by Al Sacco

RIM BlackBerry Bold, Apple iPhone: Who’s Beating Who to the 3G Punch??

Jun 26, 20083 mins
Data Center

Last month sister publication posted an article entitled “BlackBerry Bold Beats iPhone to the 3G Punch.” The story was written to announce the official unveiling of RIM’s latest—and greatest to date—BlackBerry smartphone, but it rubbed me the wrong way from the start.

I was in Orlando at the time attending RIM’s Wireless Enterprise Symposium (WES) where the company initially showed off its new 3G device and where users were able to get their first hands-on time with the new wares. As I held the Bold the day after, I couldn’t help but recall the headline and cringe. Here’s why.

image of the BlackBerry Bold with Red Battery Cover
BlackBerry Bold with Red Battery Cover

First of all, 3G BlackBerrys have been available for some time. Just check out the 8707. RIM clearly beat Apple to 3G way back in the summer of 2006 when the 8707v hit Europe on Vodafone’s network. But this fact seems to have been lost amongst all the BlackBerry Bold and iPhone 3G hype. I realize the PC World author was talking about next-gen devices from RIM and Apple, but still…

As I write this, more than a month after WES, neither the BlackBerry Bold nor the iPhone 3G has hit retail store shelves—though AT&T has set a North American release date of July 11 for the new iPhone and rumors suggest Canadian wireless carrier Rogers will release the Bold in early- to mid-July.

AT&T is reportedly still working out some last minute software and battery life kinks that are expected to delay the Bold’s U.S. release until at least mid-August. And though RIM hasn’t officially said that AT&T will be the initial Bold provider, the company is the only major U.S. carrier with a widespread 3G GSM network—T-Mobile only recently launched its 3G in New York City—so Americans can expect to see the Bold debut in the United States on AT&T.

image of three iPhone 3G devices in a line
Apple iPhone 3G

That means unless Rogers begins selling the Bold within the next two weeks, Apple will beat RIM to next-gen 3G-smartphone-punch, so to speak. And we’ll no doubt see another round of stories and blog posts about how Apple one-upped RIM.

But so what? From where I sit, the most significant benefits of 3G are the ability surf the Web and access online data at a much faster speed, simultaneously make voice calls and access the Web or send messages and 3G tethering capabilities.

However, it’s not immediately clear if either snazzy new device/carrier will allow for all of this functionality—in fact, it’s rumored that AT&T will not enable the iPhone to be used as a tethered modem even though it offers the feature on various other smartphones.

So the only real winner right now seems to be AT&T, which is prepping a trip to the bank and taking its time readying both the Bold and the iPhone 3G, while smartphone users, BlackBerry and Apple loyalists alike, salivate and push their patience to the limits.

The whole fiasco brings me back to one question I keep asking myself—and, since last week, my readers: Just how important is 3G really?