Gettin Smart, the BlackBerry Way

Yes, I know it is so five years ago, but my foray into smartphone ownership does not involve an iPhone or an Android.  This winter I got my very first BlackBerry.

FergieThis Christmas Eve, our beloved hellion Fergie knocked my cellphone into the bathtub with her paw. We took it apart and tried to dry the phone out overnight, but the red water detector of death had already cast its shadow over my poor Samsung.  Luckily, we were able to salvage the SIM card and transfer it to a family member’s unused BlackBerry EDGE 8900.  Anyone who’s ever tried to transfer data to a used cellphone probably knows that it can be tricky to wipe everything out and start fresh — but after lots of googling and finessery, we eventually got it synced with my gmail, Facebook and Twitter.

After about half an hour, AT&T texted me to let me know that they’d added a data package to my monthly cellphone bill.  I thought it was a little sketchy that they just signed me up, but at least I was notified, right?  The main reason I’ve avoided smartphones in the past is because of the high data costs.  But I was pleased to find that I could actually scale back my text plan (which I don’t use very much anymore) and pay only $10 more per month than I’d already been paying when all was said and done.  Pretty affordable!

So far, the BlackBerry apps that I’ve downloaded work really great.  I love my Weatherbug, Flixster, YellowPages, Facebook and Twitter apps.  Just plain web browsing is really slow and clunky, though.  Some companies, like Amazon, have developed OK mobile sites, but most of the library sites and blogs I go to don’t function well (or at all) on a smartphone screen.

From a librarian’s perspective, I think this experience highlights the need to anticipate all the ways patrons want to interact with the library.  Before using a BlackBerry, smartphone compatible websites were no more than an abstract glimmer in the back of my mind.  But now can I see how much of a priority they need to be for any business that’s serious about building a strong web presence.  I’m really impressed with the library app that Topeka and Shawnee County Public Library released just last week.

Overall, using a BlackBerry has been a great introduction to smartphones.  If I could do it over the non-hand-me-down way, though, I would definitely choose an Android or an iPhone.  Even though BlackBerry is the third most popular smartphone, it has nowhere near the same level of app support or developer enthusiasm as numbers 1 and 2.  Just like IBM, BlackBerry got off to a great start by courting businesses; but now that smartphones have saturated consumer markets, the more flexible, open and innovative products are taking off.

Yep, I felt pretty lame when our Android-owning friend started doing party tricks with his phone on New Year’s Eve: “Hey guys, look at my Android, it can take a photo of your beverage and produce a dossier on its history!”  Even boring things like gmail and taxes don’t work as well on BlackBerry.  So it’s a little bittersweet to have finally joined the smartphone generation, but as third best.  Maybe next year I’ll just get our Roomba to do my taxes…

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