Should I trade my work BlackBerry in for an iPhone 6?
September 21, 2016 11:50 AM   Subscribe

I work for the government and have a BlackBerry for work. I'm eligible for an upgrade and can choose between the BlackBerry Classic and the iPhone 6. My personal phone is an iPhone and I prefer them... but will I be shooting myself in the foot?

Currently I use the Blackberry Z10 (released in 2013.) It's okay, but showing its age. I need my work mobile phone to sync seamlessly with my Outlook so that I can send and receive email as well as check my calendar and tasks, download attachments (MS office documents and PDFs, mostly) for reference, etc. My various BlackBerries (I've had three over the years) have always worked just fine for this, though the attachment viewing, etc., are pretty clunky.

The main reasons that incline me toward the iPhone are the fingerprint sensor (unlocking my BB with a password multiple times a day is a pain) and the ability to charge it using the same Lightning cables that I have all over my house, office, and car. Also, it would be nice not to need to remember two different sets of shortcuts and gestures. I carry two phones, personal and work, so the app store, music, camera, and other features that the iPhone offers aren't really a selling point.

My worry is that email or calendar might not work as well on the iPhone. (Apparently we use software called Citrix XenMobile for work email/calendar integration on iOS devices at our agency, as opposed to BB where it seems to just live on the device.)

Does anyone have recent experience using an iPhone for work email, especially in the government and/or using XenMobile? How was it? Can I finally slip the surly bonds of BlackBerry, or would I be better off sticking with the physical keyboard and native email support?
posted by oblique red to Technology (14 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
Since you already have an iPhone, can you temporarily add your work email just to see if you like it, or are you not allowed to have your work email account on your personal phone?
posted by Kriesa at 11:53 AM on September 21, 2016

Like you, I carry two phones. And, up until a couple weeks ago, my work phone was a Blackberry. Three things I loved about it that I couldn't get from an iPhone: External message indicator (red blinking light), external keyboard, and substantial battery life.

Think about what matters most to you in your device usage. Is it just ease of getting through security? Then yes, something with a fingerprint scanner would be best. But if you have other "must haves" you might want to do a comparison list to see what device offers what options.
posted by NotMyselfRightNow at 11:57 AM on September 21, 2016 [3 favorites]

xenmobile is designed to securely manage company data on mobile devices (i just sat through a citrix lunch yesterday in which they discussed it briefly) specifically to allow BYOD. this potentially allows for just carrying one phone instead of two.

now i don't know what the regulations for you are- you may be allowed to BYOD and get a monthly stipend from the gov't for the use of your personal phone. that's very much the policy that was being pushed when i worked for the state of NC five years ago. in which case, one phone!

otherwise, if you're allowed to use your work phone for personal use, you could also consolidate to that.
posted by noloveforned at 11:58 AM on September 21, 2016

Not to thread-sit, but since two people have brought it up already: we do have BYOD but I do NOT wish to participate. I want to keep my personal stuff and my work stuff completely quarantined from one another. I don't mind carrying two phones; the question is if I need two KINDS of phone or if I can simplify by having two of the kind I like better. I have used both Blackberry and iPhone for more than five years (one for personal, and one for work), so I am confident that I prefer the feature set of the iPhone; I just want to make sure that it won't be some kind of hideous nightmare to use it for my work stuff (like, say, not updating when a meeting gets moved.)
posted by oblique red at 12:07 PM on September 21, 2016 [1 favorite]

I made this switch (from BB to iPhone - also as a gov't employee using Outlook) and had a couple of issues around calendars. Forwarding invites was almost impossible, creating new events was fairly fraught, and I really really disliked the way that it displayed events.

I will say that the Outlook app for iPhone is really pretty good and I much preferred doing my emailing and calendaring through the app once I made the switch.
posted by Exceptional_Hubris at 12:17 PM on September 21, 2016

I just want to make sure that it won't be some kind of hideous nightmare to use it for my work stuff (like, say, not updating when a meeting gets moved.)

This depends on the system that your office as adopted. I'd recommend you try and play with a coworker's phone. As a former blackberry user that got forced into a iPhone, I regularly wish I still had my blackberry because the e-mail/calendar software they've adopted, "AirWatch" on the iPhone is pretty terrible and has poor integration (about a 5 minute delay between when messages arrive on my outlook and my phone, notifications that don't work well, clunky calendar interface, inexplicable calendars that don't seem to update, poor ability to copy and paste, inability to edit out-of-office replies, etc.)

I can't speak to how XenMobile compares on this front, but it's worth thinking about.
posted by Karaage at 12:34 PM on September 21, 2016

I too work for the government and have had both a BlackBerry and iPhone for different jobs. I really liked the BB (the physical keyboard, the long battery life, the general ease of use) and I kind of miss it. For my current job, I have an iPhone and... I barely use it. (My personal phone is an Android-type with more or less similar functionality to the iPhone.)

And yes, even if you use Outlook in day-to-day life, your office might require that you use a different system on the iPhone: mine routes email/calendar functions through a secure app called Good (note that one-star review average!) which requires I log in with a password every time I open it (as in, a second password beyond the passcode to unlock the phone), plus it tends to be slow to update.

I think viewing attachments is going to be suboptimal with either one, so that's probably not going to be useful for a decision point.
posted by psoas at 12:34 PM on September 21, 2016

Do you have any coworkers who use a work iPhone? Can you ask them how specific features work?
posted by pseudostrabismus at 12:41 PM on September 21, 2016 [3 favorites]

My Exchange account syncs perfectly with my phone, but like others I find it vexing to create/manage existing events on the phone using Apple-native tools. I haven't tried with the iOS Outlook app, but my understanding is that it's very good.

Attachments work fine.
posted by uberchet at 1:53 PM on September 21, 2016 [1 favorite]

My boss has a govt issued iPhone 6. It has a battery pack CAC card reader combo. I don't think she unlocks it with a fingerprint, it's CAC + PIN. Check it out if that's a concern.
posted by fixedgear at 2:40 PM on September 21, 2016

I had to switch from BB to iPhone and am required to use GOOD. GOOD is very, very bad. I love my persona iPhone but I definitely miss my work bb.
posted by n'muakolo at 3:14 PM on September 21, 2016

There are several popular solutions to sync an iphone with a corporate email system, whether its core is exchange, exchange synced to BES, etc. GOOD is one of them, airwatch is another.

For what it's worth, i think you really have the right idea to not use your personal phone. Some of these systems installs onerous profiles that give them ridiculous amounts of control, including the ability to wipe your phone if they feel like it(or when you remove the email account) while also blocking backups.

I would check out a coworkers device first and see what system they're using, and what comments they have on it. I opted out of using my personal device at my work(which has onerous security requirements) because i was lukewarm on GOOD, but they were only offering airwatch for new users which has the aforementioned drawbacks.

Sometimes the option is blackberry, or iphone with way more ridiculous requirements.

I'm a mid level IT guy at a place that does this, and i could talk shit on most of the solutions out there. If they offered me a blackberry or using my own phone, i'd take the blackberry every time. If they offered me the choice between an iphone or blackberry, i'd really wanna see how the iphone was set up first.
posted by emptythought at 9:22 PM on September 21, 2016

If your IT support is friendly (rather if you are friendly with them) see if they have an opinion based on supporting the two devices. Usually our in office tech support person would be willing to offer up this type of opinion,especially as they'd have to troubleshoot any issues you have.
posted by toomanycurls at 11:37 PM on September 21, 2016

I'd advice you switch to iPhone 6 or 7 rather than staying with Blackberry taking into account that you're already have another iOS device.
Regarding syncing with Outlook, I don't think there would be any problems. You can sync emails and calendar data using iCloud or any other cloud.
I had no experience with Citrix XenMobile before, but I'm using software called AkrutoSync for syncing Outlook calendar and contacts with my iPhone. It has a bit outdated UI, but works like a charm with syncing iOS with Outlook data without the cloud. Here's a link to the official website:
Another opportunity for you is switching to BBerry PRIV if you would decide to stay with Blackberry. It's running on Android, so I think there would be no problems with syncing Outlook calendar and emails.
posted by Martin_H at 4:28 AM on September 22, 2016

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