Battle of the Gadgets: The Smartphone Wars

Locations in this article:  San Diego, CA

iphone mainWith RIM’s introduction of the BlackBerry Bold and Apple’s announcement that its upcoming iPhone 2.0 will target business users, the battle is on for the business market.

Gadget guru Phil Baker investigates …


Each has taken a different approach to its overall design.

The BlackBerry platform is highly regarded for its thumb keyboard, making typing on the pocket-sized device now practical.

Apple has taken a different approach with the iPhone. It has adopted an on-screen keyboard that appears when needed and disappears when not. That allows the full screen to be used for other applications, such as Web browsing, watching iTunes videos, TV programs and YouTube. For its current target audience, the general consumer, that’s been a good compromise.

The iPhone’s keyboard has met resistance from business users. It’s still prone to errors and has few of the shortcuts that the BlackBerry has, such as typing a few letters for a phrase.

Blackberry CurveIn my comparison testing the iPhone’s typing speed is about a one-third slower than the BlackBerry Curve, and requires a lot more use of the backspace key to correct errors.

I currently carry the Curve (at right), in addition to my iPhone, and gravitate to it for sending email. Not only for its ease of typing, but also for its superior push email (delivered to the phone automatically).

It’s faster than the iPhone, even though they both use the same pokey AT&T Edge network.


blackberry bold displayThe iPhone has one feature even jaded business users appreciate: It has a full browser that makes it the first (and so far, only) smartphone that lets you access Web sites in full view just as you do on a computer.

The iPhone’s touch screen, which supports finger gestures, makes viewing, panning and zooming a breeze. The BlackBerry Bold, on the other hand, has a smaller display with no touch-screen interface to navigate or zoom as easily.


In its next model, Apple needs to add new capabilities including search, cut and paste, and editing of Office attachments.

And AT&T needs to provide an all-you-can-use data plan for international use as it does with the BlackBerry.

In fact, that’s why I carry a Curve along with my iPhone, for using email overseas.


BlackBerry Bold

  • A modern version of the existing BlackBerry models in a black with a silver metal frame case resembling the iPhone, still half keyboard and half screen
  • Fast 624-MHz processor (twice that of previous models), lets you use data and phone at the same time
  • The highest resolution screen (480 x 320), twice that of earlier models, and sharper than the larger iPhone screen with the same number of pixels
  • A music player that works with your iTunes
  • Built-in GPS and maps with navigation
  • Built-in 3G HSDPA data network (translation: fast download speed)
  • Wi-Fi
  • Improved user interface that looks like the iPhone

Apple iPhone 2.0

  • Nearly-identical form factor as the current model, but with an all-plastic back instead of aluminum
  • Fast 3G HSPDA data network (again: it downloads quickly)
  • Wi-Fi
  • Retains its sealed-in battery, preventing using an extra for more time
  • Built-in GPS and maps
  • Some software additions including the ability to search contacts
  • Same on-screen keyboard
  • Available in July from AT&T and September from Verizon, Sprint and T-Mobile


In truth, we’ll all be the real winners as the prices come down to perhaps $299 for both products.

With BlackBerry having the larger chunk of the business market, it’s likely to lose some of its share to Apple, but the iPhone will be hampered by the keyboard, limiting the success of the current model. BlackBerry has the two advantages business users want most: a real keyboard and removable batteries for the power-hungry 3G chips.

What do I recommend? Depends on what’s most important to you: If it’s email, then buy the Bold, and if it’s browsing, go for the iPhone.

However, keep in mind that I also expect both Apple and RIM will offer new models later in the year: an iPhone with a real keyboard and a BlackBerry with a larger touch screen.

And the war will continue …

By Phil Baker, originally published in the San Diego Transcript. Read Phil’s blog at

Check out these other related articles on

Top Mobile Phones for Travelers in 2008

Gadgets for Business Travelers on the Go

Thin Is In: MacBook Air Vs. PC Thinkpad

Or view the complete Travel Gadgets section.