Smartphones optimize

Why the BlackBerry still trumps the iPhone in the enterprise

Despite the iPhone's enhancements, Paul Mah still thinks the BlackBerry is better suited for the enterprise. Read his perspective.

Despite the iPhone's enhancements, Paul Mah still thinks the BlackBerry is better suited for the enterprise. Read his perspective.

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Apple has made the latest iPhone models slimmer than ever, packing in more memory and a faster processor. The iPhone's software stack has also seen improvements in usability and the availability of push "notifications," which are meant to help developers circumvent the single-tasking restriction imposed on them by the operating system.

I've used the BlackBerry and the iPhone on a regular basis, and I believe the BlackBerry continues to trump the iPhone in terms of its suitability in the enterprise. Here are three reasons why.

Data efficiency

One feature that is not so apparent to the casual user is the amount of engineering effort that went into making the BlackBerry platform data efficient. From its push e-mail to the built-in BlackBerry Messenger service, data is sent via encrypted UDP packets (UDP packets are a lightweight protocol with minimum overhead).

While competing technologies such as Microsoft's ExchangeSync (implemented by the iPhone) can be configured to use relatively little data, this requires an additional step and is also dependent on configuring it to match one's usage pattern. In any case, the protocol overhead of using HTTP/S to implement ExchangeSync already generates a fair amount of traffic on its own.

Companies with travelling executives will save greatly from the higher data efficiency of the BlackBerry platform. While being lean will not protect from unwise usage, a side-by-side comparison of two executives receiving the same e-mails will see the BlackBerry user come out on top.

The greater efficiency also translates indirectly to another benefit: better performance in areas with poor coverage. A friend who went to Haiti recently to help out with disaster relief work tweeted about how he was able to coordinate work with other workers via their BlackBerry smartphones even though the ability to make voice calls was intermittent. Besides consuming a lot more data, traditional TCP/IP-based IM would have fallen flat on its face in such circumstances.

Security-centric design

System administrators and IT managers are well aware that there is no security that can thwart a user who insists on downloading and running applications of dubious origins. The BlackBerry, however, comes close with its comprehensive security policies.

There are far more security mechanisms available to a BlackBerry Enterprise Server (BES)-enabled BlackBerry than you can find in any other smartphone platforms on the market today. Options available range from whether encryption is enforced on removable media, on the on-board memory, or on the availability of the built-in GPS or camera.

In fact, the security controls are enforceable down to the application level. For example, it is possible to define whether a specific application has the ability to connect via USB, Bluetooth, Wi-Fi, access phone or location data, communicate with other applications, or access files or e-mail data and all on an individual basis.

The iPhone Configuration Utility allows a number of controls and settings to be provisioned for the iPhone. Despite that, the options available to the BlackBerry are far more comprehensive.

Multitasking

One of the first things I did after getting an iPhone was to jailbreak it. (And, yes, I do pay for all the apps that I use.) My primary reason for doing a jailbreak was to allow myself to run more than one user application at the same time.

I use my iPhone primarily as an e-book, a news reader, and an entertainment device. My iPhone is full of various news readers, which require updating via the network, and waiting for the data to sync can be extremely frustrating. While I understand the rationale in terms of achieving stability and better performance here, but I still think that not being able to multitask is a serious deterrent to business users.

Conclusion

Even with the BlackBerry's stated benefits, I realize that the iPhone will still "win out" in many organizations; usability and having a critical mass of users has a great bearing in terms of what device is popular in the enterprise.

I'm also aware that the BlackBerry has its disadvantages, including the relatively high costs of setting up a BES and its poor selection of GUI widgets in its standard SDK. (I'll write more about these points in a future column.) But despite these drawbacks, I still believe that IT pros are better off investing in a BlackBerry rather than an iPhone for their enterprise needs.

If you prefer the iPhone over the BlackBerry for your enterprise needs, I'd be interested to know why. Please post your feedback in the discussion.

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About

Paul Mah is a writer and blogger who lives in Singapore, where he has worked for a number of years in various capacities within the IT industry. Paul enjoys tinkering with tech gadgets, smartphones, and networking devices.

31 comments
Amymartin
Amymartin

I'm thinking about getting an iPhone to replace my Nokia 63 cell phone. I'm on the fence though because I'm not convinced that upgrading from one to the other is all that worth the money. Should I stick with the cell phone or go iPhone?

OvationWireless
OvationWireless

The mobile enterprise includes iPhones because users demand it. While there are great logical, technical arguments in favor of the Blackberry, Apple built a device that users want more in many cases and IT needs to support it. I keep trying to convince my 10 year old daughter that the Rolling Stones are much better musically (and other ways) than Miley Cyrus. I'm sure there are many music critics and several generations of regular folks that would agree with me. But the users in our "musical enterprise" rule ... and we hear a lot more Mily Cyrus than Rolling Stones at our house. Andy Gordon www.OvationWireless.com

NotSoChiGuy
NotSoChiGuy

...a battery in one of our user's BlackBerry went kaput. I went downstairs to the carrier's store (which also has a tech support area), and got a replacement. Total downtime: 5 minutes. My understanding is that this would have been impossible with an iPhone. For what we do and what we need as an organization, this is a big deal.

travis.duffy
travis.duffy

There is no way I could replace my Blackberry with a device that only has a touch screen keyboard. For me the virtual buttons are too small and a huge pain to type on. I view these types of devices as "both hands devices" as it takes both hands to adequately use them. I don't always have both hands free when i want to check something or reply to an email quickly on the go. My blackberry is easily used as a "one hand device" and while it does not have as many apps available as the iphone(most of them are useless anyway) I can quickly and easily type on my device on the go. Iphone=kids Blackberry=adults

travis.duffy
travis.duffy

I will put this out there as another reason the iphone will never take over the blackberry in the enterprise: It is only available on AT&T. The carrier with the absolute worst 3g coverage. I could care less about their voice coverage(that is also terrible). What is the point of a smartphone if you cannot use it in remote locations? AT&T doesn't even offer service anywhere in my state. There is nowhere in a 500 mile radius of the business I work for that you can even buy an iphone. Blackberry has devices available on all US carriers and this is why they will continue to dominate not only the enterprise market but the consumer market also.

eleace
eleace

I love my BB just can't part with it

.Martin.
.Martin.

the iPhone is junk. apart from encryption, the main problem is multitasking. why should you be stuck to one program?

TheProfessorDan
TheProfessorDan

But this is the first places I have seen that uses the IPhones as an enterprise tool. It appears to be more geared to the individual user in a similar manner that the IMac really isn't designed for most enterprise applications.

maclovin
maclovin

I still swear by Windows Mobile, and, as a LONGtime Mac User/Advoocate/SysAdmin, I have to say I don't like the iPhone that much. It's not for business purposes. BB's are waay to proprietary too. I can sync with ANY mail server (for the most part) with a Windows Mobile Phone. Shoot, with a Blackberry, I have to have an Enterprise Server. OR, pay MORE on top of the phone costs for another service....WTF!?

ASBzone
ASBzone

The enterprise requires manageability and flexible configurations, which is why RIM wins here. Apple favors the individual user (always has, if you think about it), and so unless they make a concerted push for the larger enterprise, they'll have to settle for dominating the consumer space with their smartphone. -ASB: http://xeesm.com/AndrewBaker

travis.duffy
travis.duffy

And Apples lack of focus on security with the iphone is why the Blackberry will always trump the iphone in the enterprise.

retrofire
retrofire

Wow, here's a sophisticated product -- pull the battery to reset because it loses it's ability to connect to anything? It's not a kid vs. adult thing -- it's more of a Mac vs. PC thing. Some people pay the Apple Tax and get equipment that works -- others pay and get less. In Canada we get more than one carrier -- I understand the limits in the US, and my at&t users are quite happy with their service (especially travelling overseas) whether they have iPhones or BB's. I had one VP run through five BB's last year. The Pearl & Pearl Flips are ridiculous junk. I'm just tired of the BB support issues -- I want the easier solution that keeps me off the tech support hot-lines. That's the Apple device.

jfuller05
jfuller05

the iPhone is primarily for teens/college age addicted to facebook, or that's the only thing the iPhone people do around me. My bro's girlfriend is constantly on facebook (with her iphone) when I see her; you can barely talk to her because she's always on her iPhone.

klak69
klak69

If Apple does acquisition of "Good" enterprise and develope "Good for Enterprise"a little bit more, Apple will beat RIM, I can guarantee this. I see how much our executives are fun of iPhone and are waiting for the results of our trial testing, before we switch totaly to iPhone. The company for which I work is an huge Int'l American company. I can guess it goes the same in most other big enterprises.

retrofire
retrofire

Yes, I'm a long time BB user -- and I just got another one. They are junk for browsing. I've tried opera -- it's better than the others, but still doesn't work well enough -- I've given up. BB's do only three things well -- email / contacts / calendars. Ours through the BES server forces the 6 digit password that the users all hate. And every time I need to change devices I have to reset the account on the BES. Oh, BTW -- the iPhone (& iPod) users don't need any support, no account resets on the BES, and no hassles. Exchange integration on the BES forces a 4-digit password -- which the users don't complain about. I won't be getting another BB -- it's not worth carrying.

tichgirl_33
tichgirl_33

So I have been a blackberry user since we jokingly called it the blueberry.(I have also been the BES Administrator) Up until recently I laughed at people with the iPhone. In our environment the iPhone will beat the blackberry within the next year. The reason is the apps. When a doctor can pull up a patients chart and place an order for said patient without leaving the golf course, they are happier doctors. Oh and we have more than 12,000 employees so we are considered enterprise.

.Martin.
.Martin.

that I have found is it as slow as a snail

travis.duffy
travis.duffy

without purchasing third party apps to do it. thats a show stopper for me. Also putting exchange services in a dmz for WM to connect to it is not an option either.

klak69
klak69

When you get an iPhone, you can download and install "Good for Enterprise"for free. this gives you basically the same security as RIM. you can also wipe the device remotely from admin console. All data is encrypted. you can set limit for each users or group base on their device type, os version, user group...etc.. I have been usinf BB for years, since last week I have switched to iPhone (I was forced to do so as VP-IT request to test it for our executives). I shall say it is not bad at all, to be honest I like it a bit more than my all other BB's. cheers

Br3nno360
Br3nno360

i have a blackberry storm n love it, had it almost 2 years and the worst that happen was the sim car died!!... the only thing i know anyone buying an iphone for is for the apps, not for the music storage,or that it makes phone calls but the apps. then they wonder why these 15yr old kids are getting $20k AUS phonebills for a month!!!!for a MONTH!!!!!

travis.duffy
travis.duffy

I know people with iphones that lock up on a regular basis also and have to go through it's reset process. The procedure to reset a blackberry is to pull the battery. At least with a blackberry you get that option. The iphone is not sophistication. When you cannot even replace your own batter, how sophisticated is that? So you had someone go though 5 of the bottom end freebie blackberry phones last year. You're right, the entry level pearl flips are not very good. My question is why a VP would have one anyway. That's what Curves and Bolds are for.

NotSoChiGuy
NotSoChiGuy

If an iPhone battery goes bad (it does happen....http://www.wired.com/gadgetlab/2009/06/overheating-iphones/), the user is stuck until it is sent out for replacement. That is not convenient in the least; and a major problem in a deployment of 1000+ users. As far as freezing, if you Google iPhone 3Gs Reset, you'll find that phone freezes aren't strictly the domain of Win Mobile or BB. So, that argument is moot. We use AT&T as our carrier, as well...so that isn't a decision maker for us (in terms of BB vs. iPhone). We use Lotus Notes. Until recently, there wasn't much in the way of support for Notes on the iPhone. So, an infrastructure was put into place to support the BlackBerrys. This infrastructure has worked very well for us. As such, not only would someone need to sell the virtues of the iPhone over the BlackBerry devices (we get 9700s for free next month...same offer doesn't apply to iPhones), they'd have to sell replacing BES with Good. Is there enough performance gain to countermeasure the costs of that? For a small business, a switch to iPhones may make sense (ability to process credit cards when making a sale while at client's home, for instance). However, in our enterprise environment, it doesn't make a lot of sense to go to iPhones. That isn't to say the iPhone is junk (I haven't used it enough to be able to say that and maintain credibility). It is just to say it won't work for us. I'd imagine there are a lot of enterprise-level customers that are in similar circumstances.

travis.duffy
travis.duffy

so is your upper management comfortable with the risk of a less character password on a device that is less options to be configured from a central management server? Also the risk of having their information stored on a device with encryption that is easily cracked?

martian
martian

Connecting a BB to the BES server costs a license. Connecting an iPhone doesn't. As a result, we're all being encouraged to switch to iPhones at my company. Hey RIM, how's that for shooting yourself in the foot?

travis.duffy
travis.duffy

pulling up patients charts and other sensitive information on a device that has no encryption? Sounds like a HIPPA violation to me.

The 'G-Man.'
The 'G-Man.'

If you knew how exchange roles are fitted together it would not be.

travis.duffy
travis.duffy

With Blackberry there is no need for any additional VPNs as the BES provides an encrypted connection to your network. And unlike the iphone, i can feel comfortable accessing this information with a Blackberry because unlike the iphone, a new vulnerability isn't discovered on a weekly basis or worry that a specially crafted sms message sent to my phone is going to compromise the whole device and allow an attacker to steal all my informaiton. Their track record of approving shady applications is not very good. They've approved applications they shouldn't have on many occastions.

spurdy
spurdy

Our ssl vpns work on the iPhone and allow the doctors to view whatever they want without problem. And as far as the section regarding app security, doesn't Apple pretty much take care of that for us? Since Apple has to approve every app...and we know they look at all of them and have no prob rejecting one...we don't have any apps of "dubious origins".

tichgirl_33
tichgirl_33

Only if the information is transferred to the iPhone. The apps that we are allowing do not store anything on the mobile device

travis.duffy
travis.duffy

In the US, we have regulations to keep patients data protected. I don't believe using an iphone to access patient information meets this compliance when the phone has had MANY security vulnerabilities that have compromised users data and it's lack of device encryption. Lets not also forget the phone's poor manageability. Administrators have no way to control what apps can and cannot be installed, no management of configuration. Regardless of the cost, Blackberry's BES solution is alot more than just Exchange email. It allows administrators FULL control over all settings of the device ensuring compliance. Sounds like it's time to start auditing.

paulmah
paulmah

I had a doctor friend who recently got an iPhone too. According to him, there are so many medical apps on the iPhone that is not available for the other platforms. i.e. To check out drug interactions, symptoms. And of course, where I live there's no HIPPA that I'm aware of.