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Comparing the iTouch/iPhone with the Blackberry Storm from a Notes Mail user & Geek perspective

By Andrew Pollack on 12/11/2009 at 06:27 AM EST

I'm living a redundant mobile access kind of lifestyle right now. I've got a Blackberry Storm connected to a BES as well as an iTouch wifi connected to Traveler. As I've been in the UK for the last few days, and was in Phoenix for several days already this month, I've had a time to get a fairly good idea of what it's like to live and work with these devices. Here's my take.

Connectivity

Since I'm using an iTouch and not an iPhone, the comparison isn't quite even. I have to be near a known wifi router to use the network stuff on the iTouch and I don't on the Storm. I do, however, also have a "MyFi" router so as long as I'm in the states, I can turn on a wifi connection pretty much anywhere at any time - making the iTouch nearly as universal for me as an iPhone would be. I could, in theory, even make and receive calls on the iTouch using either the Skype application on it or else downloading a SIP application and connecting it to my Asterisk VoIP server. When it's connected, the wifi access on the iTouch is excellent. It handles the security protocols I need and can even handle a vpn connection. The storm only connects by 3G cellular which is slower -- although the new Storm 2 does include wifi as well.

For connectivity, I'd put the iPhone and the Storm 2 at about parity, but both the iTouch and the original Storm suffer from lacking connectivity in one way or another.

Mail, Calendar, Contacts

Traveler, combined with the Apple's excellent touchscreen makes for a smooth and clear way to use my Notes email, calendar, and contacts; but only if I'm connected. If I'm off the wifi then all that data rapidly ages, and while a fair bit is cached, not all of it is and I get error boxes to dismiss telling me that it can't connect. This would be less an issue of course, if I used an iPhone that was always connected. The Berry, on the other hand, is just always up to date and seems to have 'data in depth'. When it comes to my mail and calendar, everything is there quickly and efficiently. It works and it works well -- except that formatting isn't very good. In addition, the BES is expensive and prone to problems created by RIM's license management while Traveler doesn't have those issues. RIM does, however, have a more enterprise friendly management and security tool set.

When both devices are available and have connectivity, I find I prefer to use the iTouch for mail, so I'm giving points to Apple + Traveler for that section.

Entertain Me

I made this a distinct category from the rest of the UI because media playing is what iTouch was built to do -- and it does a great job. I particularly like the simple innovations -- for example, my Sony earbuds have a very simple and tiny remote volume control and pause button in easy reach. The sheer size of the add-on market for gadgetry also adds a lot to the enjoyment of the iTouch. I use slingbox, music, audible books, and simple games on the iTouch comfortably. The Storm is particularly bad at this. Sure, it can play some video -- but not well. It can play music, but I'm spending too much time messing with the device to enjoy it. Slingbox isn't supported on the storm, and I've only got Audible to work on it once -- and badly.

Points to Apple as a media player - no shock.

There's an APP for That

Both the Storm and the iTouch have app stores. If you jailbreak the iTouch there are even alternate app stores as there are on the Berry. Apple's is better. I got more free apps and one or two good paid apps very quickly on the iTouch while the Storm has some great ones, but they're harder to find and get going with. That said, BerryWeather is the cats pants -- love that app. Many of the apps on iTouch would be a ton better if they'd run in the background - but they don't and that really gives the Storm a fighting chance. What good is Skype on the iTouch if you have to close it to do anything else? Twitter is nearly as bad.

Points are split here. The iTouch has some great apps, but the whole app experience is limited by Apple's control tactics and complete lack of mutli-tasking ability.

Does Multi-Tasking Matter?

It really does. As much as I enjoy the iTouch, having to close out what you're doing in order to look at that email you just got a polite chime about -- or check the calendar, make a phone call, etc -- is a real drawback and immediately painful. Restarting twitter or skype from scratch each time you want to pop in takes all the fun out, and I'd really like to be able to suspend an active ssh, vnc, or remote desktop session while I look at an email for information I need in that session.

Lack of multitasking puts the iTouch in a very deep hole on the point -- and it's a hole that really does impact my daily use of the device.

User Interface

The iTouch is beautiful, responsive, and a delight to operate with your fingertips -- it's pop up keyboard is more accurate for me to use than the Storm's -- though I wish I could map a few symbol keys to the main keyboard. Apple's little product also fits very comfortably in my pocket, and its innovative remote control features (like the pause & volume on my Sony earbuds) really make a nice difference as I don't have to fish around for the player to start and stop it. On the other hand, the lack of a back button -- seen as unnecessary since you can only do one thing at a time -- and the inability to carry spare batteries are not as nice. Battery time when watching video over the wifi is very short. I picked up a nice (and very small) Lenmar power pack to supplement the battery and recharge it a few times between visits to a wall socket.

Apple falls down though, on a few key features. Aside from the multi-tasking failure (which leads to all kinds of UI problems), you can't really re-organize your apps into categorized pages at all, and you can't customize the icon screen pages for color and background. You can re-order icons on the same page, but moving them from page to page is apparently something Apple didn't think you'd want to do. I'm told there are ways around these things if you jailbreak your iTouch or iPhone, but that's not how it's sold.

The Storm's UI has been the subject of a ton of love-hate (mostly hate) blogs. As someone who's grown to use it, I can say that it's "pretty good". The more recent OS updates have made it snappy (and the Storm 2 is quite a bit snappier) and you do get very used to it. Lack of multi-touch zoom is really the biggest missing feature. The click-feel thing is easy to get used to and it's keyboard is at least more useable than say, droid's, for someone with big fingers. Multi-tasking makes the Storm so much stronger though. Having your IM client, ssh shell, browser, twitter, etc. open and quickly available to switch back and forth makes doing things with the Storm much nicer.

Overall, Apple gets a win on UI -- as you'd expect -- but frankly not by a very big margin.

Conclusion

I really enjoy the Apple and it's very good at entertaining me, while the Storm is the more solid work tool. Neither is perfect, but both are more than adequate.


There are  - loading -  comments....

re: Comparing the iTouch/iPhone with the Blackberry Storm from a Notes Mail user & Geek perspectiveBy David Leedy on 12/11/2009 at 08:10 AM EST
Andrew,
Great post. While I know a fair bit about Apple products, I don't know much
about Blackberries so it's always informative to see direct comparisons.

One thing I wanted to mention about the icons on the Touch... You can move them
to different pages on the device itself - though it's not something I'd want to
do for lots of icon moves. So to help this, what they did was build into
iTunes an interface to let you drag icons around from your computer. So it is
possible to categorize your icons by page - it's just all manually done. Note
that there used to be an 8 page limit to icons. I'm not sure if that's been
expanded or not. It may have.

I did get to play with a Storm 2 for just a little bit to do some testing... I
had a real problem having to click and press the screen in.. Being on the
iPhone for so long made that really difficult for me I guess.
re: Comparing the iTouch/iPhone with the Blackberry Storm from a Notes Mail user & Geek perspectiveBy Jim knight on 12/12/2009 at 05:21 PM EST
I can't see the full comment dialog on my iPhone but you can have some
background capabilities with 'backgrounder' from cydia on a jailbroken iPhone
itouch. Haven't tested with skype but use it for pandora.
re: Comparing the iTouch/iPhone with the Blackberry Storm from a Notes Mail user & Geek perspectiveBy Sal on 12/15/2009 at 12:13 PM EST
ipod touch is not a phone
storm is a phone

comparison fail
I'm laughing you!By Andrew Pollack on 12/15/2009 at 01:12 PM EST
User Comment Fail, Sal --

If you read the review, you'll see that I spent a fair bit of time talking
about exactly that -- and NOT comparing the phone aspects with respect to
actually making or receiving calls. I also comment about the limitations of
the berry in wifi and the itouch in cell service -- suggesting that if you were
to compare the iPhone to the Storm 2, you'd be making a much more equal
comparison and could then comment on cell connectivity and phone calling.

So, thanks for the comment, but next time, RTFM.
re: Comparing the iTouch/iPhone with the Blackberry Storm from a Notes Mail user & Geek perspectiveBy Nicholas on 12/15/2009 at 06:00 PM EST
Addition points to ponder, comparing the iTouch with MIFI to the Storm is
really two against one.

I've gotten the Audible app to work just fine. It was updated in November and
does a fair job now.

The Storm has a very decent and now, reasonably quick camera.

The Storm has GPS and the iTouch does not. One of my favorite features is to
use GPS while listening to Audible on my Storm. Try that on the iTouch.

Also the unified message folder is great on the Storm and Apple Push, when it
works, is all over the place.
re: Comparing the iTouch/iPhone with the Blackberry Storm from a Notes Mail user & Geek perspectiveBy Andrew Pollack on 12/15/2009 at 06:08 PM EST
iTouch with myfi is definitely two against one, but it does come closer to what
the iPhone is in that you have connectivity pretty much anywhere.

The only "Fair" (if such a thing were to exist) comparison would be, as I said,
Storm2 vs. iPhone -- but I think my comparisons take that into account and
stand on their own.

The new Audible app does work, but I've found it impossibly slow. The GPS is a
good point, though again if we're doing a real comparison it would be iPhone vs
Storm2 in which case GPS is available on both. I've used gps with audible on
the Garmin Nuvi and found it cool at first, but annoying after a bit.

The Apple push messaging works very well for us Domino enterprise mail types
with IBM's "Traveler" add on to the Domino 8.5.1 server -- but again, you have
to be connected to wireless of cellular for it to work.

The multitasking continues to be the real advantage of the Berry vs. the
iPhone, and for many people it makes up for the UI which clearly isn't as slick
and smooth as the iPhone.
re: Comparing the iTouch/iPhone with the Blackberry Storm from a Notes Mail user & Geek perspectiveBy John Dillon on 12/16/2009 at 04:02 AM EST
Thanks, Andrew, for the thoughtful (and fair to a fault) analysis, with all the
caveats clearly stated up front.

I've been looking at a replacement phone that uses Lotus Notes Traveler,
through Sprint (since I get 24% company discount). Sprint Store salesman have
no clue about Traveler, nor do the sales tags show Traveler-capable phones,
though the MS and Android logos are highly visible. IBM and Sprint need to
improve their marketing, and train their sales staff--a press release on the
IBM web site simply isn't enough.

Unfortunately, the phone I'll probably buy, and the one with the most
appropriate name, doesn't support Traveler: the LG Lotus. Go figure.... I've
been told it's Linux under the covers.
re: Comparing the iTouch/iPhone with the Blackberry Storm from a Notes Mail user & Geek perspectiveBy Rofi Neron on 12/28/2009 at 09:21 AM EST
that is only valid with Domino 8.x and later
I'm running Domino 7.0.2 and iPhone is a bug problem
not too big...By Andrew Pollack on 12/28/2009 at 02:22 PM EST
If you're "in license" then adding a purpose-built 8.5.1 server with traveler
on it and not doing anything else should be a very easy thing to do. It
wouldn't need much in the way of hardware either for doing just that one thing.

I'm not sure what you expect your 7.0.2 server to do in terms of supporting the
iPhone. That product didn't exist when the 7.0.2 server was released.


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