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This gadget life: Choosing a smartphone

Regular readers might have noticed that I’ve been writing about smartphones a lot recently. This is partly because iPhone 4 and Evo 4G hysteria all came around at the same time, but also because I’m in the market for a new smartphone.

My trusty BlackBerry Bold 9000 has an almost dead trackball having recently acquired an unplanned taste for coffee, and this summer has seen an abundance of smartphone releases.

Like many people, I have some generic and some specific use cases for a smartphone, which guide me towards certain platforms.

Firstly, I need something that is enterprise friendly. In my case this roughly narrows down the range of acceptable platforms to BlackBerry, Android and iOS (iPhone). Not to get too deeply into the relative pros and cons of each of these at an enterprise level, for my needs these platforms are either natively enterprise ready or can provide secure email functionality through add-on apps. Winner: Used to be BlackBerry hands down but these days it’s a tie.

Secondly, the ability to type quickly and accurately is important. The iPad has certainly taught me that software keyboards are not an impediment to fast typing, but accuracy becomes challenged as the virtual key size reduces. It goes without saying that BlackBerry hardware keypads are excellent but software keyboards on the larger smartphones like the Evo 4G are also easy to use accurately in landscape. I’m 50/50 on the iPhone keyboard, and find that I need to make a correction every couple of sentences. Winner: Tie between BlackBerry and large-screen Android smartphones.

Thirdly, I need my smartphone to work reliably in year round temperatures. New York City summers are hot and humid, so my phone needs to function well under direct sunlight with plenty of environmental moisture in the air. There’s sufficient anecdotal evidence on the web to suggest that the iPhone copes poorly under sustained sunlight, with temperature related shutdowns being commonplace. I have had that very experience on my iPad after just five minutes of direct sun exposure. My BlackBerry Bold 9000 has never given me a heat warning, even after hours of use under the sun, plus the screens of most of the current BlackBerry range, such as the 9xxx series, are viewable in daylight. It’s difficult to assess the situation with Android phones as there are so many models. The Evo 4G does seem to have some heat issues although it sounds like these are more connected to signal strength with the device getting hot as it searches for a signal in weak coverage areas. Winner: BlackBerry.

There are a host of other considerations of course, such as Internet browsing, media playback and size/weight. For my use case, the web browsers on most smartphones are good enough for my occasional usage with the exception of the BlackBerry which has a disappointingly poor browser. Media handling is good on most modern smartphones, although the iPhone has the disadvantage of having to be tied to a specific computer for mass media transfer. The iPhone also has an incomplete Bluetooth implementation for stereo headset usage. For size and weight, the iPhone and BlackBerry devices win over the 4+ inch Android smartphones that are less pocket friendly.

For now I’m torn between the Evo 4G, Samsung Captivate and BlackBerry Bold 9700. The BlackBerry 9800 slider may also get onto my shortlist if we ever get a release date. Even though the BlackBerry platform has much to do to catch up to the user experience of iOS and Android, its reliability continues to make it a compelling platform as a daily workhorse.

Neil Berman

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Jul 12, 2010 - Posted by | Analysis, Mobile | , , , , , , , , ,

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