I've been working on iPhone apps for the past three years and more recently we've been exploring Android and iPad apps as well. These are my first impressions of a Blackberry Bold:
- The lock-unlock button is hidden. It's in the upper frame of the phone but it's not even clear that it's a button. It can be pressed on the left side but not the right.
- On the phone I was using you can't touch the screen. Ok, you can but it doesn't get you anywhere.
- The Operating system is very much file/folder based. Apps live in a folder, within folders. The interface has no labels unless you hover over an icon. This is particularly bad as most built in icons are mono-tone. This is a classic example of "Mystery Meat Navigation"
- Overall there is a ton of inconsistency between various user interface screens. Some screens are skinned with a black chrome glow while others look like a page out of Windows 3.1.
- The typography across the phone is terrible
- The web-browser goes into a "mouse pointer mode." This is pretty bad and is the reality you face when you don't have a touch screen. It's the only way you can tap on a specific region of the screen.
- The camera seems adequate.
- Installing applications from the app-store is completely broken. I was able to install a couple apps like Facebook, Yelp and Twitter but the process was really confusing. Only determined users will do this. I was unable to pay for an app. It was just too much of a pain.
- Most aspect of the phone were inferior to Android and iPhone except for one, battery life. The thing lasted all day without issues and under a fair amount of use. No wonder the device is closely associated with email. The built-in keyboard and long battery life lend it well to email tasks.
What about the apps?
The apps that I explored were very inconsistent. Even across popular and built-in apps the UI was questionable and certainly not elegant. The developer strategy is confusing. If developers are worried about fragmentation the fear is much more real on BlackBerry then on Android. The platform actively sells multiple platforms, resolutions and capabilities:
- Torch 480 x 360
- Style 360x400
- Curve 320x240
- Pearl 360x400
- Bold 480x360
- Tour 480x360
- Storm 480x360
Across these phones you'll also find different capabilities across single lines of phones. This can make testing across devices to be challenging.
I think about BlackBerry in the same way that I think about Internet Explorer. You can't ignore it as it has a non-trivial market share but part of you is rooting for them to go away.