Why I Switched to Android: 7 BlackBerry Geeks Speak

Why are so many gadget enthusiasts abandoning RIM's ship to go Google? CIO.com's Al Sacco chats with seven formerly loyal BlackBerry users who've recently switched to Google's Android platform for some straight talk on the big shift.

Lots of players are trying their hands in the modern mobile game. What used to be a contest dominated by just a couple of companies, namely Nokia and Research In Motion (RIM), in both the consumer and enterprise spheres, now has successful players ranging from Apple to Google and perennial mobile hanger-on Microsoft.

Motorola DROID X and RIM BlackBerry Torch 9800
Motorola DROID X and RIM BlackBerry Torch 9800

Apple, with its iOS-powered iPhone, iPod touch and iPad, and Google, with devices based on the Android mobile OS, seem to be having the most success. That's due largely to both the "freshness" and functionality of their respective operating systems. Indeed, these two companies are stealing the most prospective smartphone users away from BlackBerry-maker Research In Motion (RIM).

A few months back, before Android had gained the public support it's currently seeing, and while Apple was barreling along, full-steam ahead, I spoke with a handful of hardcore gadget-geeks, folks who live and breathe mobile, who'd recently made the switch from a BlackBerry to the iPhone. The idea: Spotlight the factors that lured them away from RIM and into Apple's "arms." (Check out "The BlackBerry-to-iPhone Switch: Converts Speak" for details.)

Since then, Android has stormed the scene like a ravenous giant, devouring new subscribers in hordes and stealing buzz from RIM and Apple.

So I've hit the Web yet again to corral another collection of well-informed mobile enthusiasts and experts who'd recently dropped the BlackBerry for Google Android devices.

Every one of the seven sources featured in this story was located on Twitter, and I both respect and trust their opinions, because I read many of them on a daily basis. Every source also has a background using both BlackBerry smartphones and Android devices--and in some cases, others handhelds, as well. Most of them use their smartphones for both work and play.

In other words, these folks know smartphones.

Keep moving for straight talk on why RIM is slowly losing market share to competitor Google, what the company could do to retain and regain users, and the future of RIM's BlackBerry OS, according to former "CrackBerry" addicts. If you're not interested in the specifics, skip right to my conclusions.

Name: John Barsodi

Twitter Handle: @jbarsodi

Age: 31

John Barsodi Twitter Image
John Barsodi's Twitter Image

Bio: IT staffer for an international gaming company who's worked in various messaging-related IT roles, mainly designing and supporting Windows and messaging infrastructures.

Personal website: lopo.com

Smartphone History: Google Nexus One; BlackBerry Storm 9530; BlackBerry Bold 9000, AT&T Tilt2, BlackBerry 8820; and BlackBerry Pearl 8100.

Current smartphone(s) of choice: Motorola DROID X and Apple iPhone.

Why this particular device(s)?

"The screen, the speed of the processor, and the 8MP camera combined with the slim 'chassis' and light weight make [the DROID X] a hard-to-beat smartphone," Barsodi says "Software comes third as the hardware really sealed the deal for me."

User-type (Business v. Consumer): Both. The Droid X is Barsodi's personal device, iPhone is his work handheld.

Does your organization support Android devices? If not, why not? What devices does your org support?

No.

"We are waiting on the vendor we use for iPhone device management and connectivity to support Root detection within their Android client," Barsodi says. "Android poses a unique threat to corporate users since it has a much different application execution and multitasking implementation. For example, the drive by root exploit via Flash on the Sprint EVO."

Catalyst for the Switch, i.e., why leave BlackBerry?

Barsodi says that he uses many Google services, including Gmail, Google Calendar, Google Voice and Google Docs, so switching to Android, which integrates nicely with many of these services, was a no-brainer.

Also, Barsodi says that he is not confident that RIM can keep up with its competitors in the future, though he does acknowledge BlackBerry's security edge in the enterprise.

Why are so many people switching from BlackBerry to other mobile platforms?

"The ability to 'do more' is a big part of it," Barsodi says.

The variety of available Android hardware-configurations and feature-sets are other drivers, according to Barsodi.

"RIM has a habit of rehashing the same device in a slightly different form factor or leaving one feature off Model A, then introducing Model B with the previously missing feature," he says.

Is RIM "in trouble" because of the large number of BlackBerry users switching to other platforms?

Barsodi says RIM's recent second quarter 2010 earnings suggest RIM is not yet hurting financially, but that could change quickly if the company doesn't better adapt to the modern smartphone market.

"RIM needs to look at revamping the entire [BlackBerry] OS. Theyre still relying on and tweaking an OS that was designed for one major use case: enterprise e-mail," according to Barsodi.

What do you miss most about BlackBerry?

"At this time, I don't miss my BlackBerry," Barsodi says. "I do miss a specific application though: Viigo." (Viigo is an RSS reader and "lifestyle" application. The company behind the app was recently acquired by RIM.)

Barsodi also misses the BlackBerry e-mail interface and BlackBerry Messenger (BBM).

What does Android do best, in your opinion?

Barsodi appreciates Android's general application "richness," availability and selection.

Why Android and not iOS or webOS, etc?

Barsodi uses an iPhone for work, and he likes the Apple device, but was unwilling to switch from Verizon, his personal wireless carrier, so that ruled out the iPhone as his only device. He also hasn't seen anything about webOS or Palm's Pre that got him truly excited.

"Android was the logical choice given my heavy Google Apps usage," Barsodi says

What could RIM do to get you to switch back to BlackBerry?

"RIM could offer more variety in form factor and make more progress in revamping or improving their OS," Barsodi says. "New bubbly UI tweaks aren't as important as improving overall performance of the OS and reducing memory leaks."

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Name: John Maguire

Twitter Handle: @Zerog46

Age: 38

Bio: Former police officer, recently retired due to an injury after 11 years of service in a New Jersey small town. Web moderator for Android fan-site MyDROIDWorld.com.

Smartphone History: Maguire's first BlackBerry smartphone was the brick-esque BlackBerry 7200, and he has owned the majority of BlackBerrys available through Verizon Wireless since then. He switched to the original Motorola DROID a few months ago, then the HTC DROID Incredible and now the Motorola DROID X.

Current smartphone(s) of choice: Motorola DROID X

Why this particular device(s)?

Maguire says he's sticking with the DROID X for a while, because he appreciates the device's larger size--both screen size and its overall dimensions. (The DROID X is significantly larger than any modern BlackBerry, even RIM's touch-screen Storm and Torch devices.)

User-type (Business v. Consumer): Mostly consumer, though he uses and has used his personal devices for work purposes.

Does your organization support Android devices?

Yes. Maguire says the small-town police department he formerly worked for mostly supports any device that's compatible with its specific infrastructure.

Catalyst for the Switch, i.e., why leave BlackBerry?

Application choice and quality.

"On Android, there are at least 4 to 5 different browsers to install on your device aside from the stock Google browse," Maguire says.

He's also a big fan of Google's free navigation offering on the Android platform.

Why are so many people switching from BlackBerry to other mobile platforms?

Maguire thinks Android's ease of use and the ability to do more with less, i.e., more applications, etc., are the platforms greatest strengths.

And he appreciates Android's selections of mobile games, as well.

"Soon smartphones are going to replace smaller game consoles, like the Nintendo DS or the Sony PSP," Maguire says. "When we go on a road trip my son, who is 9-years-old, doesn't want to bring his PSP with old games, he wants to use my Moto Droid X where he can download a new game if he gets tired of playing the one he's currently playing."

Is RIM "in trouble" because of the large number of BlackBerry users switching to other platforms?

Not now. Not yet.

"There might be an issue [in the future] if they don't keep up with everyone else," he says.

What do you miss most about BlackBerry?

BlackBerry Messenger (BBM) and the trusty, full QWERTY BlackBerry keyboard. BlackBerry is clearly the market-leader when it comes to security as well, according to Maguire.

What does Android do best, in your opinion?

Maguire appreciates Android's "openness" and the platform's tight integration with Google's various Web services.

"I can root my device--jailbreak, hack, etc.--and basically put whatever I want on it," he says.

Why Android and not iOS or webOS, etc?

AT&T's iPhone exclusivity contract meant no iPhone for Maguire, since he's unwilling to switch from Verizon. And the current momentum of Android is very exciting to him, since it will likely lead to more and more quality developers creating new and innovative applications for the platform, Maguire says.

What could RIM do to get you to switch back to BlackBerry?

Not much, Maguire says. Right now, he has no regrets at all about leaving BlackBerry, and he's very excited about the future of Android.

"I can't wait to see what Google brings in the future, and I am looking forward to the tablets running Android," Maguire says.

Name: Kai Armstrong

Twitter Handle: @phikai

Age: 25

Kai Armstrong's Twitter Avatar
Kai Armstrong's Twitter Image

Bio: Library-systems and technology worker in higher education and student, who's a computer geek as well as a software developer. Armstrong used to create BlackBerry applications for EDL Industries (http://edlindustries.com), back when he used a RIM smartphone.

Personal Website: KaiArmstrong.com

Smartphone History: Armstrong's first BlackBerry device was the Storm 9530 on Verizon, which he used for more than a year before switching to the HTC DROID Incredible.

Current smartphone(s) of choice: HTC DROID Incredible.

Why this particular device(s)?

"At that time, the Incredible was the top of the line Android device on the [Verizon] network," Armstrong says.

User-type (Business v. Consumer): Mostly consumer, though he does access corporate resources via DROID Incredible.

Does your organization support Android devices?

Yes, Armstrong's organization supports "just about any device you'd like," he says.

Catalyst for the Switch, i.e., why leave BlackBerry?

Armstrong's entire experience with the BlackBerry Storm left him feeling very unsatisfied.

"The iPhone was pretty much the standard at the time, and following the information about the BlackBerry Storm up until launch, it seemed like it was certainly going to compete," Armstrong says. "However...it just didn't live up to its pre-launch hype. The device was slow, the browser unusable, and the developer community didn't bond around the device with applications. It wasn't the experience I was looking for."

Why are so many people switching from BlackBerry to other mobile platforms?

"One of the biggest gripes I had with my [BlackBerry Storm] 9530 was that I was actually scared to open links that people would tweet on Twitter for fear of the BlackBerry Browser just crashing or the phone stopping."

Armstrong calls the BlackBerry browser the platform's "worst feature."

He also thinks a lack of developer support, at least to the extent that developers are embracing Android and iOS, is hurting BlackBerry.

Is RIM "in trouble" because of the large number of BlackBerry users switching to other platforms?

Armstrong thinks RIM is in trouble in the consumer space, but that the company still has an advantage in the enterprise, due to BlackBerry security and stability.

"[I]n several more years when other mobile platforms have built the back-end infrastructure necessary to keep corporations and government agencies 'happy' about allowing [non-BlackBerry devices] on their networks, RIM will be in trouble," Armstrong predicts.

What do you miss most about BlackBerry?

Armstrong misses the colored LED notifier found on all BlackBerry smartphones, which lets you know when messages are waiting for you.

"Other than that, I don't miss a thing," he says.

What does Android do best, in your opinion?

"Android's greatest quality to someone like myself is that ability to tinker," Armstrong says. "There are custom ROMs, custom Kernels, and all kinds of things that you can tweak and play with at a much deeper level than a settings menu. I think this type of open architecture/platform is one of its greatest features. "

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