BlackBerry, Android, and iPhones are the three big names in smart phones today. For the sake of comparison, let’s specifically look at Android and BlackBerry. We can compare BlackBerry to the iPhone in another article. Having heavily experience both operating systems, I have a clear understanding of the two and what they are all about. Both the Android OS and BlackBerry OS are considered smart phones but they are vastly different and they cater to different groups of people. Instea of saying which operating system is better, let’s take a look at the differences between the two and you can decide for yourself what would you prefer to use.
Android and BlackBerry are both smart phones. What exactly makes a smart phone smart? Smart phones are cell phones that can make calls, text message, email,browse the web, and offer multimedia playback in terms of music and videos. Both Android and BlackBerry can do these things although they do it differently.
Android gives it’s user the full touch screen experience. Android is constantly being updated and on top of it’s, software version, different manufacturing companies often place their own user interface on top of Android. For example, HTC has SenseUI, Motorola has MotoBlur, and Samsung has TouchWiz. Basic Android is often refered to as “vanilla”. This can all confuse the average user new to Android. Despite all the different variations, all Android devices have a few main things in common. They all seem to have great integration with Google accounts. This means all or most of Google’s services works well on these devices. Expect Gmail, Gtalk, and Google Maps to either come out of the box or be easily downloaded through the Android marketplace.
Another great thing about Android phones is the sheer amount of customization. Out of all the smart phones in the marketplace today, Android is the clear winner when it comes to customization. Android offers multiple home screen where you can quickly swipe to access and scroll through. These home screens allow you to place icons for quick access to you apps and and widgets. Widgets are essentially mini apps that run right on your home screen. They can range from a live weather widget like Weatherbug, to a simple graphic battery gauge. Widgets offer the user a fun way to customize their phones.
Because Android is centered around the touch screen experience, navigating in the phone is based around swiping, tapping, and long pressing the screen. The strange thing about Android is that while the touch screen navigation is mostly the same, the buttons are not always. Most Android phones have a dedicated button for home, back, and menu. Some have a button for search.
With BlackBerry, there is little that separates one device from another not counting the BlackBerry Storm line and the future Torch. This is because most BlackBerries do not have the touch screen experience except the Storm and Torch. Older BlackBerry phones are equipped with a trackball for navigation while newer devices have the very reliable track pad. Nearly all BlackBerry phones have a call button, a BlackBerry button, a back button, an end button, 1 or 2 convenience keys, and a physical keyboard.
The BlackBerry experience is much different than the Android experience. Android is more focused on games and cool apps while BlackBerry is more geared towards communication. BlackBerry offer excellent push services like BIS and BES. BIS is short for BlackBerry Internet Service and BES stands for BlackBerry Enterprise Service respectively. For the most part, users will take advantage of BIS while corporate employees will get BES from their companies. Basically, BIS offer excellent push email support through BlackBerry’s servers. When you set up your email accounts on your BlackBerry, you get a confirmation that allows BlackBerry to access it and they will push email directly to your phone. What does this mean exactly? Well, besides Gmail, most other emails have to be periodically fetched and received on Android phones. This method is called “pulling email”. By periodically checking the mail server for new mail, it puts a strain on the phone’s battery and it is also quite inefficient. With “push” email, when you get a new email, BIS “pushes” the email straight to your phone the instant it is received. Android offers push email for Gmail and you have to pay a premium in order to get push email from Yahoo on your Android phone.
Not only is the email support excellent on a BlackBerry but the integration is almost seamless. For example, if I am viewing a picture on my BlackBerry and I want to share it, I simply hit the BlackBerry button and scroll to share. My BlackBerry will then ask me to choose where I want to share the picture and how. The most used button on BlackBerry is the BlackBerry button. It is akin the Android’s menu button. Everything on the menu is clear and intuitive. Things ranging from sharing a picture to closing an app. Holding the BlackBerry button opens the task manager which allows you to quickly multi task and switch between different opened apps.
Customization on the BlackBerry is quite poor. Aside from changing your wallpaper, assigning apps to your left and right convenience keys, and moving icons around, there’s not much else you can do with it. You can download and install themes but there’s no way BlackBerry can win over Android in terms of customization. There are no widgets on the BlackBerry. There are only apps you can open and close.
Apps is a big selling point of modern smart phones and Google’s Android wins over BlackBerry. Android’s market is huge. They have a very large number of apps second only by iPhone’s App Store. In comparison, the BlackBerry App World is garbage. Well, maybe not complete crap but it is definitely much, much smaller than Android’s Market. One the other hand, I quickly got tired of the countless useless apps on Android’s Market. It also seemed as if many apps were borderline spam. BlackBerry, though it doesn’t have as much apps, I find myself not really needing them to enjoy my phone.
Here’s a joke for you. Your battery is so weak it has 3.5 volts and has less than 2 AH of current flow! Alright, well it may not be as funny as a “yo mama” joke, it’s a sad reality facing cell phones today. Because space is a huge issue, cell phone companies are using prismatic lithium cells in order to power these high powered devices. Prismatic cells sacrifice energy density in return for a more convenient form factor. Hence, we have slick brick shaped batteries because they fit better with our phones. What does this mean for us? We have awesome phones with bad batteries.
In terms of battery life, watt hour for watt hour, BlackBerry wins over Android in my experience. I’ve owned 2 Android phones and have friends that own Android phone. Consistantly across the board, Android sucks in terms of battery life. I consider myself a heavy user and I would be lucky to get a full day of life with my Android devices. With my BlackBerry, I don’t lose my hair if I forget to charge it when I go to bed. The main reason why most Android devices fall short to BlackBerry is their bright screens and fast processors. Having a huge touch screen is great for watching videos but the processing power it takes to run these devices requires lots of energy. It has seem to be a common trend for Android phones to have faster and faster processors but the same size, or smaller batteries. It is not reasonable to expect these devices to reliably last us 2 days. Reading forums on many different Android phones, battery life is a huge problem that won’t seem to go away. In comparison, BlackBerry users tend to complain if their devices last 1 full day while Android users wish their devices last that long.
Productivity is an area where these 2 platforms seperate. In terms of getting things done, I feel like I get so much more work done on my BlackBerry than on my Android devices. I can bang out 2-3 emails before I can write up 1 on my Android phones. It’s not just the software keyboard. I’ve had the Samsung Moment which has a very solid hardware keyboard yet it still does not compare to my BlackBerry phone. It seems to be a software issue. Android feel like a much heavier platform compared to BlackBerry OS. With Android, composing an email requires me to open Gmail for my Gmail account or K-9(a third party app) for my Yahoo account. After it loads, I have to hit compose and either type out who I want the send it to or fish it from a big list from my contacts. Different Android flavors work differently. From what I hear, Motoblur is easier to use but ignoring the exceptions, my BlackBerry is still easier to use. From the home screen, I simply type the person I want to email and as I type, my contacts will pop up. I hit the BlackBerry button and scroll to email. If I have 2 or more accounts, I can choose where to send it “from”. After I make my selection, I can immediately compose my email. It is so much faster to get work done on my BlackBerry.
This doesn’t just pertain to emailing. Making calls doesn’t require me to load a heavy app. On my Android devices, making and receiving calls always felt sluggish. Often times, I would play phone tag with my Android phones because of accidental hangups and pickups. The phone feels like it has to wait for the software to catch up.
Media is where you would expect Android to win and it does but not by much. If we are talking pure video playback, then yes, Android wins. I loved watching videos on those big Android screens and it seems they are getting bigger with each new phone. Music is a toss up in my opinion. I have a BlackBerry 8530 with dedicated music keys so I can quickly seek and play through my music play-list. Although most BlackBerry phones won’t have the dedicated music soft touch keys, the player is the same and you can still control it through the app. It’s simple and I like it. The default music player on Android was clumsy and slow when I tried it but there are some great third party music apps that make up for the default player.
The last thing I want to compare between Android and BlackBerry is reliability and compatibility. BlackBerry wins hands down. BlackBerry OS is very stable. I’ve only had to do a battery pull once. With Android, I’ve hard reset it many times. Apps that are available for my BlackBerry work while apps on the Android Market are always buggy. They constantly require updates and not a single day goes by that I did not get the dreaded “force close” pop up. There is a standard in the BlackBerry OS, there is no real standard in Android. There are so many layers and different flavors of Android that developers have to work extra hard to get things to work. I can prove this easily. Go into the Android Market and read the comments of 5 different apps. At least 2 of the 5 apps will have a comment like, “does not work for Droid X” and another comment saying, “Works great on Nexus One!” This is a big problem with compatibility. In my opinion, reliability is tied in with battery life. What good is all those bells and whistles of Android when it barely lasts me 14 hours on a full charge? If I were to go to the mall, I’d grab an Android phone but if I were going to go out for a weekend, I’d grab my BlackBerry. It’s simple. I don’t want to alway worry if my phone is going to die. I pray I don’t get lost and can’t find an outlet. I don’t want to have a beautiful, brilliant screen and turn the brightness down just so I can squeeze in a few hours. I don’t want to baby sit my phone and download a task killer just in case background apps are eating the battery. I want to use my widgets. I want to keep my live wallpapers running. BlackBerry definitely wins this round.