BlackBerry has been getting a lot of bad press in recent years, mostly because the company got off to a very late start rebuilding its antiquated BlackBerry OS with BlackBerry 10 and roll out a new generation of touch-enabled smartphones.
On a technical level at least, the company appears to have gained some success. Under the hood, the QNX-based BlackBerry 10 operating system is a fast, responsive platform that has been steadily upgraded since its release at the start of 2013. Meanwhile, its built-in Web browser, widely considered inadequate in the past, is now regularly rated as the fastest browser on mobile devices.
Why Use a BlackBerry Instead of an iPhone?
BlackBerry 10 smartphones offers a number of capabilities not found on other mobile platforms. There's BlackBerry Hub for quickly viewing and responding to all alerts and messages from a single location without having to tap multiple app icons. There's the ubiquitous LED light that signifies a new message. There's the capability to unlock the phone by simply sliding a finger up from the bottom edge of the glass screen.
[ Commentary: Why a BlackBerry Is Better Than an iPhone ]
[ Counterpoint: 5 Reasons You Can Finally Ditch BlackBerry ]
The company's flagship BlackBerry Z30, launched at the end of 2013, also comes with a host of features not found in the Apple iPhone: A large 5-inch touchscreen, an expansion slot for adding flash memory, native HDMI out, the capability to function as an external USB storage drive and 25 hours of battery life.
I've used both an iPhone and a BlackBerry for more than five years — and the Z30 impressed me so much that my iPhone 5S lost its appeal. I've stopped using my iPhone and now use the BlackBerry Z30 exclusively.
If you were likewise disappointed with the latest iPhone, worry that Android phones aren't secure or have always remained true to the BlackBerry, here are the nine steps you need to follow to make the switch to a BlackBerry 10 smartphone.
1. Migrate to BlackBerry Using Device Switch
If all you need to transfer is contact data, then you can use the Device Switch app from a British company called Media Mushroom, which is recommended by the BlackBerry support site. The app requires the appropriate version of the software on both the source and destination device; it works by transferring the data over a Wi-Fi network. Supported data types for the iPhone include only Calendar and Contacts records, though.
2. Move Email, Contact and Calendar Entries
Unlike earlier versions of the BlackBerry, the BlackBerry 10 platform eschews the company's proprietary BlackBerry Internet Service and instead works over a standard Internet connection. This means that the BlackBerry 10 smartphone can work with Exchange ActiveSync directly and also offers device-level support for popular services such as Gmail, Outlook.com and Yahoo.
As such, an easy way to migrate email message, contacts and calendar entries to the BlackBerry is to ensure that these data are stored on one (or more) of the above services on the iPhone. In my experience, email, contacts, calendar, tasks and notes data stored on an Office 365 account were automatically downloaded to the BlackBerry once the account was added. Note that this approach doesn't copy text messages or other miscellaneous data such as browser bookmarks, Wi-Fi network settings, photos and phone call logs.
3. Keep Your iTunes Library in Sync
Longtime iPhone users probably possess of a large library of audio and video clips. Fortunately, you can synchronize them with your new BlackBerry smartphone using the free BlackBerry Link desktop app available for both Windows and Mac OS X.
To transfer music to your BlackBerry, download and install the BlackBerry Link software. Connect your new BlackBerry to your iPhone with a USB cable, or be prepared to wirelessly transfer files over the Wi-Fi network. An option at the bottom of the Home menu shows the music sources detected on the current device. Select iTunes, and click on "Music" to create a sync association to your BlackBerry device. This will see all non-DRM songs and their associated album artwork copied over.
4. Open the Door to Android Apps
The Achilles' heel of the BlackBerry 10 platform lies in the dearth of quality apps when compared to the competition. While it's almost guaranteed that any iOS app for the iPhone will have a corresponding Android version, the same just isn't true for the BlackBerry.
[ News: BlackBerry Increases Android App Support ]
To alleviate this issue, BlackBerry 10 smartphones have a built-in Android player that lets them run third-party software. Specifically, the Android player is capable of running Android apps that have been put through a file conversion process. As of software release 10.2.1, the Android player has been substantially beefed up and can directly run most Android Application Package (APK) files.
There are several ways to get APK files; you can download them from an intermediary website such as APK Train, or you can use a free app called Snap created for just this purpose. Coded by developer Jim Muir, Snap connects directly to Google Play for users to browse and download Android apps. (As Snap isn't on the official BlackBerry World, it must be manually sideloaded. A CrackBerry write-up explains how to sideload a BlackBerry app.)
The Android player is a computer engineering feat, but there are instances when it won't load apps. The culprit tends to be the presence of hardcoded dependencies or the use of Google-only features.
5. Gear Up With BlackBerry Accessories
One downside of being the underdog smartphone platform on the market is the small number of available accessories. That said, you'd be wise to purchase a high-capacity microSD flash memory card micro HDMI adapter for your BlackBerry Z30. The latter is important if you expect to make presentations from the smartphone, as most projectors and televisions today are equipped with standard HDMI connectors.
6. Enable BlackBerry 10 Security
The first five steps will get you started on a BlackBerry device; the next four will help you realize the full capabilities of the BlackBerry 10 platform.
BlackBerry continues to enjoy a stellar reputation for security. Like its predecessors, the BlackBerry 10 platform offers both device encryption and media card encryption. Enabling the latter means that encrypted media cards will only accessed by the device that encrypted it; data becomes permanently inaccessible should the smartphone be put through a security wipe.
In addition, a device password can protect against unauthorized access. Of course, a password is of limited use if the device isn't locked, so be sure to set a reasonable timeout period after which the device automatically locks.
There's a numeric password option if you prefer something simple, but BlackBerry 10 adds a picture password feature (shown at right) that deserves special mention.
When enabled, the system loads a preselected background picture overlaid with a grid of numbers. To unlock the phone, you need to drag the grid so that the previously selected number is positioned at a predefined point on the image. The number grid changes after every try, making it impossible for even a careful observer to work out the correct number and position.
7. Set Up BlackBerry Protect
One service to set up as soon as possible: BlackBerry Protect, which works like Apple's "Find My iPhone." Once enabled from the BlackBerry Protect app on the smartphone, users can log into the BlackBerry Protect website to map the current location of their BlackBerry smartphone, display a custom message on the Home screen, lock it remotely or even permanently erase all data from the device.
8. Link Social Networking Accounts
BlackBerry 10 supports the top social networking platforms (Facebook, LinkedIn and Twitter), so be sure to add them; you'll see them integrated into the Hub. The more interesting feature, though, is how BlackBerry 10 downloads various bits of data (profile photos, birthdays and their latest social media updates) and automatically shares them with the Contacts app. It's not uncommon to pull up a contact number or email address in the Contacts app and find that he or she came from a social networking source, not something that was manually added into the address book.
9. Connect to Your Desktop
Finally, the BlackBerry Link desktop client offers a remote file access feature that lets a BlackBerry smartphone remotely access documents or media files stored on the desktop. This feature works as long as your PC is powered on and has Internet access, and it requires some configuration of shared folders.
Paul Mah is a tech blogger who was formerly an IT professional. These days, he spends his time dissecting various tech news and developments at www.TechBlogger.io. You can follow him on Twitter at @paulmah or Google Plus at +PaulMah.