Archive for the ‘Blackberry’ Tag

Lies, damned lies and Appleinsider.com statistics

By now I should be used to all kinds of sponsored market research, shameless product propaganda and PR hype that knows no moral boundaries. I am in fact part of the most oversold to population in the history of humanity.

Yet when something so obnoxiously manipulated and clearly intended to misguide and distort the truth innocently presents itself as actual market research something inside me wants to scream.

Appleinsider.com just published some respectable-looking survey backed by some respectable-sounding company to the effect that the iPhone somehow managed to become the most satisfying business smartphone, by a wide margin.

The survey seems to give the venerable device what looks like a nearly perfect 778/800: if God himself were to do it, the subconscious message seems to be saying, he clearly wouldn’t be able to make things much better. And oh look how far ahead of the also-rans the iPhone is, compared to BlackBerry (703/800), Samsung (701/800) and the puny Palm.

I say seems of course because when you look closer to the axis and scale of the survey you start noticing things. Like how the visual axis scales from 600 to 800, and the small print says 1000 point scale. Ah, clever! Nearly got me there, appleinsider. If ever there was a visual way to make something that scored 70/1000 less points look half as good and what scored 15% less look as nearly pathetic by comparison, you have nailed it.

But that’s not what bothered me about this survey. True, I find it hard to believe that somehow the iPhone has become the most satisfying smartphone for business users by a wide margin, but I am used to listening to all kinds of iPhone-will-take-over-the-world-just-you-wait talk from pretty-looking websites that my brain has subconsciously stopped paying attention to “research” like this anymore.

Don’t get me wrong, I actually like the iPhone. It is a pretty damn amazing device. As a mobile enterpreneur I also like it in a vested interest sort of way: a rising tide lifts all boats and if all my clients came to me and asked me to port all the enterprise-targeted BlackBerry apps I made for them to the iPhone, that will be good for the consulting line of my business.

I like the iPhone so much that even on occasion I entertain the intellectual thoughts of pundits and journalists (largely the latter) who speculate of the place of the iPhone in the corporate world (none) and when it will start to get adopted by enterprise users (never). I would explain, but then I would have to get into things like security, end-to-end encryption, IT policies, Sarbanes-Oxley, push email, the importance of battery life and seamless intranet access, and I just don’t want to get all technical here.

But what bothers me about this survey is Samsung’s place. Within rounding error from BlackBerry?? You surely must be kidding me.

I am sorry but I have a hard time taking this kind of bullshit seriously. The BlackBerry world has all those sites like blackberryforums.com, crackberry.com, pinstack.com, everythingberry.com to name just a few, where avid BlackBerry fans from around the world, corporate and consumer alike, convene to rave about their devices and drool over what’s to come. What does Samsung have in terms of user fan base? I only hear the sound of crickets.

Companies tend to be fairly rational when it comes to making their purchasing decisions, and if they were almost equally satisfied with the Samsung’s offering as they are with RIM’s, they would be buying roughly equal parts of both, right?

Except that the business crowd has been buying BlackBerries left, right and center. Of course they have, why else would the BlackBerry become the de facto pop culture symbol of modern day corporate affiliation? You don’t hear people talking about CrackJacks, do you?

How Samsung can “catch up” as a satisfying business device to BlackBerry is clearly beyond my comprehension. It certainly has nothing to do with the reality that I am seeing around me. Especially since Samsung’s devices largely run on Windows Mobile, an OS so despicably horrendous and notoriously buggy that reviews like this one are not at all uncommon (the review is for a non-Samsung device, but you get the point).

And I have not even gotten to things like security, end-to-end encryption, IT policies, Sarbanes-Oxley, push email, the importance of battery life and seamless intranet access.

I know, I know, the state of the economy is tough for everyone. iPhone sales have been sagging and with the major customers of market research firms either bankrupt, bailed out or about to go bankrupt and get bailed out, you must do research to whoever pays the bills. And should the outcome from the research be what your clients wanted you to prove in the first place, hey, let’s call this a lucky coincidence, shall we? I get it.

But please can we at least have some semblance of integrity? And please don’t try to brainwash me with your fake data and sponsored research. I am having none of it.

The Wall Street Journal for the BlackBerry: One Cool Mobile App

The Wall Street Journal recently released their new mobile reader for the BlackBerry. It is completely free and offers content from the Wall Street Journal network like wsj.com and marketwatch.com among others in a number of configurable category-like tabs (News, Tech, Opinion, etc). Some screenshots available at blackberrycool.

I have been using the BlackBerry reader for the past week or so and have been quite impressed by it. It does a lot of neat things, makes use of clever constructs in unobtrusive ways that will no doubt make it a solid hit with BlackBerry users and maybe even give us all a glimpse of where the future for many mobile software applications may lie.

Here are some of the things that impressed me:

  • Slick and very responsive UI. Going down the news feed and flipping between panels was blazing fast, something that isn’t as easily done on a mobile device as it can be on a desktop computer. The UI was looking pretty styling in my opinion too.
  • Clever, intuitive navigation. Flipping between tabs is also so intuitive and quick you barely notice it. I also like how the app visually distinguishes between an article that hasn’t been read (the title appears darker) and one that hasn’t been scanned (red star next to title). This creates an instant awareness of your reading or scanning progress down the news feed.
  • Customizable news criteria. Each one of the tabs is further customizable to include part or all of a number of sub-categories and geographical regions. My favorite is the My Keywords tab where you get to enter a bunch of keywords and all recent articles that match the criteria come up.
  • Headlines that appear in full. By using a normal (i.e. not bold) font the application can show a longer string of text per line (surprisingly, I didn’t find things any less readable as a consequence). If need be, the title continues on a second line, thus never cutting off a headline halfway through. I hate it when similar applications like Viigo cut off the article title and put ‘…’ in the end, sometimes leaving you cueless as to what the article is actually about.

The Wall Street Journal has a very ‘straight goods’ approach to news coverage, so going down the article feed feels something like a twitter feed of world events (well, world events from a capitalist point of view, I guess). Pretty neat nevertheless.

  • BlackBerry integration. Being a native application and not a web-based one has the added benefit of integrating with standard BlackBerry applications like the Address Book. I like spamming my friends with WSJ articles I find interesting, so this feature comes in handy. Sending the article to Facebook and del.icio.us is also available for every article, by the way.
  • Free. Did I mention this thing is free of charge? Now, when something of like Wall Street Journal content is offered for free, people naturally wonder for how long. While it’s true that the WSJ guys may be just releasing it out for free to test the waters, a case can be made that the app will probably stay free for a long time time. There are 15 million BlackBerry subscribers worldwide and the rate is growing at double digits year over year – much better than WSJ’s numbers. This fact is probably not lost on the WSJ folks. And with a whole line-up of obvious advertiser choices like the various online brokerages and wealth management firms this thing might prove profitable and in the process might even give the mobile advertising space a bit of an adrenaline shot.

Now, it’s not like the Wall Street Journal has suddenly jumped in the business of BlackBerry software development. They have chosen, and quite wisely, somebody else to do it. So all the development credits here go to the smart folks at Freerange.

Some things could use improvement though and there were minor annoyances as well:

  • Buggy My Keywords tab that just wouldn’t accept a ticker symbol as a valid keyword and throwing a nasty error 999.
  • Advertising banner a bit too large. I know, people need to make money off these things, but having the banner consume 1/3 of the screen feels a bit too much at times. Add to that the space required for the tab navigation and the header (the latter can be set to not show up via the settings) and you get about 1/2 of the screen taken by “administrative” stuff. I think that with a little bit of cleverness the banner can be reduced to at most 20% without any loss of visibility.
  • Where is the Digg button??
  • ‘Dumb’ keywords – entering “BlackBerry” in the My Keywords tab settings brought up an article on the Dying Art of Harvesting BlackBerries and putting Amazon brought articles on deforestation in Brazil. Yeah, I know, reading people’s minds is tough, but the ability to combine keywords in a meaningful Google-like search and apply it to the incoming article feed would be pretty cool thing to have in the next version.

But overall a very well-designed and pretty useful BlackBerry application that is definitely worth a try.  Cudos to the guys at Freerange. And hey, if you are reading this and work for their UI team, give me a call. Lunch is on me 🙂