My New Mobile Phone (or “I Really Really Miss My Blackberry Keyboard”)

Regular readers know that I’ve been going through a frustrating back and forth decision on a new mobile phone for the better part of 8 months.

I’ve long been a blackberry guy. I love my phone for two reasons: that it’s a phone, and that it did an amazing job handling email. I send paragraphs-long emails with my phone. The blackberry keyboard was terrific, always has been.

But the world was passing me by, there’s so much that new devices can do and they’re simply not being offered for Blackberry.

I kept holding out hope that what seemed like a dying platform would be brought back to life, but their new operating system was delayed until the fall and then until 2013, and it was finally announced that even Blackberry would be ditching the physical keyboard built into the phone.

There was no more reason to hold on.

Joe Brancatelli nails it in his discussion of why business travelers have held onto their Blackberries for dear life. And why it’s finally time to let go. But, and believe me I’ve done the research, no phone on the market replaces he Blackberry for the ability to send email.

For the past month I’ve been using the Samsung Galaxy S3. It’s a good phone. It handles incoming emails well. I’m finally checking in with airline mobile apps, making car reservations on the phone, paying for Starbucks drinks with it too. I use the phone to approve comments that get trapped in the spam queue on this blog, too. I’m even pretty happy with the Samsung’s voice recognition, and I’ve seen that several tech writers aren’t (but then again, I never used Siri).

What it lacks, though, is a reasonable way to send long, detailed emails. Some day someone will bring that functionality back, and that will be a day to rejoice. But I couldn’t keep holding out anymore, and in the meantime my productivity is the worse for it.

The other major drawback is the battery. I could leave the Blackberry off a charger for days at a time and it would be fine. Not so the Samsung S3. I now have a charger in my office, one at home, and one in my laptop back. This thing needs juice, which really isn’t ideal for the road. I’m managing, but I could use better battery life.

It’s an amazing device. But it isn’t perfect.

About Gary Leff

Gary Leff is one of the foremost experts in the field of miles, points, and frequent business travel - a topic he has covered since 2002. Co-founder of frequent flyer community, emcee of the Freddie Awards, and named one of the "World's Top Travel Experts" by Conde' Nast Traveler (2010-Present) Gary has been a guest on most major news media, profiled in several top print publications, and published broadly on the topic of consumer loyalty. More About Gary »

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  1. I’ve never had a blackberry, but since you have an android, try out Swype. It takes a little while to get used to, but I’m quite capable of fairly quickly getting out long text.

  2. I fully understand the feeling of losing the physical keyboard and decided lack of battery life. I pay a weight and “cool” penalty to carry my HTC Windows Phone 7 because it has both a physical keyboard and battery life. I just can’t understand this fascination with soft-keyboards and the failure of efficiency that lets phones without a real useful battery life out of the R&D shop.

  3. i carry a small BT keyboard for both my iphone and ipad in situations you are describing

  4. Gary, understand how attached you get to the bberry and it’s keyboard. I have a samsung S2 phonne and have adjusted somewhat to using the keyboard on it, and really love the other functions it has. Have you tryed allowing auto rotate and using the samsung email keyboard in landscape orientation? Works for my fat fingers, cheers, w.

  5. The now-discontinued Google G2 on T-Mobile (manufactured by HTC) was the perfect alternative to the blackberry. Having been a dedicated blackberry user for several years, this phone is the perfect combination of android features with the functionality of a full–indeed, better than blackberry–keyboard for lengthy emails.

    I am quite curious as to why the phone was discontinued, as I have to think demand for this would be extraordinary. In any event, I’m clinging to mine until an equivalent replacement hits the market. They can still be found (at least for t-mobile) on ebay.

    As for power, its true the android is worse than my blackberry. Now I always carry an enercell portable usb charger. It gives my G2 at least 2 full charges, and is small enough to easily fit in my pocket while it charges the phone. Although I wish androids had a better battery life, the portable charger is a great remedy to ensure I’m not caught with a dead battery.

  6. They can pry my blackberry from my cold, dead hands. I absolutely hate touch screens. I have a kindle fire, and sure, it’s great for reading and playing games, but damn is it annoying to type on. BBM is the only way to keep track of my husband as he travels. Damn you RIM!

  7. My solution = 2 phones. BB and touchscreen of your choice. Sad state of affairs, when you have to bring 2 phones around because one or the other doesn’t satisfy all needs. But if you want to be “efficient” I feel that this is what has to be done.

  8. Gary, I know somebody makes a small flexable roll up bluetooth keyboard that might interest you.

  9. just another thought, if you’re looking to “type” a long email, just speak to it using the voice feature. the voice feature on android is light years ahead of ios. i do a lot of talking to my phone and it’s usually 99 percent correct. you’ll be amazed. you don’t have to speak slowly either.

  10. I work for AT&T and can swap smart phones as often as I like for company official use. I’ve said for years that for email, texting, and voice calls nothing can beat the RIM platform. I just gave up my Blackberry Torch for The Samsung Galaxy S3. I HATE the touchscreen. Having to toggle to a different screen to get a question mark, hyphen, or comma really slows me down. The LTE speeds for internet browsing are amazing, but for e-mail, give me my Blackberry back. Who cares about apps and games. My work phone is a tool, not a toy.

  11. A couple pro tips:

    1) Consider a keyboard program like SwiftKeyX for folks like BaxterBoy12 who don’t like their system’s built in keyboard.

    2) For a heavy traveler, it makes sense to get a small low profile battery backup. I have one that is about the size of a business card + 1 CM thick, and it has 3 full phone charges of capacity in it. It has a built in mini-USB plug so you don’t need a cable. These can be really handy when you face those 12+ hours on a series of flights and the desire to use your GPS to navigate to your destination at the other end.

  12. SwiftKeyX vote right here! Helps a lot.

    And another vote on either a battery backup sleeve or a carry on external battery pack to recharge everything from your laptop to phone.

  13. I can type faster both with Swype and SwiftKey software keyboards than I ever could on a BlackBerry – and I still have a work issued BB with keyboard and my personal BB used to be a Storm 2 with that funky “SurePress” keyboard. You learn by repetition.

    My hands are too big to type with both on my Droid Razr Maxx (and Droid 2 Global before that) but with either Swype or SwiftKey I’m super quick with just my right thumb.

  14. I’ve had the same experience since moving from Blackberry to Android 1.5 years ago. I think my next move will be to two devices — pocket-size flip phone plus ipad.

  15. There was an article on the first page of today’s WSJ Personal Journal on why 2 phones make sense for some people.

    For me, I’ve gotten used to using the iPhone in landscape mode but still hate to draft more than a paragraph or 2.

  16. I find it hard to believe that someone with deep pockets won’t buy RIM solely for the hardcore BB user. Nevertheless, if I have to be the last one to turn out the lights, so be it. I will never switch until the network literally stops working.

  17. Wish the folks that are kindly suggesting alternatives to a physical keyboard would cotton on to the fact that sometimes we just want our damn real keys. I too carry both, a BB Bold for email, and a Galaxy Nexus for everything else.

  18. For battery power on the road, consider a solution like a Mophie Powerstation. It is a small portable battery that provides about 2 charges. They don’t cost much but they are a great solution to this sort of problem.

  19. I have a personal iPhone and a work Blackberry. It’s really amazing how little the Blackberry can do compared to the iPhone. I was a die hard Blackberry user for years and finally just gave up for my personal phone (no choice for work). I saw a recent article that said some companies are coming up with contingency plans in case RIM goes bankrupt. Sad day if that happens.

  20. Swype does really make a difference in terms of composing lengthy emails. it’s by no means perfect as your error rate will likely be higher, but it’s much faster than single key inputting, and the speed of the auto prediction may occasionally be even faster than you can type, especially with longer words.

  21. You hit the nail on the head, Gary. My android only goes about six hours before needing a charge. I consider it a design flaw since my old Nokia went FIVE days between charges.

  22. Did you buy the extended battery? If not, get one ASAP because unlike older phones, the extended bat on the S3 still leaves the phone quite thin… doesn’t make it a brick. Also, you can tweak settings in Android to help a bit by shortening timeouts, etc.

    As for typing… you’ll improve with time. And the JellyBean default keyboard is actually superior to Swype and SwiftKey for many people, so you might not even bother with third party apps. Just practice.

    Congrats on avoiding the Apple trap. The dainty iPhone is a full generation behind other phones and falling more behind every month.

  23. i recommend you turn off 4G when you really don’t need it. it will prolong your battery power.

  24. Count me as another who hates virtual (soft) keyboards. And who wants to carry around yet another accessory (keyboard) to type on a darn cell phone?

    Along these lines, I want to vent that I HATE tablets. If you have to use a physical keyboard wtih them, what’s the point? Why not just buy a super light notebook/netbook? Seriously.

    And now the advent of 64+ GB SD cards (SDXG) there won’t e a need to have a huge hard drive on your UMPC, you just enough of and SSD to run the OS and the SDXC takes care of all the rest of the “stuff”.

    And no, I don’t have fat fingers….I have fast fingers, super fast typing on a physical keyboard. Just can’t be done on a virtual one, no matter how you look at it. It’s the ergonomics of a design flaw.

  25. So with the BBerry crew here. I need my phone to send e-mails, not for cool apps (which are fun and all, but toys). Nothing in the market can replace the BB right now. Why can’t Apple buy BB, stick iOS on BB hardware (except for e-mail functionality!), and make everyone happy?

  26. Why would you type long email? just speak it, android voice software works great on the S II. So looking forward to getting the S III in couple months.

  27. Mobile devices that are targetted for sending emails are a vanishing niche. Emails are a declining medium soon to join the fax. And it is doubtful that typeing with your thumbs is going anywhere either, virtual keyboard or cottoned keys. The IBM selectric had a great keyboard, little on the heavy side though.

  28. @Delta Points – appears Foxfi isn’t yet available for Samsung S3. In the meantime I’ve got my MiFi.

  29. It’s really no doubt that Samsung S3 would be top of the line when it comes to it’s quality specs, there are ways that you can prolong your battery.

    Samsung S3 is the best for traveling than iPhone 4s

  30. Simple, just install Swiftkey & Juice Defender and you won’t look back to Blackberry anymore.

    From 5-year Blackberry user who converted to Android:)

  31. @judha. I use swiftkey 3 and it is better than the stock Android one but it is still a pain point even with the nice predictive algorithms and spacebar swipe. I like the Samsung g3 but the user experience just does not cut it for the power user. I am afraid I am looking back and have a keen interest in the BB 10 launch next month.

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