The Nokia N810, the BlackBerry, or the iPhone?

by David Spark on December 28, 2007

This post comes per a recent comment from Nicolas Schriver, frequent reader and contributor to The Spark Minute.

When it comes to smart devices, what should I get? The Nokia N810, the BlackBerry, or the iPhone? Nicolas is not the first to ask that question or something similar. I’m not a hardcore gadget geek, but still I’m asked this question and I’m sure plenty of my colleagues are asked this question as well. Here’s how I feel about all of these devices and smart devices in a nutshell.

The Nokia N810: I received this device for my contribution in the Nokia video. My initial reaction is it drove me nuts. There was so much it couldn’t do out of the box, but after playing it a while and configuring it, I started to see the value. Problem is it’s far from being an iPhone killer. The iPhone and the iPod Touch work out of the box and they’re intuitive. The Nokia N810 isn’t. The whole market for Internet tablets have been taking years to grow and it’s unclear in their current state if there’s an audience. They’re kind of falling into a no-man’s land between a BlackBerry/Treo as an email communications device, an iPhone but only with VoIP if you can get an Internet connection, and a portable Web browser that’s not nearly as intuitive to use as the multitouch iPhone and iPod Touch. Right now the device is truly for geeks and it’s yet to reach a major consumer audience.

BlackBerry: A few years ago, my first episode hosting The Communications Insider, Sprint’s podcast, I interviewed someone at Sprint about the productivity advantages of mobile email. One study claimed that for extremely mobile employees, having a mobile device with mobile email capabilities added an hour of productivity to their day. For people who really need the ability to respond to emails in the moment for their job, a BlackBerry or Treo is a necessary device to have. For those people who think it would be fun to have, I highly recommend they DON’T purchase one. Here’s why. Once people KNOW you’ve got a portable device like a BlackBerry or Treo, they expect you to respond to their emails immediately. The excuse of “I haven’t checked my email yet” doesn’t hold water when you’ve got a BlackBerry or Treo. And if you purchase a BlackBerry, you’ll be broadcasting the fact that you have it. Every email sent from a BlackBerry says, “This message sent from a BlackBerry.” Personally, if people really need to get a hold of me they can call me on my mobile or SMS me. In general, my emails are not urgent that everything needs a sub-10 minute response. I don’t need these devices.

The iPhone: This is the first smart device properly marketed to non-business users. This device has been created completely negating the number one application for smart devices, which is email. It can be argued that email’s success on smart devices is primarily a factor of the iPhone’s predecessors, the BlackBerry and Treo. But the fact that the keyboard is designed for one finger and you can’t touch type, it makes emails considerably slower to type than on a BlackBerry or Treo. My main concern with the iPhone is the required commitment. I despise mobile phone contracts. But in the U.S. the only way to keep a mobile customer is by forcing them to sign a contract. I find two-year contracts obscene and I won’t sign one and I highly recommend no one else sign one. That’s why I haven’t purchased an iPhone. I have though purchased an iPod Touch which is the iPhone without the phone and that means no contract. I highly recommend the iPod Touch, but not to replace any smart devices, or as an Internet device. It’s a great video viewer, image viewer, and audio player.

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