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7/31/2009
10:46 AM
Alexander Wolfe
Alexander Wolfe
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iPhone Smackdown: TechCrunch's Arrington Versus Forrester's Colony

I hate to dive into the traffic-trolling antics of TechCrunch's Michael Arrington, but I will (and not just because I'm chasing clicks, too). In his post about why he's abandoning the iPhone, he's apparently coming around to the view I've espoused for years. Namely, there are better options out there. He's opting for an Android; I say Blackberry's better.

I hate to dive into the traffic-trolling antics of TechCrunch's Michael Arrington, but I will (and not just because I'm chasing clicks, too). In his post about why he's abandoning the iPhone, he's apparently coming around to the view I've espoused for years. Namely, there are better options out there. He's opting for an Android; I say Blackberry's better.On the other side of the coin, Forrester Research CEO George Colony has just posted "Goodbye Blackberry," in which he argues execs will abandon my beloved Blackberry for the very handset Arrington has just jettisoned.

OK, so let's deconstruct this debate. When you analyze Arrington's post, the thing that jumps out at you is that his complaints have less to do with the iPhone itself than with its ecosystem. He grouses that AT&T's 3G network routinely drops calls. Duh! Hey, I'm in New York, where you would expect that AT&T would have good 3G coverage. Yet when I upgraded my Blackberry from an EDGE-based Curve to a 3G Bold, I immediately entered the "apologetic redial" club. This is where you routinely have to call people back and say, "Sorry, I must've dropped the call." So what we have here is a carrier, not a phone, complaint.

Arrington's second peeve is that he can't use Google Voice with the iPhone. This is because Apple is blocking the app. OK, so that's a legit complaint. However, it's not a technical limitation, and it's one that might be removed if Apple and AT&T face enough heat.

I should mention that Google Voice is the service formerly known as Grand Central. I wrote a rave review of Grand Central a while back; it's essentially a phone location service for people who have multiple numbers. It'll route incoming calls to the number you designate, and you can change that number. This allows you to determine which of your five cellphones or landlines ring at any given time.

So it's essentially an automated analog of what the Tony Roberts character did in Woody Allen's "Play It Again, Sam." (The running gag in the movie was, he would call his secretary every 20 minutes and say "For the next five minutes, I'll be at 555-1212, and then I'll be at 666-1313, and then I'll be back at 555-1212.") I like Google Voice, but let's face it, it's not for your average, non-A-list-type person.

I found it interesting that Arrington isn't bagging the iPhone for any of its intrinsic shortcomings. These would be its crappy battery life and its lack of a hard keyboard. Neither of those problems obtain on the Blackberry platform, which is why I take a Blackberry, any Blackberry, over the iPhone as my daily go-to handset. (The iPhone is fantastic when it comes to its iPod Touch functionality, which enables you to browse the Web while lying on the couch.)

Which brings us 'round to George Colony's curious post. Maybe he's just trying to be provocative; he takes the opposite view, that people will be moving to the iPhone. Here's his opener:

If you're the typical CEO, you are carrying a Blackberry. But not for long. Once the iPhone is able, in a corporate setting, to replicate all aspects of Outlook with high security, the iPhone floodgates will open and you will have a new device.

He cites the iPhone's user interface, its wealth of applications, and the presumption that it'll soon be available from multiple carriers, as the reasons he believes the iPhone will gain more executive traction.

I think Colony has set forth a cogent argument (as opposed to Arrington's more pique-inspired proclamations), yet I believe he's wrong. The iPhone's user interface precludes rapid, lengthy e-mail responses, which I think is the main requirement executives have for their smartphone handsets.

And, finally, there's this: At two and a half years along, the iPhone is at the point where it's no longer the cool new kid on the block. True, the Palm Pre hasn't quite stolen its thunder. But a handset that's long in the tooth -- it's on its third iteration, but the physical look and feel is still the same, unless you count the pink swaths burned into the backs of overheated 3GS's -- at some point becomes a hard sell, when it's lacking certain features (like a hard keyboard.) Even if it is an Apple.

Follow me on Twitter: (@awolfe58)

What's your take? Let me know, by leaving a comment below or e-mailing me directly at alex@alexwolfe.net. Like this blog? Subscribe to its RSS feed: (here)

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