Business Intelligence is, to put it succinctly, the art of transforming data into information. Among the most effective ways of doing this is to not only visualize data, but to interact with it and transform it on the fly. You don’t just see the data, you explore it. Patterns and trends begin to emerge. As the big picture becomes clearer, new questions surface and the exploration continues.
Much like the work I do as a Business Intelligence and Analytics Specialist, I have a similar desire to explore and interact with – to experience – the technology I use.
Over the past year I’ve switched between several phones across BB10, Android, and iOS (and even a dumbphone) as well as several different wireless carriers. Ting has won me over in the battle of the carriers with its BYOD friendliness, low rates, and fantastic customer service thanks to the use of solutions from Salesforce. But my battle of the smartphones has been much more grueling.
If you follow my personal tech blog, my last couple of posts explain why I just couldn’t switch back to BB10 and was ready to commit to Android for the long-haul.
I say “was”, because (at least as of the time I write this) I am happily back on my BlackBerry Q10, with plans to do whatever it takes to get a Z30 and/or Passport SE.
My Motorola Moto G 2nd Gen was functional enough. Laggy, at times, and more cumbersome, in general, than a BB10 device. Still, it got the job done.
I asked myself if merely getting the job done would be enough to keep me happy. Answering honestly, I had to say no.
For me, the technology I use must do more than the bare minimum. It has to be a mostly enjoyable experience (I say “mostly” because there is no single perfect device for me – they all have their strengths and weaknesses). Every aspect of a smartphone, no matter how minute – from the design to the hardware to the OS to the app experience – factors into that enjoyment.
One of the reasons I cited for finally deciding to go with Android was that it was the only smartphone I owned – including an iPhone – that could run every app I wanted or needed. Even with my Q10 running a patched version of Google Play Services, there was one app in particular – Amazon Video – that simply would not run. For whatever reason, Amazon has gone out of its way to specifically prevent it from running on BB10 devices. And there are certainly other Android apps that will not run or run well on BB10.
Over the past couple days using my Moto G, however, I realized that my Q10 actually runs Android apps more reliably, in general. For example, I’ve recently gotten into the game Star Trek Timelines (yes, I am a Trekkie and proud of it). I installed it on my iPhone 5c, Moto G, and even my Z10 and Q10. Of those 4 devices, it runs the worst on the Moto G. Exiting the app to the home screen can sometimes take up to 30 seconds, and sometimes it even ends up crashing my launcher. More often than not, gameplay is laggy. And the in-game chat with other players is essentially unusable because it usually takes up to 30 seconds just to bring up the virtual keyboard every time I want to post something, and several seconds for each letter to even appear after I type it.
And forget about answering a call or responding to a text while in-game. The phone just freezes up.
Of course this example is worst-case. But even using other apps, there is often a lag when going back to the home screen. And there’s always a lag when trying to switch back and forth between apps via the app switcher. The fact that this game runs just as well or better on a BlackBerry Q10 and Z10 with inferior hardware says a lot about the efficiency and power of BB10.
So what about Amazon Video? That’s right. What about it? I do use it, but I don’t absolutely need it to run on my smartphone (especially a Q10).
The smoothness and flow of the OS in general is also important. For me, iOS edges out Android in that regard, but BB10 beats them both. I have very rarely, if ever, had an experience on BB10 where I could not exit an app right away. I’ve never had a BB10 phone freeze up when I received a call while playing a game or using a resource-intensive app. The ability to multi-task and toggle back and forth between apps in BB10 is unparalleled, thanks to Active Frames. And the Hub, Peek and Flow all work brilliantly and allow me to check and respond to emails, IMs, texts, etc. quickly and efficiently without opening a single app.
It is apparent the OS was designed to easily handle a heavy workload with many different simultaneous processes and functions.
It feels like I need another couple GB of RAM and a couple more CPU cores on my Moto G to even try to match the kind of performance I get from my 3-year-old Q10 or Z10
I will say that I did enjoy trying out different launchers on Android. Some were definitely more useful and ran better than others and they really change up the UI and make it better than the stock experience. I was running Arrow Launcher and I also liked some aspects of Z Launcher.
I have never, ever found a practical use for Android widgets, though. Not only do they take up valuable app icon space, they are just redundant. Why do I need a giant clock with current weather on my home screen when I already have that info in my notification bar? Why do I need a IM widget when I get notifications? There’s a lot to be said for simplicity and widgets don’t make anything simpler for me.
I also find the BB10 Quick Settings menu to be much more useful than the equivalent on iOS or Android. There are many more options to choose from, and the fact that you can enable, disable, and change the order of them is great.
Oh, and 2 words: Bedside Mode. Android and iOS don’t really come close. Such a simple feature, but I use it every night.
One more word: Blend. Using a computer or tablet to easily access and use the communications and files on my phone actually comes in quite handy at work and at home.
I’ve been looking into Android phones recently and I soon found myself obsessed with comparing CPU, RAM, GPU, etc. because they obviously make all the difference for that platform. My Moto G 2nd Gen is obviously not a high-end device, but it’s not supposed to be low-end, either. Yet its hardware clearly can’t handle Android 5.0.2 (Cyanogenmod 12.1) well enough to eliminate lag and freezes.
When it comes to BB10 devices, I have never had to worry much about specs. Of course, a Z30 will run faster and more smoothly than a Z10. And a Passport will run better than a Z30. But even my Q10 with essentially the same internals as the Z10 manages to run well enough – even with Android apps – to provide a more pleasant overall experience than my Moto G.
How the phone looks on the outside – the design language and overall aesthetic – is also important. The iPhone has always been excellent at this, and there are certainly some well-designed Android handsets out there, but BlackBerry phones are no slouch there, either, having won numerous Red Dot Awards. Of the BB10 phones I have personally owned and used, I particularly like the look and feel of the Q10 and Z30. The carbon-fiber weave back, the silver accents (especially on my modded Q10), the little design touches here and there really come together to make a great-looking device that also feels great when you’re using it. The Passport SE follows in that same rich tradition and is, in my opinion, one of the best-designed and best-looking smartphones ever made.
I can’t go without mentioning BlackBerry’s physical keyboards. They are still, far and away, the best in the world. I’m one of those weirdos who hates auto-complete, swipe gestures, and other so-called “shortcuts” when I’m typing. I am most efficient and accurate when I can type out the entire word. All those features get in the way and actually make me slower. Give me a physical keyboard – computer keyboard or BlackBerry smartphone keyboard – and my fingers (and thumbs) fly. Sure, I get by well enough with a virtual keyboard – and BlackBerry’s VKBs are also among the best, in my experience – but for me there is just no substitute for a BlackBerry physical keyboard.
There are many things I do enjoy about Android. And, I will concede, my Moto G 2nd Gen cannot provide anywhere near the best possible Android experience. If I want to give the platform a fair shake I need to try a flagship device – or at least a newer one. I have not ruled out the possibility of doing so – I’m keeping an eye on the PRIV and BlackBerry’s forthcoming Android phones.
It should be quite apparent that I am no brand loyalist. I have no delusions regarding the future of BB10 and no obligation or desire to view that future through rose-colored glasses. A couple more OS security updates are coming, but nothing has been announced beyond that. There are no new BB10 handsets slated for release in 2016 and no plans to update the BB10 SDK or the Android Runtime. To be perfectly frank, right now BB10 is, at best, a stagnant platform – at worst, a dead one.
But BB10, even stagnant or dead, still provides the best all-around smartphone experience for me.
I can see a future where there are one or two BB10 phones released every couple years, targeted at business and niche customers, but I believe that future is largely dependent on the success of BlackBerry’s Android offerings.
BlackBerry CEO John Chen has recently hinted that, despite lackluster phone sales in recent quarters, they are getting close to making their handset business profitable again. I can only hope that is the case, because whether or not BB10 survives beyond the next couple of years, as long as BlackBerry is making and supporting smartphones, I’ll probably be using them.
You see, like the work I do with data, I have interacted with and experienced many other smartphones across the other platforms. I have seen patterns and trends emerge and the big picture has become a bit clearer. It’s clear enough for me to see that BB10 is something special, something unique. And it still does what I need and want in a smartphone better than any other mobile platform.