RIM’s BlackBerry: Still king of push mail

Despite my earlier opinion to the contrary, I have come to the conclusion that the BlackBerry offers the most reliable and robust push mail solution on the market today. Why have I changed my mind? Read on to find out.

I just purchased a new BlackBerry Curve. The model which I purchased is the 8320, which comes with built-in Wifi and a standard 2-megapixel camera. It would be the third BlackBerry that I have used in the last four years.

Before the 8320, I had been using push mail on Windows Mobile for just under two years. Despite my earlier opinion to the contrary, I have come to the conclusion that the BlackBerry offers the most reliable and robust push mail solution on the market today.

Past hardware that I've used

Before you jump on me for being a "crackberry" addict, let me share a bit more of my experience with handheld and mobile devices. My first PDA was a Palm Professional (1MB). I've also owned a PCMCIA-sized REX Pro (512K), the now defunct Handspring Visor Deluxe (8MB), a nifty Psion Series 5 (16MB) with its superior "expanding" QWERTY keyboard, and what we now know as the Symbian operating system.

Of late, I have used on a day-to-day basis the HP rw6818 Smartphone, which runs Windows Mobil 5. I followed this with the O2 Atom Life which initially ran Windows Mobile 5. I subsequently upgraded to Windows Mobile 6 last year. This is not counting the HTC Touch that my wife used and then sold off.

Where the BlackBerry is concerned, I've been issued two different models at work, which I used for just under a year.

My experiences with push mail

I wanted to explore the features of my Smartphone in depth. I have set up and used push mail with both Exchange 2003, and subsequently Exchange 2007, with my Windows Mobile Pocket PCs. For BlackBerry, I have set up both the RIM-hosted BlackBerry Internet Service (BIS) and BlackBerry Enterprise Server (BES), and lately, the free edition of the BlackBerry Professional Server for a single-user setup.

In past blogs, I have written about Microsoft's Direct Push, taking the position that it can be considered push despite the polling nature of the client.

In fact, I have also written on why Microsoft's Direct Push is better than the BlackBerry and defended allegations from analysts that Microsoft's implementation is far less secure. On the flip side, I have described why RIM's implementation of push mail uses data traffic far more efficiently than Microsoft's, as well as the new features due to arrive at the BlackBerry over the next few months. If you needed a starting-point to find out more on push mail, I have written a guide on Direct Push as well as a BlckBerry primer on this very blog as well.

In the past, I tried to experience other implementations such as that from Visto. Unfortunately, due to Visto's inability to support a trial where I live in Singapore, I had no opportunity to try it out. However, it might not matter so much now, given that the sheer weight of user numbers has narrowed the race into a straight fight between Microsoft's Direct Push solution and the RIM BlackBerry.

Why BlackBerry for push mail

Why did I make the shift after trying out both solutions for an extended period of time? It can probably be summed up in one word: the user experience.

Despite the seemingly annual BlackBerry outages, at least I can rely on a BlackBerry to keep working the rest of the time. The Windows Mobile Smartphones I've had required frequent resets. Also, push mail simply grinds to a halt when the data stops flowing for unknown reasons. I doubt the fault lies in the technological implementation of push mail on Microsoft's end. However, I just don't see the final polish in the various implementations by Microsoft's OEMs.

It might also be noted that because I live in Singapore, I am in reality unaffected by any downtime experienced by folks in North America.

I'm not making the make the move lightly - after all, I have purchased my fair share of Windows Mobile applications as well. And, it's also true that the BlackBerry pales in many other aspects - such as lack of support for 3.5G services, the relative dearth of applications compared to Windows Mobile, and so on.

But in battery life, robustness, and good old push mail, the BlackBerry wins - hands down.

In the following weeks, I will be writing more on the BlackBerry as I examine some of the administrative and management controls available to the BlackBerry administrator. I will also be looking at some of the business solutions developed for the Blackberry, as well as how the BlackBerry can be a viable wireless mobile platform suitable for enterprise wide deployment in your organization. Stay tuned.