iPhone 5 vs. BlackBerry: BlackBerry could still surprise, despite Apple's ascendance

Is BlackBerry dead and buried yet?

I'll admit it upfront -- comparing the Apple iPhone 5 to the current RIM BlackBerry lineup seems a bit unfair, like putting an F-22 up against a World War I-vintage Sopwith Camel.

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A quick glance at the comparative hardware statistics is heartburn-inducing reading for BlackBerry fans. The BlackBerry Bold 9930 boasts a 640x480 screen, though pixel density is helped a bit by its sub-3-inch size. There's less RAM, storage, a slower processor and no front-facing camera. Unless you're absolutely wedded to the idea of a physical keyboard -- which BlackBerry still does really well -- it's tough to see a reason not to opt for a more modern alternative.

However, the decision may not be as simple as that -- despite this apparent inferiority, there are still subtle but important things that BlackBerries are still very good at.

1. BlackBerry OS

Much depends on what happens when BlackBerry OS 10 is released, and while delays aren't helping public perception of parent company Research In Motion, preliminary indications are that the operating system is much more in line with the current state-of-the-art in the mobile world.

If BlackBerry is able to combine its well-deserved, though lately tarnished, enterprise cred with modern hardware and an updated, user-friendly platform, it could quickly become far more competitive with devices like the iPhone 5.

2. Security

The reason that last year's BlackBerry outage was such a black eye for already struggling RIM is that the company's reputation for security was one of the few things setting it apart from the competition.

Fortunately, the firm seems to have realized that, and has stated that it will not abandon its emphasis on security moving forward.

3. Yes, Virginia, there is a smartphone keyboard

Even though saying so tends to get you branded a fuddy-duddy, the near-total disappearance of the physical keyboard from the smartphone arena is an unfortunate side effect of the quest for ever-sleeker devices. While there have been some Android entries with keyboards -- I personally owned the original Motorola Droid for some time, and enjoyed having the option -- most have not been nearly as good as the BlackBerry family's famous Chiclet-style keyboard.

Yes, it's a minor thing, but it's still a differentiator -- something RIM would do well to keep in mind as it attempts to play catch-up with top Androids and the iPhone.

Even with those subtle advantages, however, it's tough to see a turnaround in the immediate future for the venerable BlackBerry. Barring a wholesale revolution in hardware and truly prodigious advancements in BB OS 10, it seems as though users will continue to adopt flashier, more capable devices like the iPhone 5.

Email Jon Gold at jgold@nww.com and follow him on Twitter at @NWWJonGold.

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Jon Gold

Network World
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