As I said in Part One, I wound up relying on my phone to communicate way more than normal over the past two weeks. Without a doubt the BlackBerry Bold 9900 was my tool of choice for Email and messaging, with Motorla’s Android-powered XPRT running a distant second just ahead of iPhone 4. Why? The combination of Bold’s fantastic QWERTY thumbboard and BB 7 OS‘ “ugly but deadly” approach to messaging, notifications and multitasking. Doing literally anything not text-based on Bold made me frown. Hopping between multiple Email accounts, Google Talk, AIM and BBM messaging accounts, and text messaging on Bold, on the other hand, made me smile. Well, no, messaging with Sean from the film studio while our Website was under DDoS attack wasn’t exactly smile-inducing, but Bold’s ability to facilitate mission critical discussions was fantastic. I wrote at some length about this in my Bold vs iPhone 4 comparison, but suffice it to say that the BlackBerry’s combination of tactile controls and honed-over-years contextual menus and keyboard shortcuts still work like a charm when it comes to typing and sending ASCII messages.
Android 2.x runs a close second despite the fact that I basically hate the Motorola XPRT itself. The phone’s too narrow, the QWERTY buttons are too close together, and the MotoBlur widgets and apps are all but useless. And why can’t Android’s default Gmail app offer a universal inbox? The beauty of Android is that I can customize the bejeesus out of my phone via downloadable apps and widgets, and I know no two Android phones are made alike (literally), but the out-of-box Email experience on XPRT is needlessly frustrating. I mean, this is a dual core phone, people! At least give me one Inbox per core without having to load a new window!
Or, y’know, throw me an unrelated but tasty bone and ship the thing with the latest version of the OS: 2.3?
All that said, it was still easier to hop between various messaging protocols using Android’s pulldown notifications pane and app switching window than via iOS 4’s archaic stop everything badges and recent apps tray. Moving from Email to multiple IM chats to text messages still felt reasonably fluid on XPRT’s software, whereas iOS made me feel like I had to stop what I was doing here in order to resume something else there. Frankly, I’m not used to juggling so much on my phone all at once – that’s the danger of letting a tech blogger review phones – we’re usually at our desks or sequestered away in press rooms, always within arm’s reach of a laptop, so what do we know about the ways of the road warrior?
I’ve grown to love, love, love iPhone for its multimedia and Web browsing prowess. Android’s passable in those categories – more than passable if you load the right third party apps or even cook up your own ROM. BlackBerry’s browser and App World frankly led me to not use BlackBerry’s brewer and App World. But whatever, I felt like I could do my freaking’ job on the Bold, and doing the same from XPRT made me long for a better Android phone. Lack of Universal Inbox aside, I didn’t really have beef with the platform in terms of gliding from text to Email to IM to phone call.
But iOS? It’s a good thing iOS 5 is getting a revamped notifications system, is all I can really say after two weeks relying so heavily on my phone(s). I haven’t yet played with any iOS 5 beta builds. Shocking, I know, but somewhere along the line I decided just to wait for the official rollout of 5.0. So I can’t really speak to how much of an improvement iOS’ new notifications panes and other productivity-related tweaks may or may not make the next time I lean heavily on my phone for a full workday or three.
I can tell you that I remembered to turn my iPhone horizontally for typing more this past week than I have in a long time. It’s just plain easier for me to deal with prolonged writing on the thing that way. And I am excited for iOS 5. And seeing that one guy at the US Open using his HTC Arrive, with its side-sliding QWERTY board and Windows Phone 7 OS, made me wish I had one on me. But that was on my day off, so the urge to get stuff done quickly subsided, replaced instead by hoping Doglopolkov (???) could pull off the upset. (He didn’t.)
Bold needs a better OS and a real Web browser. XPRT needs … well, in my case it needs to be an entirely different piece of hardware running un-MotoBlurred Android. iPhone 4 needs better notifications and multitasking. And me, I need to get back to my normal routine. I’ve been using my phone too much the past two weeks.