What's Better: BlackBerry or iPhone?

Includes: AAPL, BB
by: Wayne Mulligan

So I see this member’s question on TickerHound yesterday:

“BlackBerry or the iPhone?”

In the details of the question he goes on to reference a blog post by the New York based venture capitalist, Fred Wilson, where he openly asks for feedback on what people think of Apple's (NASDAQ:AAPL) iPhone versus RIM's (RIMM) BlackBerry. There’s some great insight in Fred’s post (and the comments to it) so I recommend you read it.

But I thought I’d share some of my own thoughts on the iPhone vs. BlackBerry issue here:

The iPhone is unequivocally the most beautifully designed mobile phone I’ve ever seen. The web browsing experience is like nothing I’ve ever used on a handheld device and through the flawless marketing effort on the part of Apple and AT&T (NYSE:T) it has already become somewhat of a status symbol in the geek-chic crowd.

But for those of you who have used one for any period of time, you’ve obviously noticed some of the flaws in this “flawless” product.

  1. Sending a text message or an email becomes an exercise in finger tip precision and dexterity. Basically, you must have the most narrow and most accurate thumbs in the world to try and type a message longer than 2 words on this phone. For business users or active text’rs (read: teenagers), this is certainly NOT the phone to have.
  2. I’ve dropped my BrickBerry more times than I can count and it’s still tickin’ – it’s like the little energizer bunny. The same can NOT be said of the iPhone. From what I’ve seen, heard and personally witnessed a strong breeze causes this phone’s screen to shatter. In fact if you check out Fred Wilson’s blog post, you’ll see what his daughter’s phone looked like, post-drop.
  3. Even though there are “hacks” out there, you’re still locked into using AT&T/Cingular as a carrier. While the service is good, I’m always one for having more options. The fact that I can use my BlackBerry with my T-Mobile account, and be able to keep the phone if I decide to switch carriers (or if my company switches carriers) makes me very comfortable.

And I’m obviously not the only one who feels this way – it’s a sentiment I’ve heard from many of my peers for quite some time now. The most reliable text and e-mail friendly phone on the market today is the BlackBerry…no contest!

But the story isn’t that quite cut and dry…

There’s a rumor going around that Apple has a new version of the iPhone coming out on June 9th. Apple’s a popular company in tech circles, and therefore the rumor-mill is usually in full effect whenever Mr. Jobs gets up to speak. Most of the time the hype falls far short of the real announcement, but this time I think the rumors are going to turn out to be true.

I think on June 9th we’ll get the announcement that Apple is launching a 3G enabled iPhone. Essentially what that means is that the iPhone will now let its subscribers download data faster than ever before.

However, given the serious flaws the company has with the phone design, I’m not sure what impact (if any) this will have on subscriber numbers. Especially when we take RIM’s announcement into account…

Last week, RIM announced the upcoming BlackBerry Bold phone – the first 3G phone from the CrackBerry maker. I’m personally looking forward to this one and it seems like the rest of the market’s feeling the same – the stock is up 6.35% as I write this article.

But that isn’t to say Apple won’t see some serious benefits via its 3G initiatives. I just don’t think those benefits will be solely in the form of an increase in iPhone subscribers. I think Apple could see a serious increase in iTunes sales as well.

Picture this: when you hear a good song and want it on your iPod immediately, all you’ll have to do is login to iTunes with your 3G phone and you’ll be listening to the song in seconds.

So if Apple’s strategy is to secure more iTunes purchases, I think the company is still executing its marketing efforts flawlessly. If the company really wants to compete with RIM, however, they’ll really need to do something about the phone’s design. Touch screens are “cool,” but certainly not functional.

Regardless of who gets the most subscribers, I think both announcements will be great for RIM’s and Apple’s stock prices.