The Roundtrip Tour of Smartphones

Just over a year ago, I left Blackberry after being a loyal user for over 7 years.

It was a tough move for me because Blackberry had taught me how to be mobile.

The first Blackberry I got, back in 1998, was a life changing experience for me and I was very loyal to them as a result. Over the years, I used almost every Blackberry model they made.

For a number of reasons, some related to standardizing on Goodlink in our office, and some related to a curiosity about what else was out there, I switched to the Treo 650.

The Treo is a really good smartphone, probably the best one on the market.  The Gotham Gal switched along with me and she has stayed on the Treo and generally loves it.

But the Treo wasn’t a good solution for me. First, I am really rough on these devices. I drop them, I bang them around my desk, I use them constantly, and I put tons of software on them if I can.

I put so much stuff on my Treo that it would crash all the time (I mean every hour or so).  With my reader’s help, I diagnosed the problem and was able to fix it (sort of).  But when I broke my Treo for the third time and had to think about sending it back and getting a fourth one, I decided to see what else was on the market.

That led me to Windows Mobile and the MDA Vario. I did my diligence and asked my readers about the device before getting it.  Most said it was great, but a few said it wouldn’t work for me.

The naysayers were right. I lasted about a week on Windows Mobile.  Windows Mobile is going to get there, I am sure of it. But as of last winter it was too fat on a device that was too underpowered for me. I synched my 9800 contacts with the device and it stopped working and that was that. The MDA Vario went into my growing collection of failed mobile devices on my office  bookshelf.

So on the suggestions of my friend Brad Feld, I picked up a Sidekick II. It doesn’t really synch with Exchange so I had to kluge together a scheme to make it work for me.  Brad and his colleague Ross were particularly helpful to me in hacking together a way to make the Sidekick II work for me.

I used the Sidekick II for about five months. It is a tremendous device. I liked it way better than the Treo and the Vario. I love the keyboard.  I love the screen. I love the mail client, the AIM client, and the OS. Basically, it rocks.

And my kids would always ask to borrow it so they could play games or log onto AIM and chat with their friends. That never happened with any of my other smartphones.

But Sidekick II just doesn’t cut it for me as a business tool.  It would only let me keep 1000 contacts on it.  Every day there would be two or three email addresses and phone numbers that I needed (and never the same ones) that weren’t on the phone. If I deleted an email on the device, it would still be in my inbox.  Calendar additions made in the office weren’t instantly added to my Sidekick II.

It became an irritation over time.  So I decided to give the phone to Emily, my AIMaholic thirteen year old daughter, and go back to Blackberry.

I’ve been using the Blackberry 8700g (g is the T-Mobile version) for the past week. It’s like going back to the girlfriend you wish you’d never left. I am so happy.

I am sure its because I learned to be mobile on a blackberry and that’s where I developed all my habits. But Blackberry fits me like a glove.

And best of all, it comes with bluetooth so I can use my bluetooth headset again, this time with my beloved Blackberry.

That said, I feel greatly enriched by my yearlong tour of the smartphone market. Here is what I’ve learned.

Treo is the mass market smartphone.  It’s the best general purpose device.

Windows isn’t ready for prime time yet, but it will be.  Windows on the Treo is going to be the mainstream solution.

Sidekick is the killer solution for the next generation. They don’t want or need email. Sidekick is for them.

Blackberry is for me and everyone else who wants the killer mobile email solution and needs that over everything else.

That’s my view of the current state of play.

Of course, it will change over time. The Motorola Q may change things pretty quickly.  I saw it for the first time yesterday and its very slick.

But I am not leaving Blackberry to try it out. 

I spent a year away from Blackberry and I am not doing that again any time soon.

#VC & Technology