Look, I'll be the first to admit: I like BlackBerry devices. Despite the troubles and manufacturing issues I've had this year, I do think RIM makes a good product, with a lot of potential (now, how to expand into that potential is an entirely different story). By the same token, though, I'm not exclusive to the device by any means. I've owned several different platforms, with the most recent one being webOS (Palm Pre). They all have their strengths and subsequently, their weaknesses (including ). I say all of this to admit that, though I like BlackBerry devices, I am by no means a fanboy.
The Android concept has always interested me. There was a short period where I carried the G1, but I found that the battery life, keyboard, and overall design weren't my cup of tea. With the advent of the myTouch 3G, I figured I would give it a run through, to see how an active BlackBerry user would approach Android. I'll tell you, though: I am by no means the expert on Android - that would be John. He does fantastic work on the development of Android. And my goal isn't to step into his field by any means; my goal is to find out whether the myTouch 3G, in all of its Android goodness, is a device that die-hard BlackBerry users could feasibly switch to. BlackBerry users complain about their device and desire a switch to a different platform, but due to work or e-mail constraints, have to stay with the BlackBerry. Could the device be a worthy replacement for the e-mail warrior?
The first thought that hit me after opening the cool box and checking out the exterior design of the phone (and it's a natural one) is how dramatically different Android is versus the BlackBerry OS I've come to know and watch evolve over the years. Despite their entry into the consumer market, RIM has always kept the BlackBerry OS very pro-business, from the security measures to the overall look and feel of the device. Some would argue that it's RIM's Achilles heel (consumers and geeks) and some would argue the "why change something that's secure and works?" mentality (business users).
Secondly, I was struck by how seamlessly the device connected and synced with Google's services. Yes, I know, by this point you're probably thinking that I'm Android-challenged, but I'm doing my best to approach this as if I was a BlackBerry user transitioning for the first time, and not a die-hard phone geek. Very easy transition, and e-mail setup (for Gmail and my non-Google account) was a breeze. I was up and running in just a few minutes. Synchronization came shortly thereafter, and my contacts, calendar appointments, and the like were all integrated in.
The blinding issue that I see with this device that would hinder business users is the lack of a full QWERTY keyboard. To be completely honest, the on-screen keyboard that comes with it in the box is useless. Don't bother typing e-mails on it; your words will be so butchered that you'll automatically lose the business deal for not proofing the e-mail. That being said, the HTC stock keyboard can be downloaded from various places on the internet, and does work a bit better. I would characterize the stock keyboard as better. Not good, not perfect, but better. The auto-correction seems to be correct most of the time, with the exception of typing e-mail addresses and things that aren't easily recognizable. Bottom line: it's not the easiest solution when it comes to typing. If you need a device to fire off numerous e-mails a day, it's not for you.
Ever used a wireless device that had everything that you wanted, but lacked the one thing that you actually needed? The myTouch 3G is that device. Phenomenal Gmail integration, smooth web browsing, an ample selection of apps in the Android Market. But the keyboard is a deal breaker. And it's exceptionally frustrating, as the Google integration is absolutely perfect. For those that use Gmail, or Google Apps for Your Domain, the e-mail experience is second to none. But making 14 errors when sending a message comprised of "hello, how are you, thank you for the information" (with the stock HTC keyboard) makes the device one that business users can't use. The landscape keyboard helps to eliminate some of the erroneous typing, but the overall device lag persists, leaving you to wonder whether the myTouch recognized your gesture, or if you'll need to re-enter it again.
So, much to my irritation, while the device offers a great deal of phenomenal features, the keyboard is such that BlackBerry business users couldn't use the device. I'm not talking about consumer users, or those that use their BlackBerry device for media and other purposes over e-mailing; I'm referring to RIM's bread-and-butter class. For those that pound out more than ten e-mails per day, this isn't a viable replacement.
Rest assured, I'll keep looking. I'm sure there are alternative options out there somewhere.