One of the few disadvantages of the mobile advancements we are making is that consumers get bored of their mobile device after a very short period of time, or when the newer model comes out, whichever happens first. This is true for a lot of people I know, and it is true for me as well. On the flip side, when I get a new phone, I generally spend the first week or two getting to know the phone, and it is usually accompanied by excitement and enthusiasm about my new device.
This was true about my latest device, the BlackBerry Bold. I was very excited about it and after learning the ins and outs of BlackBerry’s interface and menus, I love it even more. However, I have definitely come to learn about some major issues with the phone that I thought I should share seeing as I spoke of it as the ultimate phone in my last post. Let me just emphasize that I still do NOT intend on replacing it with an iPhone mainly because of the iPhone’s lack of a keyboard and support for background apps, two things the Blackberry taught me that I most definitely need in a phone.
The following is a list of my top 8 problems with RIM as a company and the Bold as a mobile device:
1: Lack of Full Gmail Support: This is by far my biggest annoyance with the Blackberry. A feature that is implemented in the email experience of my iPod Touch, my G2, and other phones, is not available in what is supposedly the world’s ultimate email machine, the Blackberry. I am referring to full IMAP support for Gmail. You can define your Blackberry Gmail account with IMAP using a silly work around I dug up on the Web, but even after doing that, the Blackberry does not have full IMAP support.
OK, for those of you who are NOT geeks and do not know what IMAP is, let me explain. Basically, IMAP enables you to fully synchronize your email, contacts, and folders on the various platforms in which you access your account. Still too geeky? If you check your Gmail on your phone, you want that email message to be marked as read in your browser’s inbox and not to show up as new. IMAP enables this. When it comes to Blackberry, as of now, when I am accessing my Gmail at work using my computer’s browser, all the emails I read throughout the day appear as new in my Blackberry’s inbox. To be fair, I will say that the opposite is not true. When I delete something from the Blackberry, it deletes instantly from my inbox and does not appear in Gmail when checking via a browser.
I figured there has to be something I am missing and that there is no way RIM, the company that is synonymous with email, does not support the world’s most popular email, Gmail. So I did a little research and it turns out it is a known issue, and while full IMAP support is supported using RIM’s corporate BES email, or Yahoo mail, Gmail IMAP is not supported, nor is there any indication anywhere that it is even in the works. I have to add that I am aware of the Gmail app for Blackberrys, but if I am going to use that app, there really is no reason to use a Blackberry, I can use it on any old basic phone, it just takes away all the advantages of using a Blackberry. Major disappointment.
2: Second Class Website: RIM has a lot of work to do when it comes to their website. I understand that their main audience is corporate and when one receives a Blackberry from their place of work, it comes with all the necessary passwords, but that does not mean every single page on the website should be restricted to members only. After all, there is a nice chunk of people using their Blackberrys with BIS (Blackberry Internet Service), RIM’s non corporate solution. How about a link on the site to contact RIM with a question? I understand they will not reply within the hour, the same way Nokia, Apple, or Sony won’t, but consumers still want to be able to contact their cellular manufacturer with certain questions, and on RIM’s site, a Contact Us is nowhere to be found.
In addition, when it comes to Blackberry’s new Blackberry App World, which I will discuss later, it can only be accessed and downloaded using Internet Explorer (what’s that?), no Firefox, no Chrome, and no Safari support. C’mon, RIM, are you serious? Internet Explorer? I think we can agree that the time has come to upgrade your website. The bottom line is, when it comes to Blackberry.com, the information I needed was not accessible or easy to find. The site does not cater to non corporate customers, and it is all in all, offers a very outdated experience.
3: App World: I have read and heard about this famous Blackberry App World that recently grew and now offers 2,000 apps. There was talk about it going global and being offered in many countries around the world. Well, I was utterly disappointed to say the least, when I found out I could not access or download the App World in Israel. Not only could I not access it, I had to figure out what the issue was when I received a most cryptic error message on my phone saying I could not download it since my phone has not met the “minimum requirements”. Is it so hard to write “The App World is not yet available in your country, but please stay updated or click here to find out when it will be”?
Using my best Googling skills, I tried to inquire when the App World would be available in my country, but to no avail. This information is not available anywhere on the Web, and as a result of the previous issue, I could not find the information on Blackberry.com. Now, I did find alternatives to download apps for the Blackberry, and chances are, if and when the App World becomes available here, I will already have downloaded all the apps I will see in the App World, but this is a huge annoyance that is not handled properly by RIM.
4: BIS Discrimination: OK, pay attention, this is a little complicated. RIM has two separate and very different types of users. Their main audience is the corporate world who use their Blackberries with what is called BES (Blackberry Enterprise Service). These are people who have their own server, whether it is through a work place or their own. Using BES, everything is simpler. The synchronization and seamlessness you hear about when people talk about Blackberries, is only using BES. BIS is a totally different ball game. In addition to the Gmail issue I discussed above, there is a very strange issue I learned about the hard way during my first week with Blackberry. When defining an email on your device, one of the options presented to you is to define a permanent username and password to access the email interface on your phone in which you define things like a signature, ports, and protocols.
I of course did just that, thinking it would make my life easier. I was very wrong. Once you define that username and password on your phone, you can no longer define certain email characteristics (such as signature) on the device, but rather it can only be done via a Web interface known as the BIS interface. No problem, so define it on the Web, right? Wrong! My cellular provider, Orange, knows nothing of such an interface. Apparently, every provider on the globe that offers Blackberries, also offers access to a BIS interface, except mine. So now I can only define my email settings on a Web-based interface, but good luck finding the URL to such an interface when Orange does not support it and RIM cannot be contacted. After all is said and done, Orange, as usual, were very helpful and manually defined my signature and other settings, but claimed they could not give me access to the BIS interface. I do not know if this is Orange or RIM’s fault, but neither of them are innocent, and the one who ends up suffering is of course, the consumer.
5: Interface: Until now, the issues I have mentioned were regarding RIM as an organization and not about the Bold as a mobile device. Time to move on to the Bold itself. Like I said, I still think it is one of the best devices I have ever used, and as of now, I do not intend on replacing it with any other phone. Having said that, just like RIM’s website, it is time to upgrade the phone’s interface and user experience. RIM is still a market leader so they can afford to continue sticking their head in the sand, but not for long. If they stay with this relatively primitive user interface and continue ignoring advances the mobile world has made (yes, I am referring to the iPhone), they are bound to sink. Now, I do not think the interface is as bad as people say, but the lists are just too long, it is too cluttered, and needs to be modernized in a major way.
6: Camera (oh, is that what that is?): All I have to say to RIM on this issue is “How could you?” I understand that Blackberries are not primarily camera phones, but why can’t RIM surpass the ancient 2 megapixel line? Now, there are also 2 megapixels that provide decent photo quality, and then there are the Blackberry cameras. The Bold’s camera is an upgrade from the camera on the Curve, but in my opinion, they should not have wasted the time or money on this upgrade. The Bold’s camera is as close to unusable as any phone camera I have ever used. No one is expecting RIM to put a 12 megapixel camera on their phones, but 3.2 or 5 would be nice. In fact, I don’t care if they stick with 2 but use a decent lens or something, make the camera usabale or remove it, right now, it’s pointless.
7: Memory Compartment: I apologize in advance for nitpicking but I just couldn’t help myself. The cover on the SD card slot is nothing short of disastrous. Every time I try to remove a memory card from the Bold, I get at least 3 more grey hairs. I do not understand when manufacturers like RIM make something this crappy on a phone as attractive as the Bold. Please someone explain it to me.
8: General Quirks: These are just some odds and ends that I am sure will be fixed in an eventual OS upgrade but they deserved a mention. The MP3 player was surprisingly satisfactory on the Bold, but is it so hard to have full screen album art? Those people who use Blackberries and do not give in to the peer pressure of getting an iPhone deserve it. I use a 3rd party app called Flipside, which makes the music interface somewhat similar to Apple’s famous album art display, but RIM should add this feature themselves. Additionally and along the same lines, why is full screen picture ID not supported? I want to see a nice big picture of my beautiful wife when she calls me, is that too much to ask? Lastly, why on earth do I need to depend on a Blackberry App developer to have my Bold ring and vibrate simultaneously?
OK, that is my complete list of issues I have with my Blackberry. Some are more serious than others, and some make me wonder about my decision to stay with the Bold and not get an iPhone. However, at the end of the day, the Push Mail, keyboard, and background apps offered by the Blackberry make the iPhone an impossible option for me. Having said that, most of the above annoyances do not exist in the Apple ecosystem, so as soon as Apple adds a keyboard and background apps (push mail is already implemented, at least partly), I am afraid I will abandon the sinking RIM ship, unless of course, RIM is reading this and decides to upgrade their OS and fix the above issues. Which one do you think will happen first?