Opinion: Android Devices With Good Phyiscal Keyboards Pose A Bigger Threat To The BlackBerry Than The iPhone Ever Has

I was having a conversation with a few friends recently all of whom know that I am really into smartphones, the BlackBerry in particular.  One of them had just gotten a new iPhone 4 and was trying to convince the rest of us, all BlackBerry users, that the iPhone 4 was going to crush the BlackBerry and put RIM out of business.  Being the smart Alec that I am I asked if he was using the term “crushed” loosely like when he said the iPhone would crush the BlackBerry, the iPhone 3G would crush the BlackBerry, and the iPhone 3Gs would crush the BlackBerry.

After my BlackBerry using friends and I stopped giving it to my iPhone buddy for being oblivious to reality when it comes to his iPhone fanboyism, one of them said that an Android device with a good keyboard would make them move off the BlackBerry a lot quicker than an iPhone ever would.  Everyone, myself included, agreed…

This post is not really meant to bash the iPhone 4.  The 4 is an incredibly cool iPod that you can often make phone calls from.  Android devices, however, are pretty darn cool themselves and the ones with “good” keyboards are of particular interest to BlackBerry users that simply won’t go to a device with a touch screen only, but, might be looking to make a move to another platform.

I know that the keyboard on the Motorola Droid kind of sucks, however, rumor has it that the keyboard on the Droid 2 is vastly improved.  HTC is starting to pump out Android devices with keyboards as well and we know from their work on some of their Windows mobile devices that they know how build slide-out as well as good QWERTY keyboards.

A June Nielsen survey of smartphone users showed that less than half of BlackBerry users, 47%, want their next phone to be a BlackBerry.  Although I doubt seriously that more than 1 out of 2 BlackBerry users will leave the platform when the time comes, many BlackBerry users have bought their last BlackBerry and I am willing to bet that the lions share of those that do switch will find Android devices with good keyboards more appealing than the iPhone.

That’s my opinion…  I’d love to hear yours.

  • Jim Riz

    I would seriously consider an android device if it had a good physical keyboard. As a matter of fact, I would have left BB already if one were out right now. I mean come on, the things that made a bb stand above the rest (i.e. email and messaging) can be done just as good on other platforms nowadays. They have caught up to them, and the fact the people cling on the fact about email or instant messaging is better on a BB just show how clueless they are to what is really out there. I see the keyboard the ONLY MARGINAL advantage BB has over Android, nothing else. The moment an android device gets that, it will be so long bb unless they show something cool with the new up coming BB 6. But I hardly believe that will happen.

  • GC

    Two things keeping me from Android are; a good (BB9000) keyboard and battery life. Android manufacturers fix these items and I’m gone. The Droid X may be my next phone if its as good as previews would have you believe.

  • http://twitter.com/njvinnie Vinnie

    Robb,

    I’ve been saying for awhile now that RIM needs to INNOVATE again. The last major innovation from them was the touch screen Storm. While I’n not a touch screen fan when it comes to my cell phone, I’ve played around with co-workers’ Storm and Storm 2s and found the actual “click” feedback to make typing on them a lot easier. Not enough that I want to run out and buy one, but it still beats the iPhone or the touch screen Android phones IMO.

    That being said, touch screen cell phones aren’t for everyone, and most BlackBerry users (like myself) prefer a physical keyboard. I’ve been keeping a close eye on the HTC Android phones – if they ever put one out with a sliding QWERTY keyboard and the features of the Incredible I’d be shedding my BlackBerry faster than you can say “RIM who?”

    We have to face facts: RIM has been re-packaging the same basic phone (the Curve) with different names and minor changes to cameras/operating systems/trackballs/etc for YEARS now! I don’t care if you call it a Bold, a Tour, or a Curve…it’s the same damn phone!

    Then you’ve got the Pearl (another awesome innovation in smart phones at the time), which despite the recent facelift is still basically the same device…and still not available on any American carrier! SureType is my favorite thing ever when texting or sending an email from a mobile device, and I’ve been stuck with a Bold 9700 I didn’t really want since January because RIM has been dragging feet on releasing the new Pearl in the US and my old 8110 just couldn’t handle everything I wanted to do from it anymore. As much as I miss my SureType, I would drop even the new Pearl in a second when they finally put out an Android slider with a quality QWERTY.

    I believe if RIM doesn’t pick up the pace and move the BlackBerry platform to the next level with something new and “BOLD” (pun intended), they are going to lose all the non-business market share they picked up over the last several years with the Pearl/Curve/Storm crowd because they are being beaten across the board by the new Android devices coming out. Then they will lose business share as well, as many companies will find they need to give employees better devices to do things OTHER than e-mail on while on the go…

    –Vinnie

  • Susan

    I actually did switch from Android to Blackberry late last year, though I did eventually switch back to Blackberry.

    I bought the Motorola Cliq when it came out and while not a super-popular phone, it certainly had a lot going for it in the Android platform. It’s a pretty seamless integration with Google, which I use extensively; there are thousands of apps, most of them free; and if there’s an iphone app for something, there’s probably also an Android app — though not necessarily a Blackberry app.

    Ultimately, I switched back to Blackberry because I didn’t find the Cliq particularly suited to business use (and, to be fair, it wasn’t really designed for that). But the continual (and faster) updates to Android and the huge array of available apps may induce me to try Android again.

  • Jeff Sanderson

    Dude… That line about the iPhone 4 being a really cool iPod that you can often make phone calls from made me laugh outloud…

    I’ve been a die hard Blackberry user ever since I got my first one back when the 7130e came out. I tried the iPhone 3G a couple of years ago, but, immediately took it back and got a Tour because I really like physical keyboards. My Tour is still working ok for me, but, I haven’t upgraded to the 9650 because I am really waiting to see if RIM brings the wood with OS 6 and I want to see if the keyboard on the Droid 2 is as good as they say it will be. My plan is to test out the Droid 2 for 30 days then try the 9650 running OS 6.

    I’ll let you know what happens…

  • ja2bk

    Tried Android and came back home to the berry. There is a lot more than just keyboard they have to work on in my opinion. Better battery life than the berry would have to be one. Better vibrate on the phones as I need to keep phone in that mode most days. Not being able to send (or receive) anything via bluetooth is a fail for me with Android (only for headset use? come on!). Not to mention I like the form factor of blackberry (and so do other folks). I like that it isn’t bulky or large. Yes, I lose something in screen size as a result. That is probably one thing I would want to be better. But, recently realized that the slider may not be what I want. Probably would prefer the Storm (gasp!) as I like slim over anything else. Yes, I would also love to see a true GUI update from RIM and quicker startup time. Yes, they make some tweaks, but I think it’s the GUI and things like 5 minute startups that turn some of the folks off. The best thing going for Android is it looks hot and fresh and most the same apps as iPhone. Most folks couldn’t tell you much more than it is touchscreen and that is all the rage now. Heck some are in love with Sense UI more than Android itself.

    Some are waiting for ability to do via bluetooth, on an Android, what they can do on most other phones. Now BB could stand to improve sending contacts via bluetooth themselves.

    And discount it if you want folks, but BBM keeps many faithful to BB also. So, they would have to overcome batter life, bluetooth issue, weak vibrate on some of their phones (don’t understand that one), and a BBM alternative that all those I communicate with internationally via BBM would be willing to download/install. In some countries, blackberry plans are better than any other data plans. I almost feel it would have to be an app that cross communicates with BBM itself and not a total replacement.

    • ja2bk

      I also have to add that people want a phone to make calls. I can attest as I went around with a teenager as they went on a quest for a phone with good battery life and a keyboard recently. Anyone want to guess what phone they walked out of the store with?

      Curve 2 (simplicity)… chose all on their own.

      • frozen

        might i add….those colorful led light? small thing on the bb, but it’s one thing that im so fond of.

  • frozen

    im not going to lie, I have been debating whether the Iphone 4 or an Android phone should be my next device. BB is just boring to me now, even with the new bb 6 coming. It’s just not a phone that portray as a cool device. like robb, im a die-hard fan of the physical keyboard. However, im just tired of waiting for bb to throw out something innovative and convinced myself that i will just adapt to the no keyboard and live with it. a trade off between a keyboard vs up-to-date technology? I think i will go with the latter.

    The iphone 4 new design does look cool. however, i dont want the hassle with that antenna reception, exchange server crashes with iOS 4, and the whole lock down it have on everything. It just giving me the impression that it’s not truly my phone, but just renting it from Apple. Android look quite awesome as well and have a lot of promise. However, i notice that a majority of them are slow on the upgrades due to carriers/manufactures and the battery life just suck. however, the changes in froyo and gingerbread totally sweep me off my feet more than what those are offered on ios4

    • BrixtonMassive

      I just got the iphone 4. its Apps are much better and made better than any other smarthphone has to offer. However, I still miss my Blackberry sometimes. I miss the Memo, Emailing, encryption, and password keeper, didn’t care too much about BB messenger. i can see why alot of people end up going back to BB.

      Im not going back to blackberry. i just wanted to say the Android phones are “juiced” up however there is a flaw in their design and its OS isnt stable. iphone caters to most consumers and BlackBerry caters to Businesses and certain individuals. Both companies designs their phones and operating system in other for the user to experience their vision. Android devices dont have that. they remind me of the early windows mobile phones made by different companies, and i remember how alot of people thought those phones were it also.

      Don’t knock BB people. it a smart company that remains solid and constantly building on what got them there. They are not in a rush to copy others. That reminds me of IBM (very strong company) at one point everyone thought they would be crushed by all the new companies that came about and they are still standing while most of those companies vanished.

      • frozen

        i see where u are coming from. and with ur analogy with IBM, of course bb isnt going to die anytime soon, it have a lockdown on enterprise. but the question is how long? we are seeing more and more iphone and other device substituting bb in enterprise. Of course, bb is no where close to dying, but dont get stuck in the dark like IBM is right now. we dont hear anything about IBM nowadays (or at least i dont).

        and in my opinion, both the android phones and iphone are “juiced” up. they both have their shining points and flaws. however, android is still relatively new in comparison to iOS. so we will see how the war between the two end up. as for now, imma wait to see what this gingerbread can do for the android and the whole UI problem before i hop on whichever wagon….im still 4 month short of my contract….so there is still plenty of time to speculate.

        • luke

          I think though the Blackberry is still a solid device, the idea of it being “suck” in comparison to the iphone/android device has already embedded into most people decision when they pick a new device. However, those that are not tech geeks like us will still go for a blackberry because it usually come free with a new/renewal contract.

  • Jay

    Color me gone…

    Can’t wait to switch to android now and i have been a die hard BB loyalist for years… it is clear which platform is the future and which has been stagnant for years.

    Just follow the blogs for 1 month and you will see the light as I have… just waiting for the 4th qtr when dual processor devices to start coming to market…

  • http://mudge.essoenn.com steve

    I carry two BBs, a Curve for the office, a Storm for personal. Used to love the Storm, now I just like it, especially after it died a horrible death leaving me high and dry on a travel day. My next personal instrument (and I’m counting the days until Verizon Wireless let’s me off the hook — how will I make it all the way to February???), will probably be an Android. I want it all, a huge screen with excellent resolution (I HATE the way YouTube looks on my Storm), and a keyboard I can use with more confidence than the soft one on the Storm. So, an Android with a physical keyboard, on Verizon, is where I will be looking. Bye-bye, BB, it’s been real.

  • Ron

    I’ve already said on more than one occasion of late, “This is my last BlackBerry.” There are a multitude of reasons for this decision, but it would be good to put my decision into context: I am a long-term Blackberry user and my Tour 9630 is my seventh Blackberry! Just a quick side-by-side comparison of the Bold specs tells me there hasn’t been enough ‘new and improved’ to even justify a switch…that is the first time I’ve felt this way since using Blackberry’s. I’ve relentlessly complained to RIM in their user surveys, but they just don’t seem to get the picture. Bottom line for me is that I want a phone that actually has more functionality than email, SMS, and MMS–RIM just isn’t delivering. The OS has evolved slower than the dinosaurs, and the web/internet…well, I’m tired of living with the primitive and want a smartphone that gives me everything! Eventually iPhone will accommodate Verizon and other carriers, forcing ATT to improve their network. When that happens, it could just possibly ‘gut’ RIM’s long-term client-base…me, being one of them. RIM isn’t listening while Droid and Apple are continuing to improve products, update OS and whittle away at the Blackberry user base. I fear that if RIM fails to reinvent itself, it’s on a fast track to…loss!

  • Gadget Girl

    The comments are very interesting. Technology is moving at such an amazing pace, and smartphones have become such an integral part of our daily lives that we have almost a personal “best friend” type relationship with them. To the extent that we feel loyalty toward these little devices! Before going to BB, I used Palm, Symbian and Windows Mobile devices. In each instance, BB played “catch up” and eventually threw in a camera, video recorder, YouTube ability, games, etc. Before that, my basic requirements were an on-board keyboard and a camera, because those are the things that are important to ME. (Unfortunately, what’s important to my employer is that I own a BlackBerry, otherwise, I’d have had an Anroid phone the minute they came out!)

    In any event, my experience with my mobile devices has been, much as with life, that for whatever you GET, you must sacrifice something else of equal or greater value!

    • http://twitter.com/njvinnie Vinnie

      “In any event, my experience with my mobile devices has been, much as with life, that for whatever you GET, you must sacrifice something else of equal or greater value!”

      How true THIS statement is! No matter which way you turn when buying your next smart phone, you’re giving something up. If I switch from BlackBerry to an Android device, I’m giving up BBM and perhaps the physical quality which has kept my 8110 and now 9700 working good and looking good despite a lot of abuse. My wife has a 3-year old 8110 that takes a beating, and keeps on ticking. Since SureType is a RIM thing, I’ll never see it again, but I miss it daily as I type with all thumbs on my Bold.

      On the flip side, if I stick with BlackBerry and get a new one when my upgrade comes up in January, I’m giving up all the fun of the Android apps and the better cameras and other toys found on the latest generation.

      Maybe OS 6 will be the decision maker for me, once I see it in action.

  • Ron

    Good comments, Gadget Girl, and they echo my sentiments. Add insult to injury with today’s announcement of the new BlackBerry Torch on ATT! What in the world is going on with RIM’s executive team here that they introduce something this interesting on a network plagued with dropped calls, reception issues, and unhappy customers? If they want to ‘challenge’ the iPhone, why not do it on Verizon (the network iPhone users wish they could be on with their iPhones) to showcase the superiority/qualities of the new BlackBerry. The truth is that ATT will experience a wholesale ‘dump and jump’ to Verizon when iPhone finally gets there. Why not beat the punch by ‘passing the Torch’ on to Verizon right from the beginning? Ah, let’s see here…shall we go after a 70+ million user market with ATT or go right after the 90+ million user market of Verizon…hum.

    • http://twitter.com/njvinnie Vinnie

      The iPhone 4 antenna debacle confirmed for me what I already suspected: AT&T’s reputation for a poor network and dropped calls has a LOT to do with being the exclusive carrier for Apple. I switched from Nextel to AT&T when I got my first BlackBerry, and for the most part I have no complaints about the service. Reception issues and dropped calls happen, but it’s rare. Data is speedy, outside of the awful BlackBerry web browser. Customer service is about the same as anywhere else – garbage customer service is a fact of life in America, but that’s a whole different train of thought.

      Prior to Nextel (which I used from 2000 to 2007), I was with Verizon. I found their network shoddy, and the customer service was truly awful. They actually forced me out of a legacy contract even though I didn’t purchase a new phone, because my nights/weekends started at 6 PM. (Yeah, I was a cell phone early adopter – so early I got a free PAGER with my first gigantic Motorola flip phone with the Bell Atlantic logo on it). Shortly after that, I was toting around a Nextel i1000.

      Many of my friends and co-workers have Verizon, and I don’t hear much good from them about the service. While the phone always works, most of them complain about the data, except the guy who just got the Droid X. I guess that phone is so good nothing can stop it! Anyway, they also have monthly bills 20-30 bucks higher than me, for the same services…but that’s true of Verizon versus ANY other carrier.

      I’m not a big fan of all these “exclusive” smart phones – I think they basically FORCE people to switch carriers (often at great expense) to get what they really want. However, I don’t think that AT&T is a bad choice to roll out a new BlackBerry. I believe many folks will jump ship when the iPhone is no longer exclusive, but I’ll ALSO bet you a dollar the iPhone has just as many issues when it finally reaches another carrier.

      –Vinnie

  • Michael

    My comments go to Vinnie, you made a comment about SureType, Android has an app that will allow you to have a “compact qwerty” which is basically the same thing. Second, you made a comment about customer service being garbage in America. Now while this is usually true, and I can’t stand a CS rep with an obvious Middle Eastern accent telling me his name is Stan Jones or some bs, Verizon’s customer service has been nothing but great to me.

    • http://twitter.com/njvinnie Vinnie

      I guess the new tag line for Android should be “there’s an app for that!” as well!

      Do you know if the app also “learns” the way SureType does? I used a Pearl for quite some time, and it nearly always “knew” what I was typing with just a few letters…which speeds up the process of texting or sending an email quite a bit. It’s the one thing I really miss from the Pearl. I still have a copy of my Custom Dictionary from that phone on my backups in the event I ever get my hands on another BlackBerry that uses it.

      My favorite CS story is with Sprint. After they bought out Nextel, I had a problem with my Nextel phone…I think it was an i860 or something along those lines. I had worn out the PTT button and cracked the case. I had the plan fron Nextel where they would fix the phone for anything short of dropping it in a lake. So I march into the “designated repair center”, which was now a Sprint store, and the person at the desk stared at the phone like they had never seen anything like it before, stared at me, and said “this is an iDEN phone, there is nothing we can do but sell you a new one”.

      Needless to say, I found a store which still carried the Nextel brand on the sign, and had my phone repaired in short order. Between that and all the call quality issues Sprint caused by not supporting iDEN properly at the time, I was on AT&T with my first BlackBerry at the end of my contract. I sure hope Sprint has improved customer relations since then!

      I have never had a problem with AT&T customer service, including a speedy and favorable resoultion to an overbilling in my first bill, but in no way are they falling over themselves to help you either on the phone or in a store.

  • Michael

    Here is a link to a picture of the keyboard:

    http://androidspin.com/wp-content/uploads/2010/05/ss1.png

    You can choose either keyboard, and as for the different colors, this app has different skins for the keyboard.

    • http://twitter.com/njvinnie Vinnie

      Looks cool, I’ll give you that!