. I have to feign the same kind of enthusiasm. “Aw. He’s adorable! He sure has your apps.”

If I ever got an iPhone, I’m sure I’d like it; just like if I ever had a child, I’m sure I would enjoy being a parent. But if I’m not ready, don’t push me. I’ll get pregnant/switch to AT&T when I’m good and ready—and not before. The relentless pressure I receive from both parents and iPhone owners has left me a little bit leery of the concept of either.

And don’t get me started on the Blackberry. I know even less about it than I do about the iPhone—probably because the Blackberry appears to be the phone du jour of the successful business person, and I don’t really know any of those. None of them will return my calls.  From what I can tell, having a Blackberry gives technology junkies yet another device to cradle 24 hours a day and consult obsessively. I can’t imagine that this would benefit me. Forget about having access to email and Facebook updates—I already cradle my boring, normal cell phone 24 hours a day and check it obsessively for text messages. I thrill to the vibrating sound my phone makes when I’ve gotten a text message, even when it’s a message from my boyfriend that says, ‘did u finish the milk?’ If my phone gave me access to weather updates, breaking news and movie times I would probably stare into its screen like Narcissus gazing at his reflection in a pool until I perished.  I don’t really want a device that enables me to be even more obsessive-compulsive about my cell phone than I already am.

And no, I don’t particularly need a phone that connects me to email and internet. I’m not a doctor. I’m not a lawyer. If I can’t access the internet for an hour, no one suffers except for me, and it’s the kind of suffering related to having to socially interact with other people.

Speaking of socially interacting with other people, has anyone else noticed that the more time they spend hunched over a cell phone, the less that happens? I can’t help but wonder whether cell phones have become tiny social crutches. Alone at a party and not sure who to talk to? Just whip out your iPhone and play a game of virtual pinball or pull up a map to the nearest liquor store. Sitting by yourself in a coffee shop? Why not grab your Blackberry and check your email one more time. People will see you and think, “She’s here by herself, but she’s doing something with her phone, so she probably has lots of friends.”

When you’ve got your iPhone, you’re never really alone. You’ve got a wee digital friend by your side! Your iPhone always wants to hang out with you. Of course, you pay it to, while your friends will hang out with you for free. But you can’t play Snood on them, and they can’t instantly update their facebook statuses for you, except by telling you how they are– which can take minutes. I guess it’s a tradeoff.

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