Editor's note: With the iPhone OS 3.0 released on June 11, we have revised this review to include the iPhone's new capabilities. Read our updated comparison "Deathmatch rematch: BlackBerry versus iPhone 3.0" for the current comparison. Continue reading the story below for the comparison based on the iPhone 2.x OS.
Look at any major analyst firm report since the Apple iPhone was released, and you'll see the earnest intoning to stick with the buttoned-down and pinstriped BlackBerry -- widely admired in executive corridors for its safety and security -- and beware that odd, colorful, possibly dangerous Apple device that consumers may love but professionals should avoid. If the iPhone were meant for work, it wouldn't be so much fun to use, would it?
Yes, it was Mac versus PC all over again: The iPhone was quickly pigeonholed as a fun, polished device for the cool kids to play with versus the RIM BlackBerry's rep as a corporate standard designed to get work done. As with the Mac-versus-PC dichotomy, Apple's focus on visual interface, exotic technologies like touch, and fun stuff (music, video, and games), coupled with its lack of "serious" capabilities such as encryption, let that perception take root as the conventional wisdom.
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I didn't grow up in my corporate life with either an iPhone or a BlackBerry. For me, a phone is something to make calls with, and a PDA handles my contacts and calendar. But a year ago, I replaced my nearly dead Handspring Palm-based PDA with an iPod Touch and quickly grasped the significance of the "modern" PDA -- the importance, from both a personal and a professional point of view, of having the Web, e-mail, and more at my fingertips. To me the iPod Touch, and by extension the iPhone, was about as productive as a PDA could be, yet I saw BlackBerrys everywhere in conferences and business meetings.
What was it about the BlackBerry that I was missing? Would the iPhone really fall short in a business setting?
To find out, I spent a month with an iPhone 3G and a BlackBerry 9000 Bold (the professional model that RIM recommended as the best to compare to an iPhone) to see how well each would fare in my daily grind. (For the answers to that, see my upcoming stories later this week on using the BlackBerry Bold and on using the iPhone 3G as laptop replacements at InfoWorld.com.) In doing so, I also had the chance to compare the two devices in depth: mail to mail, phone to phone, browser to browser, and thumb stroke to touch-tap. In short, I evaluated them based on everything from classic PDA functionality and usability to location-based services and availability of third-party apps.
And how do they stack up? Frankly, I've concluded it's time to bury the BlackBerry. A revolution in its time, thanks to its ability to provide instant, secure e-mail anywhere, the BlackBerry has become the Lotus Notes of the mobile world: It's way past its prime.