Five Things Apple Could Learn From BlackBerry About Phone Design

NEWS ANALYSIS: The iPhone 6 and 6 Plus may be the best phones Apple has delivered yet, but some things could still be improved and one place to look for inspiration may be at BlackBerry.

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Over the course of the past five months, I've had the opportunity to review several smartphones aimed to appeal to business users, at least to some extent.

A couple of those, including a Nokia Lumia that was sent to me to show off Microsoft's personal assistant, Cortana, were sufficiently pathetic that I sent them back to their makers. I didn't see any point in wasting your time with an article about a phone that had no clear reason to exist.

But two of the devices I've looked at clearly were intended to be more than just consumer electronics. One of those was the BlackBerry Z30 that I reviewed in June, and the other is the Apple iPhone 6, which I reviewed in October. Both these phones are well-suited for business users, but obviously the iPhone ends up in far more hands than does the BlackBerry—if only because its overall sales are far greater.

While working with these devices, I ended up using the BlackBerry Z30 for a few months. I grew to appreciate some of the innovative features that BlackBerry designed into the phone, a few of which made my life far easier than mobile phones usually do.

Then came time to review the iPhone 6, so I put away the Z30 and started using the Apple device for daily use. There are a number of reasons the iPhone 6 is an improvement over the earlier models, not the least of which was a screen that's large enough to use without the constant stream of errors that earlier iPhones brought about.

But the change from the BlackBerry handset to the iPhone was not without its adjustments. In fact, in a few areas, the BlackBerry beats the iPhone in a big way.

Of course, for most things, both phones are just phones, but it's those differences in usability that can go a long way in determining overall satisfaction. But as I look at the BlackBerry Z30 resting on my desk next to the Apple iPhone 6, there are some features I wish I could magically transfer from the Z30 to the iPhone.

  • Multitasking: When I tap on the link to a Website in an email message on the iPhone 6 (which is running iOS 8.1 as of now), the email application closes and is replaced by the Web page. When I want to go back to my email, I have to close Safari and start the email app. Each time I want to move between them, it's open and close all over again. When I wanted to do the same thing with the Z30, I could simply minimize the email message and open the browser, but then I could leave the browser open and move back and forth by simply tapping on the minimized image of each. The Z30 could run eight such sessions at the same time with all of them remaining fully operational. It's worth noting that both the iPhone and the BlackBerry use similar OS kernels based on Unix, so it seems likely that iOS could multitask if Apple wanted to do it.

Wayne Rash

Wayne Rash

Wayne Rash is a freelance writer and editor with a 35 year history covering technology. He’s a frequent speaker on business, technology issues and enterprise computing. He covers Washington and...