If the iPhone’s many competitors and imitators had a rallying cry as they unleashed the latest set of products designed to topple Apple’s sleek smartphone from its position atop the market, “Take that, iPhone” might be it. But “take that, Blackberry” might be more apt — at least if Yale students have anything to say about it.
In a Yale Daily News poll e-mailed to 650 Yale undergraduates this week, 30 percent of the 159 respondents said they own a smartphone, with owners of BlackBerrys, the iPhone’s rival, outnumbering iPhone owners by about 3 percent. Yet the number of those who said they would like to own an iPhone was almost double that of those who want a BlackBerry. And with the newest BlackBerry — the large, elegant Bold — on the market as of yesterday, and the touch-screen Storm to follow on November 14th, it seems the old iPhone vs. Blackberry war is as fiery as ever.
The iPhone has dominated cell phone industry buzz over the past year, spawning a host of copycats and challengers, from the Samsung Instinct to the LG Vu to the Nokia N78.
But no competitor is as tough as the BlackBerry, made by the Canadian company Research In Motion since 1999. The debate over which smartphone is cooler, faster, sleeker and stronger is so intense, in fact, that it has even inspired a new Web site, www.BlackBerryvsiPhone.com. (The site, decorated in neon green and black, solemnly proclaims, “The phone wars rage on,” and “The battle continues.”)
RIM has expanded its offerings with three new BlackBerry smartphones — the clamshell Pearl Flip 8220 and most recently, the Bold and Storm. Even Google has joined the fray with its T-Mobile G1, which is manufactured by HTC but runs Google Android software. Over half the respondents to the News poll said they had heard of the G1, but it seems the Google label is not enough to entice most students: only seven percent said they would like to own it, compared to 45 percent for the iPhone and 24 for a BlackBerry. With touch screens, Internet browsing, e-mail capabilities, music players and GPS navigation systems, these phones offer all of the features of an iPhone — but are better, say competitors.
Although BusinessWeek once breathlessly called the BlackBerry–iPhone rivalry “a battle for thumbs and ears,” the magazine needn’t have bothered to change the familiar cliché. Fans of each device are often fiercely partisan, with not only their thumbs and ears but also their hearts and minds closely attached to their phones.
“All of my friends who’ve had BlackBerrys and iPhones liked their BlackBerry more,” one respondent to the survey said. “I love my BlackBerry.”
But others disagreed. “I’ve used a BlackBerry before, and I’d use an iPhone over a BlackBerry anytime,” Levent Tuzun ’11 countered. Tuzun said he preferred the iPhone because it allowed him to combine several functions in one device.
“I don’t want to have a phone and 60 other devices,” he said. “It’s one thing that lets me do everything in a functional way.”
Genevieve Bates ’12 and Meaghan Watters ’12, two other BlackBerry devotees, said that they frequently use their BlackBerrys to send text messages, something the physical keyboard — missing from the iPhone — makes more convenient.
Asked why she was so partial to her phone, Bates said, “It’s amazing, and it controls my life.” The BlackBerry’s personal organization features appeal to both corporate users and Yale students. For 24 percent of poll respondents, personal organization was the most important feature of a smartphone.
Watters added that the phone is great for e-mail. E-mail capability has always been a strength of the BlackBerry, which allows users to send e-mails with fonts, italics, bolds and pictures, as well as to open and edit attachments. Although the iPhone can display attachments and formatted e-mails, it cannot send them.
But the iPhone does have the edge in surfing the Internet, students interviewed said. With a wider screen and the option of pinching and dragging fingertips to zoom in or out on a Web page, the Internet experience on an iPhone is “seamless,” as iPhone owner Abigail Owen-Pontez ’12 put it.
The iPhone’s sheer “coolness” and ease of use may outweigh the BlackBerry’s functionality, she said.
“Everything I wish it would have, it just has it … plus being a cell phone,” Owen-Pontez said. Even the staunch BlackBerry supporters interviewed agreed that they would rather use their iPods than their BlackBerrys to listen to music and play games.
Fans of each smartphone may want to rethink their allegiances with the recent introduction of the new BlackBerrys as well as of the new “Google phone.” Like the iPhone, these new devices can run mini-applications downloaded from online “app stores.” They also include some basic features that the iPhone still lacks, including a copy and paste function and picture and video messaging.
For the undecided or merely indifferent, however, the convenience of upgrading through a pre-existing wireless plan may win the day. Ryan Carter ’11 said he would upgrade to a BlackBerry because of his T-Mobile plan, which will allow him to buy the phone for about $30, and Jessica Hunter ’10 said she decided to buy an iPhone because she had an existing AT&T plan but wouldn’t have switched plans to get it.
Of course, Apple, RIM, Google and all of their competitors are also trying to expand the variety of provider plans that carry their phones, making the competition even more aggressive. Let the phone wars rage on.