iPhone – the new BlackBerry?

by on 11/04/2010

This article compares the current and imminent versions of the iPhone and BlackBerry and discusses which the appropriate choice is for companies.

FITM is experienced in the provision of smartphones in the corporate environment. Please contact FITM for further information.

Introduction

The iPhone started life as a consumer product with phenomenal success largely based on its sexy design and intuitive interface. Apple has gradually added business functions including centralised control, security features and access to corporate email. Is the iPhone now poised to take over from the BlackBerry as the businessman’s smartphone of choice?

Let Battle Commence

Other smartphones do exist, but the iPhone and BlackBerry are the two main contenders. Google Android based phones are coming up fast and Nokia still holds a large share of the market, but the BlackBerry in the business market and the iPhone in the consumer market are the ones to watch.

In the left corner is the BlackBerry. Since the launch of the smartphone version of the BlackBerry in 2002, Canadian developers Research in Motion (RIM) have held the dominant position in the business market, mainly due to the BlackBerry’s ability to provide instant and secure email on the move.

In the right corner is the young contender, the iPhone. Launched as recently as 2008, Apple deliberately positioned the iPhone as a consumer device, promising “three devices in one: a revolutionary mobile phone, a widescreen iPod, and a breakthrough Internet device”. Very different from BlackBerry’s marketing, and not a mention of email. However, with each successive release Apple has improved the iPhone’s business credentials and now confidently boasts that the iPhone “is ready to go to work”.

So has the newcomer caught up or overtaken the champion? This article looks at the trends in the smartphone marketplace and also compares the business features of each device.

Trends

Users of the BlackBerry used to be fiercely loyal, enduring endless jokes and references to their CrackBerry (Webster’s New World College Dictionary’s word of the year in 2006). This is no longer the case. According to market research company Crowd Science, two in five BlackBerry owners plan to swap their current device for an iPhone when it’s time to upgrade.

Perhaps the trend can be explained by Crowd Science’s findings that many people are now using their smartphones for both personal and business use. The findings show that the BlackBerry is viewed more as a business only device whereas the iPhone is seen as a device for use both in and out of work.

While it may be argued that the BlackBerry is a better business device, and I’ll show that this is no longer as clear cut as it used to be, most would agree that the iPhone, with its intuitive interface and ability to do non business tasks such as play music, video and games is the better personal device.

Sales of the iPhone have increased at a faster rate to those of BlackBerry over the last year according to Gartner. The most recent figures are from Q3 2009 and show that BlackBerry has 20% of the market and iPhone 14%. However, the iPhone share increased 76% from 2008, while the BlackBerry share increased just 20%. If these trends continue through 2010 then the two companies will be within 2% of each other’s market share, with BlackBerry still just in the lead.

Functions

One of the key differences between the two devices is in the applications they offer. The BlackBerry offers a meagre selection of free and paid for applications which are second rate at best. On the other hand, the iPhone has the App Store with a staggering array of over 200,000 apps. These vary from the free and truly terrible through to the expensive and wildly wonderful. For example, you can pay £55 for the Tom Tom app, allowing you to use your iPhone and throw away your sat nav.

The BlackBerry has made its name by providing email and arguably still does that better than the iPhone. Certainly if you are a corporate user of one of the more obscure email systems, such as Lotus Notes, then the BlackBerry is for you.

But, the iPhone has better music and video facilities. It has better Internet browsing. And of course, it has games.

IT Managers

IT Managers are cautious about new technology and particularly about the first releases of software. The iPhone is continually evolving. It is now on the third generation of hardware and version 3 of software, with both the fourth generation hardware and version 4 software due out later in the year. IT Managers need worry no more – the operating system is as stable and secure as they could hope for. Policies can be set to, for example, lock the handset after a minute of inactivity, set pin number strength rules or wipe the device if the pin number is entered incorrectly too many times.

Version 4 of the iPhone operating system is particularly important. It will let companies host, distribute and manage in-house applications, bypassing Apple’s App Store altogether. The release also introduces a new Mobile Device Management service which IT departments can use to remotely configure, query and even wipe or lock iPhones.

Other features include new Data Protection security enhancements to encrypt mail messages and attachments. Longer and more complex passcodes can be used, making the device even more secure and the iPhone will feature improved mail, allowing users to set up multiple Exchange accounts into a unified inbox.

Even if you didn’t understand all the features, fear not. Apple has now answered all challenges, ticking all the boxes for functionality required by the most stringent of business users.

Conclusion

While the BlackBerry is much loved in business circles for its safety and security features, the iPhone is loved for its design credentials and intuitive user interface. It’s the Mac versus PC argument all over again. The BlackBerry is great at what it was designed to do, email. And bad at everything the iPhone is great at: being a phone, an Internet browser, a media player and an applications platform.

Inertia is a big factor here. Business people know how to use their BlackBerries and their IT departments know how to configure and manage them. Even with compelling arguments for change it will take time for the transition to take place.

So why is the iPhone the right smartphone for SMEs?

Quite simply, it enables people to do what they want to do wherever they are. If there isn’t an app to do it today, there will be tomorrow. For example, my CRM system (the superb Highrise) didn’t have an iPhone app, but released one, for free, earlier this month.

One factor I haven’t mentioned so far is the keyboard. If you intend to type pages of notes or long emails, then the BlackBerry with its physical keyboard may appeal to you. For anyone else, the iPhone is the way to go, and don’t let anyone tell you otherwise.

How Can FITM Help?

FITM provides consultancy to help you chose the right IT equipment for your business, including smartphones. Contact FITM for further details.

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