Mobile deathmatch: RIM BlackBerry Torch 9800 vs. Apple iPhone 4

The new BlackBerry doesn't try to be an iPhone, but does work better with touch

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Both the iPhone and BlackBerry remember the email addresses of senders you reply to, adding them to a database of contacts that it looks up automatically as you tap characters into the To and Cc fields. Both devices let you add email addresses to your contacts list simply by tapping them (you need to tap and hold on the Torch).

The iPhone 4 comes with a message threading capability, which organizes your emails based on subject; you click an icon to the left of a message header to see the related messages. That adds more clicking to go through messages, but it does remove the effort of finding the messages in the first place. (iOS 4 lets you disable threading if you don't like it.) The BlackBerry also has a similar capability of grouping messages by subject, which you can easily toggle on and off via the physical Menu button's options.

You can also set up filters on the BlackBerry, such as to autoforward messages from specified addressed; the iPhone has no such capability.

Both devices let you view attachments, and the iPhone now lets other apps open the attachments if they implement the Open With capability (the BlackBerry has had that capability for some time). The iPhone still can't open zipped files, whereas the BlackBerry has been able to do so for years.

Contacts and calendars. The iPhone 4's more elegant UI for email applies to its Contacts and Calendar apps as well. Although both the BlackBerry and iPhone offer essentially the same capabilities and views, they look better on the iPhone and are easier to navigate due to the iPhone's thorough, consistent use of gestures and the touch UI.

You can easily switch calendar views in the iPhone 4 in the main calendar screen; by contrast, doing so in the Torch requires using a contextual menu to select a view. But both can display multiple calendars simultaneously. The iPhone more elegantly displays calendars and the controls to work with them.

Accepting invitations in the BlackBerry is an awkward experience due to the use of cryptic icons; plus, you have to accept them within your email (unless you're using Exchange). On the iPhone, your invitations show up in your calendar so that you can accept them with the full context of your other appointments. The BlackBerry does let you issue invitations, whereas the iPhone does not.

If you use Gmail, note that the BlackBerry will display Gmail as a calendar but will not sync to it wirelessly; you need to download and install Google Sync to get over-the-air syncing. Any calendars handled through BES, such as Exchange, sync wirelessly. The iPhone syncs Gmail and Exchange calendars out of the box.

Both the iPhone and BlackBerry have capable Contacts apps, but the iPhone 4 makes it easier to navigate through your entries. You can jump easily to names by tapping a letter, such as T at the side of the screen to get to people whose last names begin with T, or search quickly for someone in the Search field by tapping in part of the name. The BlackBerry has similar search capabilities, but no quick-jump touch elements.

The BlackBerry lets you designate users as favorites, to put them in the Home screen. The iPhone 4 has no equivalent.

The winner: A tie. The BlackBerry Torch offers more functionality, but it's harder to use. And the iPhone 4's capabilities are more than enough for most businesses.

Deathmatch: Applications
RIM has made a lot of noise about its BlackBerry App World store, but despite the hoopla and a push to entice gaming vendors, the selection of BlackBerry apps remains limited. Plus, the apps themselves are typically pale, pathetic imitations of iPhone apps, reflecting the BlackBerry's WAP heritage (a DOS for mobile devices). With the new BlackBerry OS 6 and the Torch's larger screen, perhaps we'll finally start seeing quality BlackBerry apps this year. But for now, you won't be eagerly hunting for apps in App World as an iPhone user would be in the Apple App Store.

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