I recently read the article “The New Smart Money” in Entrepreneur Magazine’s March 2011 issue. (Yup, I’m a little behind.)
I’m encouraged to see that the technology for being able to make a purchase with a smart phone is finally getting to a point where it’s actually usable by the masses. The next step is making it ubiquitous, but one thing at a time.
The reason the technology is finally starting to become usable is that a handful of critical factors have finally been realized:
Subsequent rumors have indicated that the major wireless carriers may opt for alternative solutions instead of jumping on the Isis bandwagon. Clearly this whole field is new, and there will be many interesting developments that take place over the next few years while the industry continues to mature.
But the fact remains, it’s coming, everybody’s motivated. As new players enter the race, the rest will be all that more eager to be first, which will spawn innovation and push the ultimate leaders to move faster and, hopefully, come up with better solutions.
Either way, if you are a retail merchant keep your ears open and be ready to jump when the opportunity arises.
I recently parted ways with my Blackberry Tour (9630), which I’d had for 16 months, and got the iPhone 4. I did this on February 10th, the day it became available at Verizon stores nationwide.
People have said the iPhone is not as good as Blackberry for business use. I believe if you’re part of a big corporate entity that’s probably true. But as a small business owner, our businesses and personal lives blend. While I initially loved my Blackberry, I found over time there were a lot of little things that really got on my nerves about it.
I’ve now been using the iPhone 4 for all of five days and my Blackberry experience is still rather fresh in my mind. This is the perfect time for me to do a comparison of features, from a small business owner’s perspective.
My laptop is a MacBook Pro, and I’ve been using an iPod touch for a while, so I do have some familiarity with Mac design in general and iPod design in particular. But I have not read the iPhone manual and I’m learning this phone’s interface completely on the fly.
I loved the way Blackberry let me just start typing a phone number or a person’s name and it popped up with a list of possibilities to choose from. SUPER easy and perfect for dialing a number while in my car sitting at a red light. I could even call my husband by simply holding down the G key. I didn’t even need a red light for that. The downside of this is that I called my Dad many times by accident because the phone got pressed up against something in my purse. A girl problem for sure.
The iPhone, on the other hand, makes me click five times to get to my husband (or any other “favorite” person). Perhaps there is a voice command or something I’m not aware of, but from a noob’s perspective this is a bit of an annoyance.
To call a non-favorite person I have to go even further. The process of selecting someone from the contacts list is particularly vexing. You have to click one tiny letter from a tiny alphabet list in the tiny right margin. Apparently you also must use the first letter of the person’s last name. I have 2,000 contacts in my list, there’s no way I remember everyone’s last name. After you click their tiny little last name initial you have to scroll up or down to find their particular entry. Right, highly annoying.
Blackberry wins this round.
The texting (SMS not IM) on the BB was relatively easy and straightforward. Similar to making a phone call, you simply start typing the number or name of the person you want to text, choose them, select SMS and start typing.
iPhone’s home screen has a Messages icon, which you tap to view a list of all your conversations. It also defaults to your last conversation so if you want to text the same person again you just start typing. To text a different person you can type a few letters of their name in the search box and choose them from a list, then start typing. It’s very intuitive.
iPhone’s is slightly easier to use so I’m going to give it this round, but it’s a very narrow margin.
Both the Blackberry and iPhone have decent keyboards, considering the size of these units vs the size of many people’s fingers. I initially hated the iPod Touch keyboard (it’s the same as the iPhone), but after using the BB keyboard for over a year, and then switching to iPhone, I think I like the iPhone better.
iPhone does a great job of “guessing” which key you “intend” to tap even if you have large fingers and tap an area much larger than the key. BB’s tactile keyboard registers every click, so you can’t fat-finger it and hit 2-3 keys at once. I ended up typing with my fingernails a lot. I got used to it but I never liked it.
Even on a regular full-size keyboard I tend to type way too fast and make scads of errors, so autocorrect is my best friend. BB has no such feature. iPhone’s autocorrect is nice, but it’s not perfect. Particularly annoying is the way you have to actively tell it to NOT make a particular correction. Acronyms are particularly offensive to iPhone and it tends to want to make real words out of everything.
If you owned one of the original PalmPilot devices, you remember the graffiti language. It was very odd and clunky at first but people quickly got used to it. I think iPhone’s keyboard is like that. A little clunky at first but elegant once you get the hang of it. I haven’t quite got the hang of it yet.
I’m going to call this one a draw, but I think I’m leaning towards the iPhone’s keyboard.
This is an easy one. The BB was not meant for surfing. To be blunt, it sucks.
On the iPhone surfing is a dream.
No contest, iPhone wins this one by like a thousand percent.
I detest having to tether my handheld device to my computer in order to sync data. It is just very old-fashioned. Devices should sync wirelessly. I ended up buying a utility to do this. It cost me $59 and never worked right. Tech support was no help at all. I won’t mention them by name because I’m not reviewing them. But it does add to my dissatisfaction with this particular feature.
iPhone 4 and my Macbook Pro sync flawlessly and ALMOST wirelessly. The only essential thing that needs a hard wire for syncing is my calendar. I use multiple calendars for multiple businesses. The ones that are on Google Calendar sync no problem. The others need to be sync’d using the hard wire. Obviously the solution is to put all of my calendars on Google. I just haven’t done it yet.
I also need the hard wire to sync photos and files but those are not as time sensitive and so it’s fine if they don’t sync for several days or even a week.
Anyway… iPhone wins.
Blackberry and iPhone both have apps for social media. The only reason the iPhone’s are better is because the app developers at Facebook and Twitter etc. have focused more energy on creating nice UIs for the iPhone than the BB.
It’s not the BB’s fault, but iPhone wins this too.
Both the cameras are very good. The BB camera has no flash though, which means you are limited to taking shots in good lighting conditions.
The iPhone camera is not perfect though. My 6 year old Canon point and shoot still takes clearer pictures, even though iPhone has a lot more megapixels. I’m not sure why that is, but the pictures are much clearer from the Canon.
I’m going to call this a draw.
Like the iPod touch, the iPhone has an amazing display. I can watch old episodes of Grey’s Anatomy and not miss a thing. The sound is better with the earbuds on, but even without them the speaker is decent enough. But the picture, OMG the picture is amazing on this tiny little screen.
Video on the Blackberry? Surely you jest!
No contest. iPhone wins.
Finally, the coup de grace. The Blackberry’s email is wonderful… if you only have one email account. If you have two, things start to get messy. I have about 10, and I need four of them with me at all times. The Blackberry failed at this.
I will say, in its defense, that the BB’s email interface in general is very good. Intuitive, fast, logically laid out.
iPhone is also great if you have one email account. If you have several, it outshines the BB. I do have one complaint though. The BB had an indicator if I had new email, which disappeared when I checked my mail, whether I read them or not. The iPhone on the other hand has no such thing. It does have an indicator that I have unread messages, but I always have unread messages. I just want to know when a NEW message has come in since I last checked.
It’s clear that iPhone is better for small business owners. On the other hand, BB will probably keep the large business market share for a long time to come. I almost hope it does, I think the iPhone could lose a lot of its elegance if it starts changing design to please large businesses.
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