10 things the BlackBerry (yep!) is better at than an iPhone or Android device (and the best daily driver out there today IMHO)

Nowadays, you no longer need to be locked into one cloud, social media service or ecosystem. Be it Apple (OS X, iOS), Google (Android), Amazon or something else (Windows?). In fact, you should avoid this. And this very fact means the BlackBerry smartphones, in particular the Passport and Classic, are better than any other device (in my opinion) in terms of playing the role of a daily driver. Not just for people who use smartphones primarily as communication and work device (not as distraction machines), but most consumers. The BlackBerry offers the best of all worlds and adds additional killer apps, security and a premium experience.

Sure, I know this is a bold claim. Only a few months ago, I would have disagreed with it. But the writing has been on the wall for a while (hindsight is always 20/20, yadah yadah). And looking back now, I realise that over the past few years, like many, I have significantly diversified my technology use. First instinctively, then purposefully.

If you haven’t, start today. Here is how I did it:

Firstly my software “identities” – I now use Google for Gmail and the Drive, especially on my ChromeStation, but also Microsoft OneDrive for writing and pics, iCloud for bits and bobs like the AppleTV…and other services like Dropbox for various stuff, not to mention work accounts and services that back things up securely. More than that, I am in a position to change all of these to suit whatever my requirements are and whatever services provide, with minimum effort..and on most, if not all platforms.

Secondly, hardware-wise, I am running a “multicultural” ecosystem for my professional, personal (and the family’s) needs. Today, I use an awesome LG ChromeOS workstation as my main home office desktop, a Dell business laptop running Windows 8 as work computer, an iPad Air tablet (mainly for work meetings, photos, radio interviews and tweeting from events I cover), an Amazon Kindle Voyage as reader at home – and a BlackBerry Classic as a smartphone for all of those things and more. We also have a bunch of older MacBooks and MacBook Pros still floating around the house. All or most devices are able to run the staple of solutions I need, apart from the hard-core work software (stuff like Adobe Creative Cloud, WoodWing, etc.):

  • Email accounts
  • All Social Media (esp. Twitter, Facebook, Whatsapp etc etc) accounts
  • Evernote (Premium customer, but not 100% happy)
  • Blogging
  • OneNote and (Microsoft) Office – I am a subscriber
  • Photo Editing and Sharing etc.

Here’s the thing: The BlackBerry does the job of juggling these needs better, indeed much better, than any other smartphone system available out there at the time of writing. For me, and possibly for you.

Hands-on: Why I prefer the BlackBerry Classic over the iPhone 6 or any Android device
Hands-on: Why I prefer the BlackBerry Classic over the iPhone 6 or any Android device

Now, normally, I wouldn’t even consider blogging about this, but given the state of public perception around BlackBerrry, and given the amount of surprise and enthusiasm people around me have voiced when seeing the device and playing with it, let me summarise briefly the ten things that I have discovered for which BlackBerries are better than any iPhone or Android device.

  1. The keyboard. Look; I am a journalist and writer with decades of experience. I can type on anything, and fast. When I grew up, I wrote on an electric typewriter and then Commodore 64s and IBM PCs with monochrome displays. I have written longform articles and essays on the glass surfaces of various iPads, Samsung Notes, and other devices with my relatively large man-hands. Nothing beats the classic clickety-clack keyboard of the BlackBerry. It is faster and somehow more rewarding to use, just more satisfying than glass surfaces. Try it out and you will see what I mean. I prefer it even to some full-size keyboards.
  2. The Hub. The way all messaging is integrated into the new BlackBerry operating system (BB10 – see point 6) operating system’s Hub application is incredible. Swipe left and see everything at one glance. Pinch and see all unread messages, emails, posts, across all your mail, social media, and more. No matter what else you are doing or running. Amazing.
  3. The BB font. Not kidding. It is called Slate, unless I am mistaken, and this font is better and more beautiful than any font I am aware of. (This is even more subjective than the other stuff I am posting here, but) from my perspective, nothing beats this font for legibility, beauty and practicality on electronic displays.
  4. The build quality. The Classic is pleasantly heavy, solid and well-built. Very much a premium device. Far superior to the Samsungs I have known, and at least as good as the iPhones.
  5. The tool buttons. As my daily experience has taught me, having a trackpad to select, copy and paste text absolutely rocks. Having a “Play” (and “Assistant”) button is awesome. Having dedicated phone buttons is extremely useful too, especially if you want to have a good hanging up experience (push that button!). As much as I empathise with people who like a clean glass slab with not buttons, I love the buttons the Classic provides, it just makes sense to me.
  6. The BlackBerry 10 operating system. Less locked-in than the Apple garden, but arguably more secure, with real multi-tasking and no bloatware at all (like most Android phones will be delivered with). Plus the admittedly few but in some instances bloody excellent native BlackBerry stuff no other OS can offer; and yet you can install practically all Android apps too, and they run well – though they load not quite as quickly as on comparable native Android phones.I don’t recommend the BlackBerry Classic for games or movies, though it does both well. It is just not as fast. For everything else, it is absolutely fine.
  7. The separation but clever integration of “Work” and “Private” spaces. This makes the phone not only better to use for both professional and other stuff. It also adds another layer of security.
  8. Speaking of which: Security and privacy. Though you can integrate Andoid apps, you don’t need to; and you certainly don’t need to give away all your private data to Google (or another giant like Apple); I know this is in part subjective and a moving feast, but certainly I prefer the solution BlackBerry provides over any other device.
  9. The Evernote integration into tasks and notes. Wow. This was unexpected. Imagine your Evernote notes working natively and seamlessly with the iOS reminders, or Google Keep, Wunderlist or similar. And yet that is how BB10 handles them! I am an Evernote power user who runs multiple important things on Evernote, and so this has been a revelation.
  10. Phone calls. Last but not least, even if smartphones usually are not really used that much as phones by many people, including myself. I might not make many calls every day, but when I do, it needs to work well. Thanks to their Paratek antennas and microphones (yes, plural), the call quality on a BlackBerry is excellent – far superior to that of any other device out there, in my experience.

Again: Transitioning all my various email and other accounts on the BlackBerry was easy and quick. Utterly painless. The ability to run the Android apps I need in addition to the superior communication, interaction and security solution BlackBerry and the BB10 operating system provide, makes for a killer solution, all rolled into one very attractive package – with simply the best keyboard available.

If this all sounds too good to be true, rest assured – full disclosure – that I am neither paid by BlackBerry nor anyone else to express this opinion, nor do I have stock in the company or any other conflict of interest. Nor am I religious about technology brands. But I think we all need to be savvy about our use of it.

Anecdotally, I am not the only one who see the advantages: My wife, my boss and a lot of friends have all reacted very positively to the Classic – and indeed several are moving to a BlackBerry in the near future. And just like them, if another company or operating system offers a better solution, I will move on to it. For now, though, it is a BlackBerry. I hope they keep up the good work the company is doing after they took a few bad turns.

Goodbye, Apple. A farewell letter of sorts on Valentine’s Day

Goodbye, Apple.

Goodbye, Macbooks. For many years, you were the daily tools of my journalistic, academic and creative trades. I wrote articles for websites and newspapers on you. I recorded audio and video on you, edited and distributed it. I blogged and shared and tweeted on you. I lay-outed newspaper pages and academic presentations, workshops and interventions using your operating systems and applications. And occasional stints of extended gaming were like vacations with you.

No more.

Oh Apple, where did you go wrong? Is it you or me? You used to be the hardware that got the job done. Rugged, safe, reliable. Snazzy and slick. Sure: Your software was always a bit predatory in staking a claim in my private files. Sure, you had your phases, but they were just that. Sure, you really stuffed things up with your embarrassing catastrophes moving from @mac to @me.com and then @icloud. Not to mention your social network disasters and other failures and rip-offs. But I could put up with those faults. You see, you were worth it. You had the ethos and the purpose.

Rotten Apple (CC Image by Kasman/Pixabay)
Rotten Apple (CC Image by Kasman/Pixabay)

No more.

Goodbye, iPhonesI even gave up my beloved Blackberry Pearl and Bold when you came out. But now, as you moved into the sixth iteration of your mobile appearance, as you have started going gold, I am finally leaving you. In a few days, I will move to a Blackberry Classic. And so will several other people I know.

You see, I don’t need a luxury toy and distraction machine. I don’t need a gold one in particular. I need to get work done; I need to communicate. And when I am on the train, I see children and confused old people are the majority of people using you.

And now, the Apple Watch. Really?

Ach, Apple. It is not me, it is you.

To me it is clear: You have lost your way. Your sense and purpose. Breaking up is hard to do. But we are no longer part of the same world. And it is time to say goodbye. I am writing this farewell letter to you on my new ChromeOS box. It cost one tenth of your lovely new iMac, and a third of the money my early 2011 Macbook Pro would bring in, if I were to sell it today.

So this is good bye. I have moved my stuff and my files. I have upgraded my tools and thrown out the gold hammer for a steel one. And I am hitting those nails again!

Sure. I still have my iPad Air, and it will continue to come with me to meetings and conferences for a while yet. But not because it offers something others don’t. I still have my Apple TV hooked up. But not because ChromeCast is not better and cheaper and more suited to my needs. It is just that I will use these two devices till they also get replaced by Android or similar devices that are better, cheaper, more flexible and advanced.

So yes, it is good bye. Unless you change your ways and return to your roots. If you do, drop me an old fashioned email. I still have an @mac.com Email address. Get in touch when you are back on track.

„Google Circles“, Facebook 2.0 – oder Apple? Wer wird das soziale Netz sozialer machen?

Google Circles: Nur wenige haben es gesehen, aber Unternehmen und Medien, Twitter und Blogs spekulieren um die Wette, seit diesem Artikel auf ReadWriteWeb. Kommt es wirklich? Wann? Wie wird es aussehen, sich anfühlen, funktionieren, heissen? Wo und wie sieht eine Nische zwischen Twitter, Facebook und Co denn aus? Wohin die Reise geht – und warum Apple vielleicht der “lachende Dritte” sein könnte – erklärt Anian Christoph Wimmer.

(Update: Was Patrick Day unten fordert, kann angeblich Hibe.com)

Was soll die ganze Aufregung? Geht es hier um wirklich um eine mögliche Innovation, die das Netz umkrempeln kann, und damit auch die Art und Weise, wie wir damit leben? Ja  und Nein.

Ja, denn:

  1. Wenn jemand Facebook oder Twitter ernsthaft Konkurrenz machen kann, dann ist es Google – aber natürlich nur, wenn es sich differenziert: Und was kann Google besser als Facebook? Dank seiner vielen Dienste ist es für Google sehr leicht, Dienstleister für alle Schnittstellen zwischen unserem Alltag und dem Leben im Netz zu sein: Such-Maske, Email-Dienst, einem eigenen Betriebssystem für mobile Geräte,  Navigation, Bibliothek, und vieles mehr.
  2. Facebook versucht dies, für seine Kunden zu sein: Nachrichten, Fotos, Spiele, die vielen kleinen Programme – all dies schafft ein Biotop, in dem man sich schnell stundenlang tummeln kann. Extern kommt dazu das Angebot, sich im “restlichen” Netz über Facebook zu identifizieren, einzuloggen, und wieder darüber auszutauschen.
  3. Twitter ist wiederum dort, wo Google Buzz und das verworfene “Google Wave” sein woll(t)en. Aber für ein “Twitter 2.0” ist es im Augenblick noch zu früh – auch wenn die Integration über die Twitter-ID natürlich mit der von Facebook konkurriert.

Nein, denn:

  1. Das klingt alles komplizierter, als es ist. Wenn man den ganzen Jargon und die unwichtigen Details beiseite schiebt, wird klar, worum es eigentlich geht: Den Menschen.
  2. Genauer: Es geht darum, all diese Programme und Dienste so zu gestalten, dass sie so funktionieren, wie Menschen leben.
  3. Mit anderen Worten: Das soziale Netz wird endlich wirklich sozial. Das Netz wird als umgekrempelt, aber nicht unser Leben Das Netz wird umgekrempelt wie wir leben.

Wo dank dieser simplen, aber zentralen Einsicht die Reise hingeht, zeigt Patrick Days Präsentation. 

Die Quintessenz des Vortrags: Das Netz muss sich dem Menschen anpassen. Aber wie? Was sind die wichtigsten Aspekte?

  • Statt einem einzigen großen Haufen “Freunde” besteht das wirkliche soziale Umfeld eines Menschen aus etwa einem halben Dutzend unabhängiger Gruppen: Familie, Freunde aus der Schulzeit, Kollegen, Religionsgemeinschaft, Verein, Kommilitonen aus einer bestimmten Stadt, usw. Diese Gruppen sind kleiner als erwartet und bestehen meistens aus 2-10 Personen.
  • Wir wollen nicht unbedingt, dass die eine Gruppe (z.B. Eltern, Familie) liest, was wir mit der anderen Gruppe besprechen, teilen, austauschen. Diskretion und Privatsphäre sind im sozialen Netz aber z.Zt. nur schlecht austarierbar. Um dies zu lösen, müssen die verschiedenen Identitäten (Rollen), die jeder hat, online verfügbar und integrierbar sein.
  • Der enge Kreis persönlicher Freundschaften besteht aus Personen aus allen Gruppen und ist sehr klein. Dieser enge Kreis beeinflußt am stärksten das Kaufverhalten, Wahlverhalten und das gesamte Wertesystem eines Menschen.
  • Ausserhalb des engen Kreises gibt es einen größeren Kreis an Personen, mit denen wir weniger Kontakt haben – mehr als 150 Menschen sind es aber nur in Ausnahmefällen. Ausserhalb dieses Kreises wiederum kann man die zeitlich stark begrenzten Interaktionen und Kontakte verorten, die wir alle haben – auch mit Dienstleistern, Behörden, usw.

Wie und woher die Daten und Forschungsergebnisse für diese Einsichten zustande kamen, erklärt Day, der mittlerweile von Google zu Facebook gewechselt ist, übrigens auf seinem lesenswerten Blog.

Ja, und was ist jetzt nun mit Apple?

Der jüngere Erfolg von Apple war und ist – neben anderen Faktoren – immer bedingt durch a) die Einsicht, dass die Produktentwicklung vom Menschen und seiner Lebenswelt ausgehen muss und b) die geradlinige Konsequenz der Umsetzung dieser Regel als oberstes Prinzip der gesamten Wertschöpfungskette fungiert.

Dass dies als innovativ, ja radika innovativ, gesehen wird, sagt mehr über die Konkurrenz aus und deren allzu einseitige Betonung von EDV-, Betriebswirtschafts-, bzw. Ingenieursprinzipien als vielleicht Apple.Und natürlich kommt das entsprechende Design, Marketing und vieles mehr dazu. Aber:

  • Apple hat nicht den MP3-Player erfunden, sondern den iPod: Das einfachste und bequemste Modell, das dann auch am besten entwickelt und vermarktet wurde – auch wenn das manche Kritiker bestreiten werden.
  • Apple hat nicht das Mobiltelephon erfunden, aber das iPhone ist die beste Umsetzung der ersten Generation mobiler Geräte, die die Zukunft unseres Lebens online sind.
  • Apple hat nicht den Tablet-Rechner erfunden. Aber das iPad ist einfacher und bequemer zu bedienen, als alle Vorgänger zusammen.

In diesen Bereichen setzt Apple einen Standard, der sich immer daraus ableiten lässt, wie die beiden oben erwähnten Prinzipien umgesetzt werden.

Wo Apple dies schlecht getan hat, z.B. beim .Mac und heutigen .Me Service, muss es wiederum von Google und Co. lernen. Wenn es dies konsequent tut, besteht die Möglichkeit, dass Apple die Zukunft des sozialen Netzes schreiben wird. Nicht weil es die “Sozialisierung des sozialen Netzes” erfunden hat – sondern weil diese Sozialisierung genau das verlangt, was Apple gut kann.