Boring, Big Brother, or Dead?
June 24, 2009 10:58 AM   Subscribe

Help me choose a new smartphone: Blackberry, Android or Palm?

The current phone, a BB Pearl, is rapidly disintegrating and I'm due for renewal anyway, so I'm looking to upgrade.

What I need: excellent mail, calendaring, and GPS with good maps. For the mapping application turn-by-turn directions would be ideal. I also want a phone that's not huge in my pocket. Finally, it should sync easily with both Gmail/Gcal and MS Exchange (email, contacts, calendar).

What I don't care about: games, movies, music on the phone.

I'm considering: Blackberry 8900 (2nd gen. Curve), HTC Magic (or Dream), and the one that's got me most interested: the new Pre. Don't bother suggesting an iPhone; it doesn't fit my uses very well.

My possible carriers ( and are approximately equally evil (very) and price doesn't matter as much to me as usability.

So what do I buy?
posted by bonehead to Technology (16 answers total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
do you need to sync with a corporate exchange server for a mecha corporate or for smallish one where you are friendly with the IT staff? i would say go with the HTC android phone. with/without keyboard is up to you (although i have a strong preference for a keyboard). your basis in google products will make you happy and if you can ensure that some of the remote stuff is turned on on the exchange server you can get push email and contacts etc right from exchange to the android phone.

posted by chasles at 11:09 AM on June 24, 2009

Up until the 3.0 update for the iphone, I wasn't at all sure it was a serious business-type of device. Not being able to send meeting invites via Exchange was a real bummer for me. They seem to have fixed that (along with the infuriating ability to cut-and-paste), so the iPhone and the BB seem a bit closer in features. Where I work, the official phone/widget is the Blackberry, so there's help if you need it. iPhone users are tolerated but otherwise on their own.

Never used the android, so I can't speak to it. While I do miss the tactile BB keyboard at times, I'm much happier with the iPhone since the update a week ago.
posted by jquinby at 11:19 AM on June 24, 2009

the G1 (Dream) sounds just about perfect for you, and Exchange syncing can be added by the Touchdown app. the Mytouch (Magic) seems to come with Exchange syncing, but if you plan on doing much typing of emails, I think you'll find the G1's keyboard is quite good.

You say you want a small phone. I came to the G1 from using a T-Mobile MDA, so the G1 seems plenty small for me, but friends who use a Razr V3 think it is huge. The G1 is slightly bigger than your Pearl, but not much, and I feel it has a better keyboard.

I haven't seen a Pre in the wild, and it seems interesting. I used to be a palm user a long time ago, but gave up on them, and I'm not ready to go jumping back.

here is a comparison chart of the three models you're interested in.
posted by jrishel at 11:20 AM on June 24, 2009

Son of a...I just noticed that the iPhone wasn't even one of your choices. Sorry about that.
posted by jquinby at 11:22 AM on June 24, 2009

Calendaring with the palm has been exceptional in the past. I've used a palm since V days. The v.6.1 sucks though. Check out the newest Palm Desktop software to see what they're using with the Pre before you buy. Other than that, I love the Palm and while I don't have the Palm Pre yet, I've used one and so far, love what I've seen.
posted by Sophie1 at 11:22 AM on June 24, 2009

Response by poster: thanks for all the answers so far.

Two factors rule out the iPhone: The lack of a physical keyboard and the fact that I can't install iTunes on the work computer to synch with the Exchange box. There are a bunch of minor annoyances too, but those are the deal killers for me.
posted by bonehead at 11:28 AM on June 24, 2009

FWIW, I don't have iTunes installed on my work laptop either. I plug it in to the laptop to charge, and windows sees it as a scanner/camera/something else. I ignore the dialog and go my merry way. When I need to sync music or do updates, I plug it into the home Mac.

The keyboard bit is a bummer, though.
posted by jquinby at 11:38 AM on June 24, 2009

I got the Pre last week. It does everything you need natively, no need for downloaded apps. The philosophy behind the WebOS is connection to the "cloud", so it's designed to easily sync with Exchange, all of the Google services, Twitter, Facebook, etc. When you first get it, all you have to do is turn it on, tell it who you are, and it will grab all your contacts from everywhere. Took me about 30 seconds to fill my contact book.

Then it took about 10 minutes to get rid of all the craigslist anonymailer addresses and people I don't speak to anymore, since it takes everything from your Google contacts. I feel like that's more of a failing on Google's part, since they don't let you delete contacts, but it was a little annoying. As far as calendering, it will sync with GCal and Exchange pretty seamlessly, and it's also become my memo pad for shopping lists, etc.

The GPS works, and the Google Maps app that comes with the phone is nice. There's also a "Sprint Navigation" app that's supposed to give you turn-by-turn, but I haven't tried it yet. If you're using it in Canada I have no idea what those service providers offer. Plenty of apps on the phone use location services (Maps, of course, plus Citysearch, Fandango, Where which includes Yelp and other stuff).

It feels a little large in my pocket, but I'm coming from a simple flip phone so I'm not surprised. It's got a good feel in the hand, too - my hands aren't huge, though, so bigger folk might have trouble handling it. Same goes for the keyboard - very easy to use for me, fatter fingers might have trouble. Much easier to type than the virtual keyboard.

If you have any other questions about it, feel free to drop me a line.
posted by backseatpilot at 11:41 AM on June 24, 2009 [1 favorite]

Two factors rule out the iPhone: The lack of a physical keyboard and the fact that I can't install iTunes on the work computer to synch with the Exchange box. There are a bunch of minor annoyances too, but those are the deal killers for me.

iTunes is not needed to sync with Exchange, it's done over the air with settings that are stored on the iPhone. I would hope that is the case with all of the phones above.

iTunes is mainly used to sync music/apps and to create backups of your phone, when it dies (it will eventually, iPhones seem made to a very low durability standard).
posted by meowzilla at 12:00 PM on June 24, 2009

Response by poster: I still have my old Palm TX on my desk. At the time, Palm really got calendaring, as Sophie1 says. this is part of the attraction of the Pre.

A couple of Pre-specific questions to those that have them:
How does the calendar compare to, say, Datebook6 or to the RIM calendar? Can it do custom views?
How deep is the contacts app? Categories, multiple numbers/email/addresses?
How is the overall device speed? Is it responsive or does it lag a bit?
What size of head-phone jack does it take? the regular 3.5 mm or the smaller 2.5?
posted by bonehead at 12:00 PM on June 24, 2009

Response by poster: iTunes is not needed to sync with Exchange, it's done over the air

I'm not allowed to do that either. The only connection to the server has to be through a connected computer (on site or VPN) at my workplace.
posted by bonehead at 12:03 PM on June 24, 2009

I see that you're gravitating toward the Pre, but since you mention it as a dealkiller: The HTC Magic does not have a physical keyboard. The HTC Dream (aka, the G1) does. Product page.
posted by gnomeloaf at 12:47 PM on June 24, 2009

Response by poster: I am tempted, I admit. My default, safe choice is the 8900 Curve, however. I'm interested in the Magic because of the possibility of good maps. Unfortunately, our rugose carriers (esp. Rogers) in Soviet Canuckistan won't allow one to try a phone before one buys it. I'd love to play with a Magic to see if that's an issue, but the squamous and benighted staff in their stores are not allowed to help customers, you see.
posted by bonehead at 1:02 PM on June 24, 2009

Best answer: FWIW, the 8900 is a great phone. It's like an awesomer version of your Pearl. I mean, way awesomer.
posted by jabberjaw at 6:03 PM on June 24, 2009

Best answer: If you're required to sync over a USB connection, the Android options won't work either. Looks like you're getting the crackberry.
posted by jrishel at 8:20 AM on June 25, 2009

Response by poster: Thanks all.

I ended up getting the crackberry 8900 because of battery life (the Pre sucks hard here) and because the keyboard can't be beat by anything else right now. Synching with Outlook by cable were a consideration too. I think Android can do it, but it doesn't look like either the iPhone or the Pre can yet. Anyway, I know the BB can. I don't use a lot of extra apps, so that wasn't really a big consideration. Pinstack etc... have lots of apps available anyway and there's a reasonable open source community for the BB, something that's not as true for the other phones (yet).

I've had it for a month or so and jabberjaw is right on the money. It's like the Pearl, but way better.

My next phone may well be an Android one though. This years' crop just isn't quite there yet.
posted by bonehead at 6:42 AM on October 16, 2009

« Older Startup my Startup   |   What should I ask him? Newer »
This thread is closed to new comments.