BlackBerry vs Apple: Which is better for business users?
British bank Standard Chartered has just announced that it is migrating its workforce from BlackBerrys to iPhones. Workers will now be offered a choice between either handset, or will be allowed to switch if they currently use a Blackberry. Given the scale of the company, which has some 75,000 employees, it could signal the beginning of a major shift in handsets for businessmen worldwide.
Related Articles 'Binman BlackBerry' Sales of Google Android handsets overtake Windows Mobile BlackBerry Bold and Apple iPhone rumble What does Nokia need to do to become relevant again? Android phones outsell iPhone A sort of mobile Office for iPhone Many companies still retain the notion that the BlackBerry is best for business, with banks like HSBC and Morgan Stanley offering it as the only handset choice. The release of iPhone OS 3.0 in 2008 went some way towards making the iPhone more palatable to businesses, adding some crucial security features that out it on a par with the BlackBerry. "Once upon a time, there was nothing more secure than a Blackberry," said Ben Wood, an industry analyst with CSS Insight. "iPhone OS 3.0 however brought features like remote wipe and remote lock, features vital in a handset that's going to be used by a big business. "Companies in North America helped spearhead the growth of the iPhone as a work phone. Chief executives wanted the handset because it was the next must-have gadget. They then asked their company's technology desks to adopt the phone, and slowly they rolled the devices out across the entire business." BlackBerrys still remain the most popular business devices in both the UK and US. But as Lu Chialin, an IT industry analyst at Macquarie Securities in Taipei, told Reuters: "If more companies switch to the iPhone, this is of course bad news for Research in Motion." The iPhone is growing in stability, reliability and reputation with each software update and new handset. Apple pursues an aggressive improvement cycle, issuing regular software updates to tweak aspects of the device's usability. It tends to issue free, full-point updates, crammed with extra features, every summer. BlackBerrys, by contrast, have a much slower software update cycle; the handset range is refreshed with a pleasing regularity, but the underlying architecture that powers the devices tends to remain fairly similar between updates. Both the iPhone 3GS and BlackBerry's current flagship handset, the Bold 9700, share very similar specifications. The iPhone has a bigger screen, but it has a lower resolution. It has a camera capable of geotagging but one that doesn't use image stabilisation. When put head-to-head, both handsets have their strengths, but both share the same base set of hardware. Even the handset's processors are of a similar specification, with both clocking in around 600 MHz. In fact, it now seems as though the major decision behind whether to plump for an Apple or a BlackBerry is whether or not a physical keyboard is a must. Nearly every Blackberry makes use of a full qwerty keyboard and optical mouse as its input method, whereas the iPhone is simply touch-screen. For the majority of tech-savvy youngsters, the iPhone's input method is a doddle. But for those who struggle with touch-screens, or need to type a lot of emails on the move, the BlackBerry is triumphant. I do think the iPhone would benefit from the kind of haptic feedback you find on more recent Android handsets, but although adjusting to a touch-screen interface takes some getting used to, Apple has built a virtual keyboard that's big enough to type on comfortably, and clever enough to guess which letter you meant to hit with you fat fingers. So perhaps the make-or-break factor is not keyboard, but battery life? The iPhone has no removable battery and, despite firmware improvements to squeeze more life out of the battery, you still need to give the iPhone a charging boost every evening. BlackBerrys, however, especially the Bold 9700, use batteries that will continue to allow you to surf the internet, make calls and send and receive emails for several days. The removable battery also means a spare can be carried and put to use if needed. I think that what really separates the BlackBerry from the iPhone is its operating system. The BlackBerry appears extremely simple on the face of it, boasting a speedy browser and fast, reliable email program. But go into the settings of the phone and you are greeted with a wealth of confusing menus and options. This is because the majority of the capabilities of a BlackBerry are either set-up by the IT helpdesk of a company, or simply left alone. The iPhone however is the total opposite – the settings menu is clear and well-ordered, and it's very straightforward to set up your own email accounts on the device. It is this simplicity that allows the iPhone to triumph. After owning an iPhone for six months and realising that its OS is virtually unbreakable, you may begin to experiment with the App store. With a BlackBerry, however, you are restricted by what you can get out of your phone, as its operating system is designed to be maintained by IT support desks. The App store alone is enough to make the iPhone worth buying. It allows developers to do some truly stunning things with the relatively simple hardware provided. Gaming, geotagging, internet radio and video streaming are all possible, and relatively easy to figure out on the iPhone. The bottom line is, every day that the App store continues to grow, BlackBerry falls further behind. No longer is hardware the most important thing in handset design; software is what governs a phone's popularity and the iPhone outperforms the BlackBerry in this department in almost every way. With iPhone OS 3.0 Apple succeeded in making a truly adaptable smartphone software. It made the iPhone viable in a business environment, simple to use for those intimidated by technology and extremely flexible for those who aren't. Research in Motion is about to roll out OS 6.0 across its BlackBerry range, but how favourably this compares to the imminent iPhone OS 4.0 update remains to be seen. From what we have seen so far of the BlackBerry 6.0 OS, users may have to get used to very different software, with an apparent emphasis on consumers rather than the traditional business user base. The problem that Research in Motion faces is that both it and Apple now tick all the boxes businesses need to adopt them. When it comes down to a consumer phone, the iPhone is miles ahead. This means unless Research in Motion does something relatively drastic with their OS, not only could they stand to lose out in the consumer market, but the business one too.