Tuesday, June 28, 2011

3 reasons why BlackBerry works for me (now)

This is not a review; it's my opinion

Pick up the phone

First, and probably most important to me: they still give a damn about the phone half of the smart phone. Up until a few weeks ago, before I switched away from my HTC Droid Eris, it was damn near impossible to send or receive calls without it first pissing down its leg in fear. I tweaked the apps, made more space available by clearing up memory; basically did everything I could think of for the phone to lurk like a Jedi Knight just below the surface of everything else the smart phone was doing and be ready to strike hard and fast when necessary, to answer a call or make an emergency run for take-out food. But, I just couldn’t get there. My Droid Eris went into hiding and hoped no one would call.

I tested my theory out of frustration with my Droid Eris by switching back to the phone I had prior, over 18 months ago, to my BlackBerry Pearl. You know what? That Pearl was beat to hell and had next to no memory or screen real estate, but it was glorious as a phone. I went a few days and re-upped with Verizon to a BlackBerry Curve 3G.

Blackberry is my Jedi now. It devours phone calls like Obi Wan devours trade federation battle droids (yes... I wrote that): smoothly, precisely, and swiftly. No issues there anymore. Not saying that iPhone is better or worse in that department––I couldn’t say; never used an iPhone––or that the 27 Google phones don’t have adequate performance. They probably do. It’s just my gut feeling that BlackBerry still cares a little more about call quality than the sexy newcomers.

Battery to spare

It seems that no smart phone is safe from serious complaints about battery life. It makes sense. The things are always online, always making or checking status updates on Twitter and Facebook, checking email, foursquaring your followers into a slow and painful death by boredom, banking, shooting video of your cat’s amazing cat life, searching on the go, texting friends, oh... and talking to people. That’s a lot of demand, wouldn’t you agree?

Manufacturers give you barely enough juice in the battery to see you through a typical weekday, if you practice “moderate usage” and don’t use your phone for stupid stuff, i.e. the cool stuff. But that’s not realistic; of course you’re going to use the phone for cool stuff, because you’re paying extra for the “data” package. Frankly, our batteries aren’t up to the challenge of the data package. So we trickle in the car, trickle in the office, and trickle off a buddy’s laptop hoping to make it long enough for the next status update, text, or call.

Back to my BlackBerry Pearl theory, I was astonished how long the battery lasted in that thing. All day (7a-11p) and then some. And to be fair, I had Facebook, Twitter, sporadic phone calls, texting, and four email accounts doing their thing all day. Normal for me. How did I forget about that while using the Eris? I could stare at the screen on that thing for a minute and almost see that pathetic green bar shrinking pixel by bloody pixel. To get through a work day (8a-5p) meant trickling. If you planned to go out that night, trickle some more beforehand.

I hear people complain about battery life in iPhones, Droids, Windows Mobile Phone Phone Phone thingamajig, and even BlackBerry. It’s possible, I suspect, that while we’re disappointed in performance, we’ve all really settled for far short of mediocre anymore when it comes to on-the-go stamina from our devices. Smart phone battery life sucks, much like laptop battery life sucks. Get over it. Manufacturers inflate performance figures and real world usage knocks those figures in the toilet.

It’s 3:15 PM, my BlackBerry battery is at 73% capacity. Draw your own conclusions from that. My conclusion is that I’m incredibly satisfied with the out-of-the-box battery life of my BlackBerry Curve (and was amazed at the almost four year old original battery in the Pearl while I re-tasked it for a week).

Social barricade

Lastly, of why BlackBerry works for me (now) is this: my real life doesn’t need to be replicated 100 percent to my social networks. The two are connected, of course. But I don’t need a device that keeps me on the bleeding edge of what’s technologically possible in the social networking game. I just need a device that offers a few conduits between the two. I look at iPhones and they’re amazing pieces of gear. Throw in the iPad for that matter too. Google devices are keeping pace and extending boundaries too (without getting into a huge argument about which platform is superior). BlackBerry is not innovating much comparatively, and is quickly losing market share to both Apple and Google. How that ends for RIM, we’ll see.

But the point is this: for these magnificent pieces of cutting edge hardware from Apple and Droid to soar in brilliance and utterly blow your mind you must commit yourself to wasting a ton of time on them. Sure, you can waste time on a BlackBerry too. However, while the others challenge you to load up their devices with goodies and apps to explore and document the fast-paced blur of your life, BlackBerry re-introduces something many of us have all but forgotten: focus.

Monday, June 13, 2011

1,000 Miles of Optimism

Life seemed to be more fun when your life was out there somewhere, waiting in the future. It was mysterious and you would get to it eventually. Pieces would fit together like a happy puzzle of meaning and fulfillment. From a thousand miles out the future looked perfect, or adequate at the very least. The perfect job would occupy your days with purpose, and the perfect spouse would occupy your nights with passion. Marriage and happily-ever-after would form the bedrock for a successful foray into family. Your kids would be adorable, exceptional, and respectful. Your home: a castle on a hill. Your car: a shiny, head-turning chariot. It was assumed that close friendships would thrive for decades; and that new friends would blend into the soil of your life like rotating crops, or a fast-moving square-dance, always fun and always fertile for meaningful connections. To a certain extent, we all mortgage a perfect life later against a pocket full of dreams.