As I’ve mentioned in the past, I have a love/hate relationship with my iPhone. I love the usability, the applications, the ease in which it connects to Gmail, Google Calendar, Exchange and even the way it feels in my hand.
But I’m intensely frustrated by the short battery life.
It sucks and I’m not the first to complain about it. The poor battery life has created something of a market opportunity for a number of companies as there numerous products that have cropped up to juice up your iPhone on-the-go like the Mophie Juice Pack, the iPWR Superpack, the Kensington Mini Battery Extender and my favorite, the FastMac iV, among others.
I didn’t want to have to lug around yet another piece of kit so this past week, I decided to take drastic measures and go back to the BlackBerry, specifically a BlackBerry Bold. I bought a used one on eBay for a reasonable price and when it arrived yesterday and I opened the box, it was like reuniting with a long lost friend. That is, until I attempted to actually use it.
Setting up the BlackBerry Internet Service (BIS) for email was a complete disaster. Apparently, Microsoft made some changes to Hotmail/Windows Live Mail recently that required BlackBerry customers to login and reset their accounts before they could continue to use their devices with the Microsoft services. It wasn’t until late last night that I was able to set up my Gmail account via IMAP. Or so I thought.
See, BIS doesn’t actually implement IMAP the way it’s intended. IMAP is supposed to be a synchronous mail protocol that allows you to store your mail on the server while storing a copy of it on your client. Changes on the server are reflected on the client and vice versa. BIS retrieves your mail and delivers it to your BlackBerry and let’s you read, respond to and delete mail while having those changes reflected on the server. Working with your inbox on your desktop is another story.
If you read, respond to or delete mail from your inbox using a desktop client or web browser (Gmail in my case) the changes are not reflected on the BlackBerry. Effectively, you are now managing two inboxes. I posit that Research in Motion (RIM), the company that makes the devices, doesn’t want to fully implement IMAP into BIS as it could cut into sales of their BlackBerry Enterprise Server (BES).
Having already started down this path, I decided to continue. I remembered that BlackBerry got in bed with Yahoo a few years ago allowing Yahoo to implement fully synchronous mailboxes. I forwarded my primary email address to my ol’ Yahoo Mail address and adjusted my desktop workflow accordingly. This actually worked fine – I used this setup when I had my last BlackBerry a few years ago. (Tip: it’s worth every penny to sign up for Yahoo Mail Plus and get rid of the ridiculous, untargeted and highly annoying ads.)
Next, I installed Google Sync so that I could keep my Google Calendar and Google Contacts in sync with my BlackBerry. It was simple to install and sync’d properly on the first try. I did the same using Remember the Milk for BlackBerry. This was also simple to install but managing tasks using the default BlackBerry application is horrible. The interface just isn’t meant to facilitate the Getting Things Done (GTD) methodology.
What else? Twitter, of course! I had heard about a great BlackBerry Twitter client called TweetGenius and immediately dropped $4.99 for a license. It was well worth it as any of the other clients that are available are pretty basic (though I’m judging them against Tweetie and Twitteriffic on the iPhone which probably isn’t fair).
Finally, I decided to take a stroll through BlackBerry AppWorld. It’s quite limited compared to the iTunes App Store but I found a few gems. Qik for BlackBerry is awesome (and doesn’t require that you jailbreak your phone to use it). Viigo is a great kitchen sink type application that lets you read RSS feeds, check the weather, find local businesses and bunch of other stuff.
With that all wrapped up this morning, I went about my day. At 3:00 PM, all seemed to be fine. I had been running on the same battery charge for more than 24 hours and still had 70% left – and this was after heavy usage performing software installations, setting things up, etc.
Then, in my mind, it all came grinding to a halt. Google Sync proceeded to add duplicate entries to my BlackBerry calendar each time it sync’d. I then realized that I would have to upload or sync all my contacts to Yahoo Mail in order to have easy access to them. And finally, I discovered that the new and improved Bold browser didn’t display the advance version of Google Reader. (Which was my own fault for not testing it beforehand…).
That was it. After less than 48 hours, I pulled the plug on this grand experiment.
The BlackBerry is a great device, but switching required me to change too many things in my daily workflow. I’m pretty much wedded to the Google Apps – especially Gmail – and had a difficult time giving it up for Yahoo Mail. I didn’t want to deal with my calendar syncing problems nor manage my tasks in the pathetic BlackBerry Task List – I just wanted everything to work. Right now.
A relatively quick phone call to AT&T support and swap of my SIM card and I was back using my iPhone. This evening I even purchased a FastMac iV External Battery Pack.
My BlackBerry Bold will make someone else very happy when they win the upcoming eBay auction.