Ultimate mobile deathmatch: iPhone vs. BlackBerry vs. Droid vs. Pre

Despite the Droid, the iPhone and BlackBerry remain on top; use our ratings calculator to determine the best smartphone for you

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Apps for the Pre have largely stalled, though the early ones showed promise. The BlackBerry has the weakest selection of apps, many of which are ungainly and hard to use, reflecting the platform's lack of respect for usability.

The BlackBerry does support unzipping of zipped file attachments in e-mail, unlike the other devices. The iPhone supports viewing of more document types than any of the devices, by dint of supporting its iWork productivity apps in addition to Microsoft Office and PDF documents. The two Droids and the BlackBerrys require that you use a third-party app to view such documents, but they come with this software pre-installed (Quickoffice for Android and Documents to Go for BlackBerry, respectively). The Pre, like the iPhone, comes with its own app for file viewing.

[ When you're on the go, read InfoWorld at our beta mobile site: iphone.infoworld.com. It's compatible with the iPhone, Palm Pre (WebOS), Android-based smartphones such as the Droid and Droid Eris, and other WebKit-based devices. ]

In some -- but not all -- cases, these viewers can also edit documents. Further, editing capabilities can be quite limited. For editing documents, DataViz Documents to Go for BlackBerry is the easiest to use, as it works with e-mail attachments and zip files. The Quickoffice app for the iPhone is a better editor, but it work only with files stored on the iPhone, not directly with e-mail attachments, due to an Apple-imposed limitation. However, Quickoffice for Android is more limited still -- it only supports document viewing. The sole editing app for the Android platform, Documents to Go, can merely edit e-mail attachments in Gmail messages.

The iPhone's copy and paste is the best of the bunch; it's intuitive and works on all sorts of content in almost every app. The BlackBerry's copy-and-paste capabilities are comparable to the iPhone's, but the menu-based interface is harder to use. The Palm Pre and the two Droids have limited copy-and-paste capabilities.

The Motorola Droid boasts an included turn-by-turn navigation app that doesn't require a monthly subscription, unlike the other devices. You can buy such apps for the iPhone and BlackBerry, for between $80 and $130.

All six devices offer the basics when it comes to apps: e-mail, calendar, address book, social networking, test messaging, maps, media player, and photo gallery.

The Palm Pre and HTC Droid Eris go a bit further than the others in their communications-oriented apps in letting you easily manage your contacts across communciations channels. You can even have a conversation that moves from one channel to another with the Pre. Only the Pre makes it easy to move among apps when you have several running, thanks to its "cards" interface.

Security and management
Although security and management concerns can be used as an excuse not to deal with something new, the truth is that companies subject to regulatory requirements -- such as hospitals, defense contractors, and financial officers -- have to follow those requirements. If those needs apply to you, no other device capabilities can trump security, and that means you're all but certain to choose a BlackBerry. The BlackBerry Enterprise Server (BES) can track and enforce security policies, such as requiring that data stored on the device be encrypted, and it can initiate a remote wipe of a device after a specified number of failed password attempts, for example. Plus, BES can push security, policy, and app updates, as well as monitor device usage.

The iPhone comes in second place for security and manageability, despite its poor reputation. It supports Exchange ActiveSync policies, such as requiring a complex password or on-device encryption. The iPhone 3G S and the late-2009 iPod Touch support on-device encryption, a common security requirement. The iPhone offers more security capabilities than are initially apparent, because many policies can only be set through Apple's iPhone Configuration Utility, a free download. The utility creates policies that iPhone users can install via e-mail, URLs, and USB syncing -- but there's no way to force, confirm, or track installation, so many enterprises can't prove security compliance without physically checking each device.

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