Long Term Review- iPhone vs. Blackberry vs. Windows Mobile
Nov 4, 2008 at 6:11 AM Thread Starter Post #1 of 13

dgbiker1

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Synopsis:
This review is meant to serve as a long-term review of each platform. What are these phones like after you're done playing and you have to start living with them? I've spent an average of 6 months with each of these phones to get to know them inside and out.
I would still love to try an Android phone (maybe when Android is available on better hardware). Symbian is also noticeably absent, but the real battle in the US is BB-WM-iPhone. You just can't get a decent symbian phone from the networks. Several iPhone-like phones have also come out for much cheaper (LG Voyager, Samsung Glyde), but all lack features that are necessary for me to actually consider them.

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Contenders:
-Apple iPhone 3G, 8GB
-Blackberry 8830 World Phone
-Samsung SCH-i730 Windows Mobile 5, Touchscreen, QWERTY keyboard

Reviewer's Tilt:
A little background on myself is probably necesarry to understand what I look for in a phone. I started using Windows Mobile back in 2001 (then called PocketPC OS) on PDAs. As I went to college, the PDA sat in the closet collecting dust and I went on using typical cell phones for the next several years.
Fast-forward to the iPhone release. Increased work load and being constantly on the run, I decide it's time to get a smartphone (an iPod+phone+PDA+wallet+keys is just too much to carry in my pockets).
My background is in human factors and biomechanics. My graduate thesis work studied human-machine interaction and I now work as a design engineer with a heavy focus in biomechanics.
This drives my experience with these devices significantly. Whereas many reviews focus specifically on technical specs, I take a human-in-the-loop approach that looks at the performance of the overall system- human and device. I don't care how powerful a device is if it's clunky- these phones are ultimately tools that should let you get the job done.

Design and Cool-Factor: 1st- BB, 2nd- iPhone, 3rd- WM
It will probably come as little surprise that the iPhone handily wins the design category. It has a gorgeous (if scratch prone on the back) case, perfect weight, and feels incredibly solid. Anybody that says it's fragile probably hasn't even touched one.
What is surprising is that, to me, the blackberry had the edge on cool-factor. Whereas the iPhone has become the toy of choice for just about everybody, the blackberry still has the high-end business cachet, especially the top-of-the-line 8830 (a pink Pearl, maybe not so much). You just feel more serious pulling out a BB than the sorority-girl-favorite iPhone.
The Windows Mobile phone can't compete on either front. As has been my experience with every WM phone I've tried, they just all feel like cheap plastic toys. Whereas the iPhone and BB feel like solid blocks of material, the WM phones all have noticeable flex and creak. They are often covered with little hooks, fastener holes, doors, and other blemishes that get caught and/or show wear and tear very quickly as paint rubs off.

Price (Phone + Contract): 1st- iPhone, 2nd- WM, 3rd- BB
The first generation iPhone was, in my opinion, not worth the up-front cost (Yes, I know the 3G is more expensive after 2 years of contract...). At $300 for the 8GB 3G, I think the new version is a bargain. High-end WM phones with touchscreens will easily fetch over $300 (ie the SCH-i730, XV6800) with fewer usable features and less on-board memory.
I don't have much to say about the BB phones price-wise. The pricepoints for the Pearl, 8830, and Curve all seem perfectly reasonable.
Where BB loses this round is with plan costs. The BB monthly rate was more expensive than the iPhone and WM voice+data plans, and I wasn't even paying for Verizon to unlock the GPS (how I loathe Verizon....)

Features and Usability: 1st- iPhone, 2nd- BB, Undeserving of rank- WM
This is where Microsoft has a LONG way to go to catch up to anybody. The phone I used last year (and the new WM6 phones are the same), works exactly like the PocketPC PDA I used in 2001 with a fancier theme pack. These phones still rely on the user closing programs through Windows Settings> Memory (some fanboys will argue you should always do this as a good user, I say that's BS from a cognitive-model point of view). The other two phones manage their memory on their own, WM expects the user to do it. When you forget, or just don't have time to do your phone's job for it, it will crash. Often. A typical day on the WM phone saw 3 hard resets. The BB had a total of 2 resets. The iPhone, none. WM is crap. Period.
Trying to use WiFi on a WM phone on anything but a security-free network is futile. On an unsecure network, it's still a painful process as the phone tries to connect to every network it's ever connected to, even if it's across the country and completely out of range. I won't even get into VPN networks with WM. WiFi on the iPhone has actually been simpler than any computer I've ever used.
WM is pretty barebones overall, it has a good task list, decent calendar, worthless browser, worthless mail, and solitaire. It does have office, but saying that's of any use is like saying the Quattro on an Audi R8 makes it a good offroader, document editing on a phone is a ridiculous concept. WM does have a lot of 3rd party software available, but in 8 months I never found anything worthwhile and/or stable.
The BB felt like the most closed system of the three, but I was never wanting more from it. It has a great calendar, good task list, google maps, great mail program, and an okay browser. The BB definitely felt far better integrated and consistent than the WM phone.
From an end-user perspective, the criticism of the "closed system" of the iPhone is ludicrous. With the App store, I've been able to download a ton of excellent free apps. The browser is far better than the other two phones, calendar is good, mail is good (almost BB good), and apps are consistently good across the board (task list leaves a lot to be desired though).
I have to emphasize that the usability of the WM phone is absolutely horrible. It's mind-boggling that huge 9-year-old flaws are still so prevalent in the system. This is where a long term test was valuable, I could live with the problems for the first couple months, but it became unbearable at around the 6-month mark. As far as I'm concerned, this OS isn't clunky, it's broken.
Interestingly, the iPhone is the laggiest of the bunch with all of the eye-candy animations. Techies will take that to mean it's the slowest, I disagree. As I said, I'm more interested in human-in-the-loop metrics. The time it takes me to turn on the phone, check my mail, and respond to a message is much quicker on the iPhone than the other two. On the iPhone, it's all only a couple of taps and swipes to get done. The BB requires a little extra scrolling. The WM requires pulling out the stylus, tapping impossibly small icons, navigating menus, etc....

Media Features: 1st- iPhone, 2nd- WM, 3rd- BB
Much of the appeal of the iPhone had to do with media. In stock form, it absolutely blows away WM and BB. Even better, with the Remote app, I can control my iTunes over WiFi, sending the data wirelessly to my DAC in the living room for listening sessions without dragging out the laptop. As a standalone player, the iPod function is far better than WM's Windows Media Player. BB's media features generally felt tacked-on and limited.

Overall 1st- iPhone, 2nd- BB, in a distant 3rd- WM
The only real competition was between the BB and the iPhone, and I can only assume it will get closer with the new BB Bold and Storm phones. In it's current form, WM is grossly outdated and terribly designed. The only person I would consider recommending a WM phone to is somebody that wants to tinker with registries, spend time maintaining the OS, and generally playing with/hacking the phone. Viewing the phone as a tool, I prefer something more streamlined that doesn't impede my work- WM just doesn't fit that bill. iPhone and BB are far more efficient tools. The iPhone gets the edge over the BB due primarily to the additional features and usability, but I was very happy with both. The explosion in apps for the iPhone has just made it a more valuable tool for media, navigation, events, restaurants, etc. than the BB.
 
Nov 4, 2008 at 6:27 AM Post #2 of 13

Rednamalas1

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great stuff!

I would love to see this review with either blackberry bold or javelin when you get a hold of either one. My bold was quite an upgrade over 8830 IMO. Especially with ridiculously fast processor and loads of ram. when you get one, you'll see why
wink.gif
(then again, this is BB fanboy speaking)
wink.gif
cheers!
 
Nov 4, 2008 at 7:56 AM Post #3 of 13

owkia

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Personally, I've never had my Tilt with Windows Mobile 6.1 crash and I haven't turned it off in at least a few weeks. I check the task manager occaisionally to close any unwanted programs, but most close themselves pretty consistantly without needing my intervention. Sounds like more of a problem for you than for WM in general.
 
Nov 4, 2008 at 12:41 PM Post #4 of 13

jpelg

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First of all, great review! I really like your writing style, and it is organized in an easy-to-understand, yet informationally-complete manner. Would that all reviews were that well-written. Congrats & thanks. Perhaps you could include some Head-Fi relevant info, such as headphone-driving performance from their respective jacks, or their included media-playing apps?

I have used Windows Mobile since it was called Windows CE back in the day. I agree wholeheartedly that it has changed little since those days. My last incarnation was a T-Mobile MDA phone that was kinda neat when I first got it, but never stayed in use for longer than a couple of weeks at a time. I kept going back to my basic flip-phone. Now my wife uses it because she likes the full keyboard for texting. Crashing wasn't such an issue, although performance suffered greatly after a few apps were left lingering in memory.

I've resisted the iPhone craze, and do like the latest Blackberries. My brother, who is an ER physician, and a complete technophobe (if he has to read a manual, fuggetaboutit!), and he loves his 8830. Moreso than the Palm Treo 650 I gave him prior.

I'm at a point where I'd consider another PDA phone if the overall design was right. Your review has reignited my interest.

Btw, I am fascinated with your educational & professional background. Sounds very cool.
 
Nov 4, 2008 at 3:48 PM Post #5 of 13

M0T0XGUY

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You really have to use an iPhone to appreciate its functionality. It has probably the best OS of anything - computer, phone or otherwise - I've ever used.
 
Nov 4, 2008 at 4:16 PM Post #6 of 13

krmathis

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Great review indeed!
smily_headphones1.gif

..and nice to see that iPhone stand out on top. I really need to get one soon..
 
Nov 5, 2008 at 1:05 AM Post #7 of 13

dgbiker1

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Quote:

Originally Posted by jpelg /img/forum/go_quote.gif
First of all, greatPerhaps you could include some Head-Fi relevant info, such as headphone-driving performance from their respective jacks, or their included media-playing apps?


I should have mentioned that the reason I hardly talked about this is that I've been disappointed by all 3 to some degree. The BB and WM phones had 2.5mm jacks, and their poor media player applications never gave me enough incentive to buy an adapter. The iPhone has the advantage of a great media player app and a 3.5mm jack, but I'm disappointed by all the confusion surrounding the line-out capabilities of the device. Out of the headphone jack, the iPhone is better than my 3G nano, but the nano has a usable line-out. The iPhone is great in a pinch (ie at work), but not the best sounding portable. I would love to find a LOD cable for the iPhone to use my Mini^3 though.

Quote:

Originally Posted by jpelg /img/forum/go_quote.gif
I've resisted the iPhone craze, and do like the latest Blackberries. My brother, who is an ER physician, and a complete technophobe (if he has to read a manual, fuggetaboutit!), and he loves his 8830.


The 8830 is great. I would say the software is even more polished and solid than the iPhone since it's been through so many more years of iterations. I can't wait to see their new OS in person.
 
Nov 5, 2008 at 7:42 AM Post #8 of 13

Edwood

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Nice review. But the iPhone has an unfair advantage as being the latest tech, with your Samung being very old and nearly obsolete.

HTC has done wonders for Windows Mobile. I've been a Palm user since the very first Palm Pilot, and I made the switch to Windows Mobile a few years ago. HTC has kept me coming back. My newest phone is the HTC Touch Pro. I absolutely love it.

I never really got into Blackberries. Never liked their User Interface, and could never stomach the extra money just for their email service. I'm not a push email junkie.

And I'm just allergic to apples.
 
Nov 6, 2008 at 6:47 PM Post #9 of 13

frank99

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Nice review.

What I hate Windows mobile most is its stylus based operating interface. The font on the contact page are so small, it is so hard to see the name clearly outdoor, and I have to use one hand to hold the phone and use the other hand to hold the stylus pen. So I can't browse my contact list while I am walking...

After iphone, there are some finger friendly iPhone clone software for windows mobile which let me just use one hand to browse the contact list and make dial.

what a shame, Microsoft spent so much money on their UI research, but still haven't figured out how to design a phone finger friendly.
 
Nov 7, 2008 at 3:54 AM Post #10 of 13

gilency

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Great review. I am in the process of upgrading. Unfortunately ATT is not good where I live. Poor reception, so the iPhone is out.
I am waiting for the BB Bold in Sprint.
I played with the HTC Pro at the store. Looks nice but previous experience with WM makes me leery of buying it.
 
Nov 7, 2008 at 4:48 AM Post #11 of 13

Shike

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You need to play with WM 6.1.

WM5 was pretty crappy, but worked.

WM6 improved performance a little, but still had the settings>system>etc crap in it. Improved email management, which you haven't had the chance of testing . . .

WM6.1, access task manager by clicking top right hand of screen. Select program, end. And that's IF it doesn't close on its own. Browser now has proper zoom functional. Threaded convos have been added. Oh, did I mention the speed increase is more substantial now due to changing of DLL handling?


As for your "no software worth DLing" sentiment. How about a MIDlet manager which allows use of mobile java application, such as Opera Mobile? There's also a video pack that allows youtube and other online video to work. How about Skype?

As for WiFi, it can be a bit stubborn I agree. Yet all you really need to do is access the com manager and you can select any network and set it up however you want.

I think this can be surmised simply by saying "NEWS FLASH: OUTDATED OS IS OUTDATED!"

Also, IMO the Touch is pretty crap. Try the TITAN 400 if you're serious. For example, texting is one physical button press away and a kickout keyboard. You can also assign specific programs to keys if you want. For example, if you want to use a 3rd party mobile mail system you can assign that to the mail button.
 
Nov 10, 2008 at 12:09 AM Post #12 of 13

milkpowder

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Thanks a lot for the review. I'm still split as to which of the three (or four including Symbian) to get. I've been using S60 based Nokias for a while now and there seems to be so many nice operating systems.

Sony Ericsson's take on WM6.1 with the X1 XPERIA seems amazing and so do HTC's efforts (Touch Diamond and the recently introduced Touch Pro). Then there's the RIM Blackberry Storm and the newest generation of S60s found in the likes of the Nokia N96 and Samsung i8150. Just to muddy up the waters even more, there's the Android-running T-Mobile G1 and of course the yardstick against which everything is measured - the vernerable iPhone 3G.

Competition is great, but it just makes the consumer confused. I'm leaning on the WM6.1-based X1 XPERIA at the moment.
 
Jan 31, 2009 at 6:21 AM Post #13 of 13

gilency

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Well, I went with the Storm and no regrets. True, iPhone is wonderful, but its pitiful reception in my are precluded its choice. I have been tweaking my Storm and have found some great apps. Couldn't be happier. (at least until a better phone comes out)
 

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