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Not the Droids You’re Looking For

March 22 2012

In a world obsessed with touch-screen smartphones, is there still room for those of us who think correcting touch-typos and sitting on airport floors to recharge batteries isn’t really all that cool? Here’s my take.

My decision to get a new Blackberry 9900 isn’t for everyone; but for me, it’s like a return to sanity after two years of constant phone trauma. Let me take you back in time: A long time ago, in a galaxy far, far away… oh, sorry, where was I? Ah, yes, it started with the release of the Samsung Vibrant, a phone so promisingly marketed that I switched from years of Blackberry ownership to the Android world. Yet within a few weeks, it was evident that the Vibrant was so poorly designed that its most touted feature – the ultra bright AMOLED screen – was its worst feature: Too bright to use at night (even on the lowest setting) and guaranteed to drain your battery by your tenth tweet (I barely exaggerate), it was a disaster of untested-in-the-real-world technology.

Eventually, I switched to a HTC Sensation. Alas, I was destined for a journey past Scylla and Charybdis. On one hand, battery life improved to a whopping four hour average; on the other, the antenna design was so poor that signal strength required an alignment of the planets. But  what really doomed that product, and so many other screen-touch typing handsets, was the impossibly inaccurate keynoard. Even after hacking the ROM and trying alternate keyboard layouts, my life became six-letters-forward-four-backspaced-back. Since voice dictation only works if you have a signal, it offered no solution. Still, I’ll take the blame and say that I simply couldn’t cross the distance from the analog keyboard to the VWLS NT NEEDD world of touch typing that casual smartphone users might find acceptable.

Which takes us to yesterday, when I decided to take back all those wasted hours fixing typos and seeking power outlets, and return to the keyboard accuracy and battery life of a Blackberry.

Now, I realize that these days, it’s fashionable to make fun of Blackberry devices. I’m the first one to recognize – with sadness – that the company is driving itself into the ground from a once lofty perch atop the smartphone industry. A number of rushed and poorly executed devices may have tarnished its image forever, especially against Apple’s nearly unbroken string of successes (Antennagate aside). Some people claim loyalty to Android devices – although I often wonder if it’s just an anti-Apple vote? I hear the Motorola series does have strong battery life, but if the cost is switching to Verizon, then no deal. Alas, few choices remained for me, a T-Mobile user who couldn’t get an iPhone and simply wouldn’t risk another Android’s claims.

Besides, I own an iPad 2, so I don’t need the “smartest” phone any more. I rarely used my HTC Sensation to browse the web or read news: Such things are much nicer on the full-page iPad. I simply need emails, tweets and calendar access on the go; maybe a Google search in a pinch. Yes, the camera is fun, whenever it’s not locking up the Android OS. As for GPS navigation, well, that requires battery life, right? So my smartphone can be less smart these days, especially if it has enough power to run from sunrise to sunset.

In fact, it started to make me wonder why anyone would pay $600 for a super-smart phone in the future (even if subsidized into your contract). As tablets take over for laptops, we’re less likely to be doing the “smart” stuff on pocket-sized screens. Returning to a “core” function phone makes a lot of sense: Checking vitals during the day shouldn’t require ultra-expensive technology. The trade off between slickness and usability has been settled not by a new smartphone, but by the tablet. Email, calendar, flight monitoring and car navigation, with a side of Facebook and Twitter should be able to run on anything. But as long as it’s smaller than an iPad, what is really needed is easier typing and longer battery life.

Thus, the return of the Blackberry.

Yes, iPhones have awesome battery life, but I still watch people who own them correct typos far too frequently. As for Androids, there are plenty of websites that purport to help you increase battery life: by turning off every cool feature. So what’s the point of owning a smartphone switched into dumb mode?

The improvements in usability since I switched back to a Blackberry are noticeable in just three days. I’ve gone without charging it for nearly a day and a half. I wasn’t anxious that I’d run out of power between breakfast and lunch, or navigating from the hotel to my client’s office. I won’t have to carry “extra” batteries any more.  Crisp keys have sped up my typing. I’m less worried a Facebook comment will end up on Lamebook due to a bizarre autocorrect. No, I won’t likely play Angry Birds on my Blackberry 9900; nor will I download lots of games, photo editing or video apps. I might even delete WordMole, just to save the memory.

But I also won’t notice one bit, because I always have my iPad with me, for a far better experience with all such things.

Best of all, you won’t see me be rooting around airport lounges, like a pig snouting for a plug, to recharge my phone. I won’t be fighting for a seat near a plug at the next Inman conference, or walk behind a presenter to plug my phone into the podium power strip (yes, desperate people do that). My Blackberry will remain svelt: no hump-backed extra-capacity batteries. It all makes so much sense. And for every app I might not get from Blackberry World, I can use the more-than-adequate browser to just go to the website and look up anything I want to learn, watch or buy.

As I said in the beginning of this post: A new Blackberry isn’t for everyone. Some people seem to enjoy sitting under the pay-phone outside an airport bathroom, recharging their ‘Droid. Others might be more proficient than I could ever become, touch-typing on their iPhone. But even then, there’s one thing I am certain I’d never do on my ‘Droid or iPhone that I’ve just done on my Blackberry:

Write a 1000+ word blog like this one.

So, this might not be post about the latest ‘Droid you’re looking for; Move along. Move along.

To view the original article, and for more exceptional content, visit Matthew Ferrara’s blog.