I received an email from my boss last month confirming the inevitable. I would be receiving a configured Blackberry shortly and I was expected to use it. As with many long time Mac users, my organizer of choice had been a Palm. I used a Palm III something or other and then moved to a Tungsten T which I really liked. I was able to keep my calendar at work (Outlook and then Lotus Notes on a pc) synced with my macs at home. Last year, I got the Treo 700P (Sprint) and ditched the Tungsten as I plunged into a smartphone for the first time. Now this shiny black Blackberry 8830WE shows up and since I won’t be cowed by technology (at least phone based technology), I dove in. After a month of fairly heavy use, I can provide a comparison between the two.
I think the easiest way to compare these two products is to highlight the major differences. Both get the job done but each has it’s advantages. In no particular order:
Unbelievably, the Treo 700P does not support voice dialing out of the box. There is no good reason for this when voice dialing is supported on disposable phones. The BB 8830WE has voice dialing. It doesn’t seem to work as well as the voice dialing on my vzw motorola phone but perhaps it’s still getting used to my New York accent.
Sprint/VZW users get to carry a useless brick when traveling abroad to GSM only areas. Carry the BB 8830WE and that is a thing of the past. The World Edition has both CDMA and GSM capabilities and switches automatically. Soon after I got the BB, I traveled abroad and had no luck. Seems the ‘smart dialing’ feature wasn’t smart enough to realize I was roaming globally (although the connection manager seemed to know it) and failed to prepend the +1 keystrokes I needed to call back stateside. Of course, I didn’t get that far in the manual before I traveled so I didn’t know how to prepend the ‘+’ key (hold the zero button for a couple of seconds). The ‘+’ key is supposed to automatically sense and send the appropriate access code for the country you are roaming in so you can call out on the foreign network. I’ll try this over the summer when I travel again. The Treo 700P does not support global roaming.
Direct Push Email
The BB came with my employer’s enterprise email system (Lotus Notes) already configured. The BB is essentially a mirror email client to the desktop application. Move things on the desktop, they move on the BB and vice versa. The BB keeps its broadband connection active. If the network drops, the BB reconnects automatically. My Treo used to time out and require reconnecting manually. You can configure as many POP3/IMAP email accounts as you want using the BB and its associated provider’s web page. You can filter emails to limit what gets sent to the BB. All your email can be consolidated on a single screen which can be handy and a pain in the rump depending on your perspective.
Email on the Treo used a third party application called Versamail. This program keeps your accounts separate and can be configured to poll the POP3/IMAP accounts periodically for email.
Here’s where the Treo has a significant advantage in my opinion over the BB. Using one of the third party conduit managers (the excellent PocketMirror or Intellisync), you can keep your calendar, address book and tasks separate based on category filtering. I do not like having my personal contacts, tasks and appointments on my work desktop. With the Treo, it wasn’t a problem. I would back my Treo up at home on my personal mac with everything and just have my work related items on my desktop. With the BB and it’s wireless sync, I can’t filter based on category.
I’ve used the various Datebk releases to manage tasks and appointments with ease. The BB calendar is horrible. The agenda view is passable but the weekly view is horrendous. The BB calendar needs work or better yet, a third party enhancement.
Yes, my Treo would lock up periodically. There’s the infamous, “beam, receive and reset” feature but every so often, I’d look at the time on the Treo and it would be a couple of hours behind. Time for a soft reset. I had to hard reset the Treo once. As a veteran of the Palm hard reset, I always knew the Palm Desktop would restore the handheld easily but it didn’t make the several minutes of that process any easier to stomach. I had read about how rock solid the BB was but I’ve had to do the three finger reset once when voice dialing hung in an initialization loop on me.
Mass Storage Mode
When I plug my BB in via USB on my Mac (Tiger) or PC (XP), the mini-sd card shows up on the desktop. No need to use a card reader. Just drag and drop files. It’s a good thing because getting the mini-sd card in and out of the BB is not easy and not for the weak of stomach since it feels like the card holder is going to break. You could move files onto the Treo’s card using Palm’s software but mass storage mode is superior.
If you add all this up, you have to come away with the impression that the BB is better overall and I would agree. As a business platform, no question the Blackberry has more attractive functionality. It works much better with our enterprise system than the Treo did. However, as a personal smartphone, I believe the Palm has advantages. The Palm has a tremendous amount of third party enhancements available for the Palm OS and superior calendar and task management.