The Joplin Globe, Joplin, MO

February 15, 2013

Joe Hadsall: BlackBerry's last-ditch devices hard to champion

By Joe Hadsall
Globe Features Editor

JOPLIN, Mo. — BlackBerry is making it hard for me to be a cheerleader for its new phones. The company has pushed all-in with devices that should help it regain its once-proud market status, but I don't think it's going to be enough.

Let me back up a bit: Like most geeks I know, I love what I love and I stick by it, because I choose what I love carefully. I chose Blackberry about five years ago. I decided I was sick of carrying a PDA and a cellphone. Though I loved my Palm Pilot, the company's line of cellphones was dying out, so I jumped into BlackBerry's world.

I resisted at first. I opted out of the then-mandatory BlackBerry data service (a separate charge in addition to any Internet data), because I didn't want to receive emails via a smartphone yet. So I got a BlackBerry Curve, which had pretty powerful PDA functions, a tolerable camera and easy text entry with a full keyboard.

Once I got used to the BlackBerry OS, I fell in love with it. My favorite part was how contacts, dates and to-do lists integrated seamlessly in a way reminiscent of my old Palm Pilots.

A year ago I decided that I was finally ready for a data plan, so I upgraded to the BlackBerry Torch 9810. I love this phone -- it features the same integration of PDA function, has a good vertical screen and offers a full QWERTY keyboard. Its trackpad offers mouse-like screen precision, and its camera is powerful enough to do most of what I need it to do. Combined with some smartphone camera lenses, it's been a good phone for me.

But in the year I've been enjoying my Torch, Samsung has released the Galaxy S3 and Apple has released the iPhone 5. It kills me to say this, but both of those phones are superior to my beloved BlackBerry.

The S3 has a crazy-fast processor and beautiful screen, as well as an impressive battery. It's arguably the best smartphone on the market. Though Apple's iPhone 5 is not as good, I've seen Siri put to the test in real world, could-miss-a-flight conditions and it performed admirably. And that phone's camera does unnaturally beautiful things in low-light -- such that any photographer would drool over what it can do.

Why have I not flocked to one of those superior devices yet? Lot of reasons: I'm loyal, I'm a cheapskate, I gotta have a real keyboard, the OS is superior.

That last part is actually arguably true: The Droid-powered S3 features all the strange quirks of any Droid system, including the ability to break in a multitude of ways. While Apple's iOS is stable, it's simple and limited.

Blackberry's OS is multi-functional and contextual. Anyone who plows through a PC with a mouse's right click feels right at home with a BlackBerry. The OS collects all my social media applications seamlessly, gives me detailed control over everything from fonts to battery life and makes management very easy.



New devices, new hope

Never mind all the things I love, because I'm not the typical smartphone consumer, who apparently wants to do nothing but take high-res pictures, ruin those beautiful pictures with Instagram filters and play ÒAngry Birds" between photo sessions.

BlackBerry is at a clear disadvantage in apps: Droid and iOS offer hundreds of thousands of apps, and some of them are pretty good. The pickings in BlackBerry's App World are pretty slim, and there's barely any good ones.

That lack of apps is one of the reasons that the mighty has fallen. BlackBerry has long been the choice of business-savvy users, but the software development for other devices has escalated enough to force many of those BlackBerry loyalists to other devices.

That's why Blackberry's new devices are so important for the future of the company.

In March, it will release the Z10, an all-touchscreen device