Tag Archives: Blackberry

You Don’t Need to Be Everything to Everyone

Lately I have been watching Chris Pirillo‘s videos on YouTube and some things he has been talking about, such as his feelings towards Apple, really struck a chord with me in regards to my feelings about “Blackberry” (formerly Research in Motion). This post started as a comment on Chris’ video, “Is Apple Doomed with Tim Cook?“.

“When you stop understanding what made someone a fan…”
– Chris Pirillo

This is the perfect description of what happened to me when Research in Motion turned into “Blackberry”. The company totally lost sight of what made me (and probably a lot of other people, especially business professionals) a fan in the first place.

Some would say that after the iPhone’s incredible success, it would have been foolish for RIM to double down on their Blackberry hardware design, rather than try to copy the Apple’s designs, but history has shown that “Blackberry” just did not have what it took to be an Apple contemporary. As such, RIM really should have soldiered on and stuck to their design philosophy that produced truly exceptional communication devices. Sure, their market share would have dropped as “normal people” replaced their phones with pocket entertainment devices, as history has proven, but at least the group of people who prioritize ergonomics and communication over entertainment would have continued to have awesome Blackberry devices.

I loved my Blackberry Bold 9900 (I used it every day for more than two years) and when BB10 OS was released, all I wanted was another 9900 chassis running the new OS. Unfortunately, “Blackberry” never made one. The closest to a 9900 that was made was the Blackberry Classic (GSM Arena comparison), which is similar in layout, hardware quality, and physical features, but by comparison it is bloody enormous and said enormity negatively impacts its ergonomics to the point where it simply can’t be used in the same manner as one would use the smaller Blackberry.

Some would argue that the Blackberry Q10 is a direct replacement for the Bold 9900, but as an owner and long time user of both devices, I can say with the utmost of confidence that such a statement is completely untrue. Both devices had a touch screen, but the 9900 also had a trackpad that allowed the user to move a mouse cursor around the screen. When editing text, be it in an email or simply in the address bar of the web browser, that trackpad was so invaluable that even today I see it as being one the most useful technical innovations in mobile computing. Using Blackberry OS 10 on the Q10 was a super fluid and fun experience, until it came to having to “click” on anything or having to edit text, which was a huge, super annoying, step backwards from the “so great that I didn’t know it was great” experience I had in Blackberry OS 6 and 7 on the Bold 9900. I’m talking about the ergonomics of 2.8″ and 3.1″ touch screens here, not some 5+” mini-tablet; The trackpad pointing device is pretty much required at those small screen sizes.

Using the Blackberry Q10 made me frustrated and angry, essentially forcing me to use two hands to do many of the same things I joyfully did on my Blackberry Bold 9900 using only my thumb – my off-hand thumb no less!

How does the new Android based Blackberry KeyOne fair? It’s suffers from the same issues as all the other new Blackberry devices:

1. It’s way too tall, causing it to be too unbalanced to be used with one hand. It also is uncomfortably long when placed in one’s pocket (the older Blackberries were the perfect size for a front pocket – you knew it was in there, but it didn’t feel strange or uncomfortable when you moved).

2. It’s too wide to allow me to hit all the keys with a single thumb.

3. It lacks the innovation of the trackpad, which is still an amazing tool for editing text and navigating websites, etc.

Given that the new devices are lacking the very aspects of what made me love using my original Curve 8520 and the Bold 9900 that replaced it, “Blackberry” seems to have simply thrown out the design philosophy that made their older phones such amazing communication devices. Sure, the new devices have the immensely useful Android app ecosystem, but so do all the other thousands of Android devices. Sure, the Priv and KeyOne have both Android and a physical keyboard, but neither of those devices deliver the exceptional communications device experience of older, smaller Blackberries.

Some would say, “who the hell would buy such a small screened smart phone with a keyboard and a trackpad these days?”, to which I would answer, “Me, in a heartbeat!”.

Yeah, I like my Samsung Galaxy S6 well enough, but I totally hate how massive it is, because it sucks for my tiny man hands. Furthermore, I don’t need or want a tablet in my pocket – I would rather use an actual tablet. I do, however, want a solid, high quality, phone, text, email, and camera device that I can use with one hand. Unfortunately it became clear to me that I was never going to get another 9900-like device, so the S6 seemed as close to a spiritual successor to the 9900, in design and quality, that was available. I love the S6 as a portable PC / toy, but I hate it as a communications device, because it’s clunky, it’s awkward, and it’s no fun at all to type/edit anything substantial upon.

I can’t help but feel that Research in Motion fell into the trap of trying to be everything to everyone, allowing their hubris to push them to “be the best”, eventually causing themselves to lose sight of who they really were and what made them special. I miss RIM and honestly, all I ever wanted from them was a better camera and a web browser that would actually display the information I was trying to look up. Everything else about my Blackberry Bold 9900 I truly adored.

The saddest part about this issue of trying to be everything to everyone is that it seems to happen to companies all the time. Rather than being true to themselves and focusing on what made them successful in the first place, they take a whole other direction that their original fans may not wish to follow. From Canonical’s Ubuntu Linux distribution to Tim Hortons donuts and coffee, so many of the things I once loved have been made into something that I no longer enjoy. And it’s not because I stuck in my ways or that I hate change, it’s because the products or services simply aren’t as useful or as enjoyable as they used to be.

Here is a fun comparison of the size of various keyboards I mentions. Desktop keyboard thrown in for good measure. 🙂

Here’s a link to size comparison on Phone Arena between the Blackberry KeyOne, Blackberry 9900, and Samsung Galaxy S6.

Blackberry OS Version Brings BB10 back to Awesome Status

As I posted a few months ago, I was not happy with the direction Blackberry was headed with their Blackberry 10 operating system as of version 10.3. Apart from the fact it was buggy as hell, a first in my personal experience with Blackberry, it also had many UI changes that made the end user experience just plain bad. I dealt with it by rolling back my Q10 to version 10.2 and simply not using my Z10, which was a shame, because the Z10 made a nice “mini-tablet”.

When my carrier finally rolled out the update near the end of July 2015, I updated my Z10 and had a first hand look at what was different. By this point I had been using an almost stock version of Android 4.4.4 exclusively for a few months.

I liked the Android 4.4.4 user experience on my inexpensive 2014 Motorola Moto-E for the most part, but I did find it to be buggy, with program crashes, freezes, typing issues, stuttering scrolling, all manner of inexplicable weirdness I never experienced on my Blackberries. BBM, Skype, and occasionally Steam were the only social apps that I used on the Moto-E and I didn’t have any other background apps running after I removed the OneDrive app, so there was always around 300-450MB of RAM available and not much going on other than Google Play updates. I know the Moto-E is a much lesser device, hardware wise, than both my Blackberry Q10 and Z10 (especially the camera… omg, the camera on the Moto-E is abysmal…), but I expected a little more smoothness and reliability from it, given how little I actually did with it (compared to folks who run loads of social apps, games, etc). I didn’t even have a game on the Moto-E at all. Combine that stuff with my distrust and dislike of Google (not that I entered any personal data into the account I made to use the Google Play Store), I had ample incentive to give my Blackberry Z10 a whirl again.

The release of Blackberry 10 OS solves every grievance I had with the OS. It also works just fine with the few Android apps that I use (Netflix, WordPress, and ES File Explorer). There are some third party Blackberry 10 apps that are very good (Reddit in Motion, Evolution Browser, Rogers My Account) and many of the default Blackberry 10 apps (BBM, Calculator, Pictures, Videos, Music, Docs to Go, File Manager, Remember, Browser Story Maker, Weather, and Password Keeper) are better than the (often ad-laden) similar apps I could find for Android. Finally, the Z10 hardware utterly trounces the 2014 Moto-E in every respect, apart from battery life.

Here is “Where it Wins” for the Blackberry Z10 and the Motorola Moto E (2014).

Blackberry Z10

  • UI navigation and workflow on BB10 is FUCKING AMAZING! Once you learn how it works, you’ll cry when trying to use the cumbersome and disjointed mashup that is Android 4.4.4, because it’s so much easier and smoother and faster to use Blackberry 10. BB10 OS is so great it’s worth swearing about, yet so many people aren’t even willing to try it…
  • The screen quality is much better. Higher resolution and unlike the econo-model Moto-E, one can’t see the digitizer on the Z10 even in full sun.
  • The Z10 is a fast device with strong computing performance in day to day use. Android apps are slower than native Blackberry 10 apps, which makes it so sad that Android is more popular. Performance wise, the QNX and C++ roots of Blackberry 10 really shine given what they can do on older hardware. Granted, all but one BB10 device has 2GB of RAM and all have a dual or quad core processor with acceptable video chipsets.
  • Amazingly, Blackberry finally invested in really good camera software! The lens and sensor were always decent, but the software sucked, hard. Now the software is just as good as what is on my wife’s HTC One Mini.
  • Camera has a flash. And the built in flashlight app, which is a quick swipe down from the top of any screen, can use it!
  • Every app that I personally use, be they Blackberry or Android, work great.
  • Calculator is fantastic, with unit conversion, scientific functions, and tip calculation built into a UI that is simple and uncluttered. The old version was the same, except the buttons were 3D (which looked way nicer if ya ask me!).
  • Settings and quick settings are laid out and function in an intuitive manner. For instance, unlike in the Android 4.4.4 quick settings menu, to toggle a connection such as wifi on BB 10, one need only tap the icon to the left of the word “Wi-Fi”. On Android one must press and hold, which I found would often times result in opening the whole wifi settings menu. Minor thing to be sure, but it’s really the sum of all these better “little things” that makes BB10 OS so amazing to use.
  • Some nice ad-free apps we were given by Blackberry for Christmas over the years (Star Tracker, Need for Speed Undercover, Tetris, Angry Birds Space, Bejeweled 2, Doodle Jump, and Scan to Text Pro, are the ones I use, but they gave away a load of others as well).
  • No Google! (I used 1 Mobile Market to download the Netflix, ES File Explorer, and WordPress apps.)
  • Sharing on device media, be it from the web, camera, or file manager is done through a coherent, fluid, and identical UI. I can’t stress enough how great the workflow is on Blackberry 10.

Motorola Moto E (2014)

  • Battery life is considerably better, without having to do anything special.
  • Rounded back and sides and smaller size makes it feel great in the hand and not so bad in the pocket.
  • Call blocking actually functions.
  • Icons can be customized.

Well, that’s it for my rambling post about Blackberry 10 that I highly doubt anyone will ever read and that even fewer people will care about. 😉 It’s such a shame that people aren’t willing to give Blackberry 10 devices an honest try, because it is far and away a superior mobile operating system than Android. However, it is also extremely disappointing that “Blackberry” basically threw their native app developers under the bus in favor of using Android apps in the Android runtime, because Cascades based Blackberry apps have a coherent, fast/smooth, yet very flexible user experience – more so than what one finds in Android. From what I have read, WebOS and iOS also offered/offer such an integrated, coherent experience, which to me seems like a major selling point, but with all the folks out there choosing Android, I guess it’s not. “Live a mess, life a mess”, I always say!

PS. If you feel that I missed a lot of “Wins” for Android and that I am therefore being disingenuous, keep in mind that I really don’t partake in the vast majority of the stuff that other people tend to do with their smartphones. So, if I didn’t write about it, it’s because I don’t use it and thus, I don’t care about it. The entire range of Google anything would be a good example – do not want, do not care.

Bye Bye Blackberry, Hello Android, I Think I’m Gonna Cry…

It’s been about a month now since I put down my Blackberry Q10 and started using a Motorola Moto E. This was a difficult change for me to make, so let me explain a little about why I chose Blackberry and what made me eventually leave it.

Somewhere around five or six years ago I was rocking a Motorola KRZR flip phone, which I quite adored for its form and feel, but wow was T9 texting really not my cup of tea! I started looking around at what else was available. I considered a feature phone, but they all seemed kind of half assed… And then a coworker showed me how he could watch hockey on his Blackberry, along with whole whack of other things it could do and I was sold on the “computer in my pocket” aspect of it. I had always wanted a Pocket PC!

Initially I wasn’t really concerned about privacy, security, ecosystem, apps and all those other buzz words we’re so familiar with these days. I just wanted something that was easy to text on and that I could write some stuff with, etc. At the time, I considered Android as well, but I said to myself, “meh… this Android thing isn’t going to go anywhere…” writing it off as yet another Linux based project that was destined to only appeal to we few Linux users. Boy was I wrong! lol… Anyhow, it wasn’t until Blackberry released their BB10 OS, based on the QNX Unix-like kernel, that started to think of these thing. By that point my wife had set down her Blackberry and gone Android and Android was wildly popular.

I truly do not subscribe to the surveillance culture, nor do I subscribe to the “ads everywhere” culture and I saw Android as being the ultimate enabler of both. I didn’t realize that one could de-Google their Android device and otherwise unsubscribe from the privacy invading features of Android. So rather than getting an Android myself, I went and got an all touch Blackberry Z10. It was modern and had a really nice end user experience, while also respecting my privacy. I stuck by that notion 9 months later when I went and got a Blackberry Q10, because typing on that infernal damned virtual keyboard was driving me insane!

And then… and then I decided to read a bit more about Android.

Blackberry released an OS update, 10.3, that utterly gutted the UI experience that caused me to like BB10 in the first place. Bugs, slowness, and a call to replace BB10 native apps with Android apps (which run in a runtime environment that makes them slower and more flaky than just running them on an actual Android device), made me feel as though Blackberry was going in a direction I did not wish to follow. I hated the new UI and on BB10 the end user can’t do a damned thing to change it, not even changing the icons, for instance. After reading some good posts on Crackberry.com about the realities of Android and its privacy options, I decided to research it in more detail. I spent a lot of time considering Windows 8.1 and Android and I found that I did like where Microsoft was heading with Windows 10 and I was pleased with what Android offered in 4.4 and 5.0. It was a tough choice between the two, but I ultimately went with Android for the ability to root the device and install a custom ROM, such as CyanogenMod, if I wanted.

So after a month of using this lowly little 2014 Moto E, here is what I have to say about the pros and cons of Blackberry 10.2.1 (the last version of BB10 I actually liked using) and Android 4.4.4.

Blackberry Q10
Where it Wins:

  • Size and shape feels the best in the pocket. I like smaller devices!
  • Coherent UI and gesture navigation.
  • Solid typing experience on the physical keyboard
  • HDMI out, for hook up to the TV.
  • Camera with flash. Though not great, it is better than the Moto E’s!

Where it Loses:

  • Double typing issue with the keyboard, pretty much out of the box. Not all the time, but often enough to be disappointing. My Bold 9900 never had this issue, even after two years of daily use.
  • Blackberry 10.3 update turned it into a device I no longer wanted to use. I flashed backed to 10.2, but the writing was on the wall that Blackberry was going where I did not want to follow.
  • I was feeling fatigued when typing on this keyboard, which I don’t feel when typing on the Bold 9900 (I did a test to compare).

Blackberry Z10
Where it Wins:

  • Screen is sharp and a good size for media.
  • HDMI out, for hook up to the TV.
  • Camera with flash. Though not great, it is better than the Moto E’s!
  • Build in flashlight is easy to access
  • BB10 settings menu is the best in the industry – cohesive and sensible!
  • Calculator program, with unit conversion, has an excellent UI.

Where it Loses:

  • Massive waste of bezel on the top and bottom making it needless long and uncomfortable in the pocket.
  • Super annoying auto correction that is… just bad and wrong far too often. Turning it off makes typing on a virtual keyboard slow and annoying.
  • Speaker is not loud and clear and the speakerphone mic was not very good (said my wife many times on the other end)

Motorola Moto E (2014 Model)
Where it Wins:

  • Physical size and rounded, comfortable feel on an all touch device.
  • Runs MANY excellent programs without any lag or crashes, particularly the Microsoft suite of tools. Even though this deivce has half the ram and 1/4 the storage space, I can do more with it than I could with either the Z10 or Q10. No fuss, no muss… it JUST WORKS!
  • Easily customizable, both visually and functionally.
  • Call blocking, Windows shares, and OneDrive work properly.
  • Google virtual keyboard is surprisingly not annoying as hell. I was a QWERTY4Life kind of guy, glued to his physical keyboard, so it’s a big deal for me to not mind using a virtual keyboard. This one, on the whole, feels pretty much the same as typing on the Q10 as far as efficiency goes.
  • Speaker is loud and clear! The speaker phone is also great.

Where it Loses:

  • Camera does not have a flash and is step down from the Q10 / Z10.
  • No HDMI out.
  • No flash, so the flashlight is the LCD screen. It’s still a heck of a lot better than fumbling in the dark though.

All in all, I am really pleased with the Android experience on my low-end Motorola Moto E. We only paid $149 for this carrier unlocked, 2014 model Moto E (at a local retailer, so no shipping charges) and it’s hard to believe that the end user experience is still so much of an upgrade over what I had with the Blackberry Z10. All of the faults with Android could be solved by simply upgrading to a more feature rich piece of hardware, but realistically I don’t need to do so.

I’d like to make it clear that Blackberry 10 is a fine operating system, even the 10.3 version that I personally do not like. It can run many Android apps right from the built in Amazon App Store and there are still quite a few good apps available in the Blackberry World app store. However, there are some hoops to jump through to get some apps to work and even then, some just don’t work properly or at all. So it all depends on what you want from your smartphone experience. I’m not a real big app user, in fact I will list the ones I do use below, but at the end of the day Android, in my experience, delivers a more enjoyable end user experience than what I experienced with my Blackberry Z10 and Blackberry Q10.

Apps I use that didn’t come with my Moto E: BBM, CCleaner, ES File Explorer, Facebook, Ghostery Browser, Icon Changer Free, My Rogers, Netflix, Office Mobile, OneDrive, OneNote, Open Camera, Outlook, RealCalc, ScreenLight, Skype, Steam, VLC, Wikipedia, WordPress, Yaaic.