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My BlackBerry is sick. How about iPhone for email?

My BlackBerry has become an Alzheimers patient.  It didn't switch to daylight savings time a few weeks back when the change came, for example, with the result that every meeting in my calendar on my BlackBerry is exactly one hour out of synch with the meetings in my Outlook calendar.  It has done this in the past, but usually it fixes itself when the Europeans change their clocks.  Messages also just… evaporate. They'll be in my inbox on Outlook, but have disappeared from the Berry.  Over the weekend, there were just three messages left in the box, despite thousands in my inbox. It wasn't the way I wanted to clear out my inbox. 

I'm blaming it on the US Congress.  It was their idea to monkey with daylight savings time, and my clock problems didn't start until their grand experiment in "power conservation".  Try parking a few SUVs the next time guys. Whaddya say?

Anyway, we're doing brain surgery on my Berry today, and hopefully it will get better.

The problems with my BlackBerry have given me an opportunity to get up close with iPhone for email.  On Friday, I set it up to use iMap to talk with our Exchange server, and I've been merrily emailing away with it ever since.  While the soft keyboard on the iPhone is a hassle, it's not as bad as I thought it might be.   Typing on it is definitely different from the thumb board, and don't believe Apple's suggestion that you type on it with two thumbs a la BlackBerry.  It's impossible.  You can, however, type on it with 2 or 3 fingers on the same hand

What I've learned about my own email usage is that the majority of what I do is read followed by delete or file.  It's here that iPhone really shines. 

  • The shortcut to delete a message? Stroke your finger across the preview in the inbox, from left to right.  I can sort my inbox and delete all the messages I don't need to read in seconds.  It might even be faster than working on a PC. 
  • From within a message, you can delete it by touching the garbage can at the bottom of the screen.  File it by touching the files icon.  Forward / reply by touching the action icon.  It's really simple and intuitive.
  • It shows HTML messages in their entirety.  Hallelujah. Links are active taking you to full web pages.  Hallelujah.  I can't tell you how many messages linger in my inbox after being "read " on the BlackBerry, waiting for me to get to a PC to really understand what that mess of HTML linking is.

The impact of full HTML in the email client is huge for me.  

What do I dislike?

  • There doesn't seem to be any cut / copy / paste.  That in itself isn't necessarily bad, except for the all too common case of adding an address to your address book.  I really miss the LinkedIn "grab" toolbar, which automatically parses the text and inserts it into an address book entry.
  • There isn't an easy way to handle cursor movement. Yes, you can move the cursor with a finger, but it's (mildly put) inexact. If I need to edit something I've written earlier in the mail, it's difficult at best and sometimes nearly impossible.
  • The way that iPhone integrates with my iMap mailbox is silly.  You give it a limit of how many messages you want (say 50) from the mailbox.  If you're at the limit, until you delete a few messages, new ones don't arrive.  That's not the way I work.  What it should do is show you the most recent 50 you've received, rather than the last 50 you've downloaded. 
  • I use a VPN to access email.  It doesn't work across my carrier's EDGE network.  Practically speaking that means that I am limited to WiFi zones for email on iPhone.
  • There's no push email, yet.

I'm less of a skeptic than I was two weeks ago.  iPhone 2.0 will have 3G support, and better Exchange integration which should fix some of my issues.  If they can fix the message composition and edit experience, then I could easily see using this device much more heavily for email.  Given the prevalence of HTML in email, a full browser is a huge improvement over my current BlackBerry experience.  However, because of the connectivity issues with iPhone, I wouldn't give up my BlackBerry, yet.  

Rumour has it that the BlackBerry 9000 will have an improved browser. My advice to RIM?  iPhone has set the standard for browser quality.  It won't be enough to have an improved browser.  It needs to be equivalent to iPhone.  And… the 9000 needs to incorporate that new browser into the email client as well, otherwise RIM could have a real battle on their hands with Apple.

{ 6 comments… add one }

  • Alec April 1, 2008, 10:55 am

    Thanks for that tip Farhan. That was useful.

    And Markus, as you know, I have many Nokia's :)

  • Farhan Thawar April 1, 2008, 1:08 pm

    Moving the cursor with your finger is super exact, just hold it down long enough and the magnifying glass comes up allowing you to choose exactly where you want your cursor to be.

    I also type with two hands all the time :)

  • Markus Göbel's Tech News Comments April 1, 2008, 1:21 pm

    Get a Nokia! 😉

  • Stuart April 1, 2008, 3:47 pm

    Interesting isn’t it. Things that we thought wouldn’t work very well actually turn out to be better than expected. That’s another one of those iPhone hidden benefits. It grows on you because it does stuff you need most often better, SMS, email and most importantly browsing. Add in music for traveling. It’s inferior in many other ways and yet my Nokias tend to remain SIM less.

  • Alec April 7, 2008, 2:27 am

    DST Patch, I did apply a DST patch back when I first got the device.

  • DST patch April 7, 2008, 6:10 am

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