Another common question I get from people when I talk about mobile phones is, should I consider BlackBerry or Windows Phone 7 when purchasing a new device?
My answer – No. The only phones I recommend are iPhone or Android devices.
For the curious, here’s why I don’t recommend the other platforms.
As a loyal BlackBerry user for many years, it pains me every time I tell people to switch from BlackBerry or not to consider it when buying their first smartphone. I loved my first two BlackBerry devices and honestly thought I would never be able to live without a keyboard when I switched to the Nexus One. The bottom line is that iPhone and Android devices can do everything a BlackBerry does, do it better than a BlackBerry, and do more than a BlackBerry!
It really comes down to these four things:
The BlackBerry OS is just not geared toward the consumer, it’s geared toward the enterprise. With OS6, the software has gotten better, but it still lags behind iOS and Android, and don’t even get me started on the browser! Things will get better next year with the next OS release, but that seems to be the BlackBerry mantra these days, wait until next year. They’re always a day late and a dollar short.
- Form Factor
I understand that people like their keyboards, but having a keyboard really eats into valuable screen real estate. A small screen is a big problem when using apps, browsing the web, playing games, or watching videos. In other words, all the things we like to do with our smartphones.
The BlackBerry app library just never got off the ground. Sure, you’ll find the essentials there, but the developers are not actively supporting them. In fact, even Google is dropping support for key apps like Gmail. Furthermore, trends indicate developers are leaving the platform, not embracing it, which means there will be even fewer new apps going forward.
When I was growing up, my grandparents always had an Oldsmobile. When I went to buy my first car, the Oldsmobiles were nice, but I didn’t wanted to be labeled as “old”. BlackBerry has the same problem. It’s the device of stodgy, uptight business people. The young, hip, trendy people are using iPhone and Android devices. At least that’s the perception, so no matter how good the new BlackBerry is, the image doesn’t help sales, particularly with the younger crowd.
Unfortunately, BlackBerry’s best days are behind it. They’re trying to stay relevant, but their efforts are just too little, too late in my opinion. I suspect that the BlackBerry is headed down the path of Palm, meaning it will fade away and eventually be purchased by one of the other major mobile players within the next couple of years. So unless your IT group is making you use one, I’d stay away from BlackBerry.
Windows Phone 7
Microsoft, in my opinion, has done a fantastic job with Windows Phone 7. The user interface looks and works great, and it’s very easy to use. However, I still can’t recommend it.
- It’s still maturing
Windows Phone 7 isn’t as robust as iOS or Android yet. The latest software release, codenamed Mango, got it closer, but it still has a bit to go. Unless you are a true Microsoft fanboy, or don’t mind being on the bleeding edge of technology, I’d stick to the more mature platforms for now.
- A small app library
It’s growing, and Microsoft is definitely putting its muscle, or should I say cash, behind the development ecosystem, but it’s still got a long ways to go. You’ll find most of the essential apps, but new apps are going to come to the iPhone and Android platforms first. Sorry, but the Windows Phone market share numbers are just too small for developers to prioritize it.
- Small user base
Not only does the small user base affect the size of the app library, it also affects support for the device. In store reps are going to be way more familiar with iPhone and Android device issues, and it’s way more likely that a friend or colleague will be able to help you with your iPhone or Android device because they have one. It’s very unlikely that your friends will have a Windows Phone.
- Limited phone choices/carrier support
I’m not saying you need a lot of device choice to be successful, because the iPhone certainly doesn’t have it, but it helps. A quick check showed four Windows Phone devices available on AT&T, two on Sprint, two on T-mobile, and only one on Verizon. Plus, the carriers are not doing nearly as much training with their staff. I’m sure the situation will improve, but not for another 4-6 months.
The handset market is big enough for more than two players, and I’m confident that Windows Phone 7 has the best shot at evolving into that third vendor. Mobile is just too important for Microsoft to ignore, and they have a huge war chest of cash to throw at the problem (and developers, carriers, and consumers). However, now is not the time to make the jump.
The bottom line, stick to Android or the iPhone for now, stay away from BlackBerry, and wait until the second half of 2012 or early 2013 before considering Windows Phone 7.