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Tuesday, July 14, 2009

Switching from Blackberry 8800 to Iphone 3Gs: For Business Use

After 4 years of serious Blackberry 8700 and 8800 use, my wife convinced me to switch to the sexier iphone. I was pretty wary knowing it is not very good for business usage. However, my wife's prime interest was to get me off the keypad while driving. To her dismay, I am now an expert fast typist on my iphone virtual keyboard - but I do listen to her and for my own safety don't thumb responses to email while stopping at a light. Here are my experiences (so far) on what I did to bring my iphone closer to my needs. I have the iphone 32G 3GS. My previous phone was the wonderful, but, well not oomphy BB 8800.

  • Get a business ringtone, but not the shrill classic phone ringtone. The other ringtones are not very audible as far as I am concerned. After a bit of searching around, I got a good phone ringtone from here – its free. The ‘continental’ ringtone worked best for me – but I had problems with its pitch. I wanted something deeper. All you need is to get audacity, change the pitch, save it as mp3.

  • I like my phones to Vibrate and then Ring. The worst thing is to interrupt a meeting with a BRRRRRRIINNNNNG! (thats what the classic ringtone sounds like).  IPhone has no such concept. Fortunately, however it’s a simple fix – take your favorite ringtone, add a few seconds of silence in front of it and save it as a new ringtone (m4a). To add silence, again, use audacity (it has a simple to use option to insert X seconds of silence at a desired spot). Once you do this, simple drop the mp3 into itunes 8.2, generate an AAC version, drag it back to your desktop. You will see a file with “.m4a” on your desktop. Rename to “.m4r” and drop it back into itunes and voila you have a nice ringtone. You can delete your old file from itunes.

  • To make 1 & 2 simpler,you can download my modified ‘deep ring’ vibe and ring ringtones for iphone from here. Simply drag the m4a files into itunes. I have two versions – one with a 5 second vibe period and the other with 8 seconds. Take your pick.

  • Consider extending the number of rings before your phones goes to Voicemail.  This site tells you how. Very simple. Or, just call ATT (if they are your operator) and ask them to increase the duration. I’ve set mine to 25 seconds.

  • Calendar sync. Oh the horror. Itunes cannot handle lotus notes calendar  sync. We use lotus notes exclusively (I can’t change that). Anyway, after some research, I did find some options, including lotus notes pro . But I did not want it to sync directly with my LN server – as a first step, I wanted it to sync with my PC local replica of lotus notes. To do this, you can purchase a personal copy of XTNDConnect PC. (It will set you back by $60). There are some gotchas to this. You need to install Outlook on your machine. Its not really a problem – I never use it, but it is installed just so that XTNDConnectPC can sync Lotus notes with Outlook. And then, Outlook syncs with iphone using itunes. I never see outlook nor need to use it, so it works well. My workflow for syncing therefore is – update my calendar in notes, right click, sync with XTND and then run itunes and sync with my iphone. One extra step. But works the way I want. We are about to try out Lotus Notes Traveler that now has built in iphone push support (since Push is via my LN server to apple server to my phone, my phone will not waste time connecting to my remote notes server, which is good). Till we get Lotus notes traveler (which our IT is doing now), I am reasonably satisfied with IMAP for email (your IT needs to enable IMAP for the Domino server). If IMAP is not an option, the XTND can sync emails too via cable (which I don’t use). So basically, I need to keep my iphone, cardscan (for business cards) and lotus notes database in sync and this setup achieves just that.

  • The carrying  case. The iphone is a beautiful device and its greatness is in its ease of use and amazing looks. I’d hate to spoil that with any sort of silcon or plastic case. I'd also hate to interfere with the smooth touch interface with an invisible shield or similar. To protect it, I opted for a leather belt clip on case. Before you buy the $30 AT&T case which is with velcro (which I bought and then returned, incidentally), I’d strongly recommend you just purchase this one from Amazon. It costs $5 bucks including shipping, and works great. I tried several and settled on this. It looks good, and has a magnetic flap. Even if I did have to buy a new one each year, I’d still spend less after 5 years compared to instore ones (and that it much longer than I will own the iphone, for sure). Just be forewarned that it comes with a strong chemical odor when shipped to you – just keep it open and it goes away in a day or so. It also has a belt hook to boot. Just note that its belt clip is really tight - secure feeling though.

  • If you are a gmail user, don’t add gmail to your IMAP source. Instead, download the gmail app from appstore. I’d recommend the free AppGmail app from app store. Trust, me, after a while, it gets irritating to launch gmail from the google provided “G”apps utility, because each time, it creates a new tab on safari – and I hate the notion of many tabs being open in safari. AppGmail also uses the same interface as regular gmail for iphone, but it does that with an embedded webkit browser so your iphone safari browser does not get polluted with gmail tabs. There is also word that a new push gmail app has been submitted to gmail called GPush. Let’s see if that sees light of the day

  • If you are a regular “shoot with camera upload to facebook” kind of person, I’d recommend downloading a photo editor. I like photogene ($2.99 or so). It has exposure, RGB and levels, Sharpness, all of which I use. The only thing missing is NR, which some other apps do. You can always download the photo to your desktop and edit it with more powerful tools, but then it doesn’t show up in “facebook mobile” albums ;-) Sometimes, if I want to show off my camera, I want in phone editing so I can fix the photo and then upload and people can scream about what an amazing phone camera I have. Heh.

  • If you want to preserve battery life, keep location off, unless you need it for some app like google maps. Switch it on when you need it and off when you don't.  Just by doing that, I get acceptable to good battery life – at least 50% juice remains after a normal day use. I haven’t been able to assess push effect on battery drain, but will, after I start trialing LN traveler. Also, I have not found enabling 3G to be a big drain. Actually, where I stay, work, commute, there is excellent 3G coverage (better than GPRS/EDGE) and calls are clean and clear.

  • If  you make frequent international calls, my favorite app to use is the one by Andreas Amman. I tried a bunch and settled on this one. Again, a minor cost ($1 I think), but well worth it. The developer cares for the app, releases upgrades etc. The only caveat is that iphone currently does not support short DTMF, and long DTMF is sometimes unpredictable. So my international calls fail at times, depending on the network connection and on re-dialing it works. These apps require you to dial through their app, not the native iphone address book. While that may seem bad, when you use it, you will realize that the apps use the exact same UI and navigation as the default address book, so it doesn’t matter. In addition they allow favorites list, as well as automatically using a specific calling card for a specific set of numbers. I also love the fact that the app automatically displays the called party time (by looking at the international dial code). Very handy. Other apps do this too and they are free. I just found this particular app to rock solid and regularly updated.

  • Since there is a lot of talk on battery drain on iphone 3GS due to 3.0 OS, I prefer to keep my battery showing its percentage consumption. This can be easily enabled through Settings-General-Usage in the 3Gs.

  • And now, the top ‘non productivity’ apps I love and have installed (I am not a gamer, so that is out) – Facebook Mobile, Web MD, Hello Vino (very useful when you are buying wine) , AT&T myWireless, Pianist (ah my dreams to be a pianist), Privately (er, yeah, sure), Photogene (see above), Adam’s Game (for my toddler son)

Where the BB beats Iphone

  1. Physical keyboard is better. Period. Having said that, I am surprised how quickly I got used to the iphone virtual keyboard

  2. Push email. Can't be beat. I am yet to try how reliable Apple's push will be.

  3. Sync support. It syncs with Cardscan, Notes and whatever else you can think of.

  4. If it falls, your heart doesn't skip 5 beats :-)

  5. Bluetooth sync - I never used a cable with the BB. Iphone only supports BT for audio. No sync via BT.

Where the Iphone beats the BB

  1. UI. Holy cow. The UI. Its one of those things you need to try first hand. I always thought the BB UI was great. But only after I switched to iphone did I realize how much of a difference UI makes

  2. Location acquisition: hugely faster than Blackberry for first latch (primarily due to Skyhook Wireless SDK)

  3. Apps. Apps. Apps. I never thought I'd really use a phone for its apps. But with the iphone, geez, even a geezer like me is addicted. Compare that to the BB app world and I was hardly motivated to use any apps on the UI of the BB.

  4. Multitouch  - really, no comparison. Squeeze and shrink makes viewing and moving around so much more intuitive. Flick to scroll and oh so many other innovations.

  5. I actually love the cut-paste implementation of iphone - easier to use than BB.

  6. Webkit and Safari - the browser is a world apart compared to my BB.

  7. World clock and multi-alarm system. Not sure about the Bold, but my 8800 never had it. Very useful - I need to see multiple timezones very often and I often need different alarms


  1. ARC,
    This is really great! I am planning to get a iPhone ... this helps a lot.
    I am also thinking between Nikon/Cannon ... hint hint hint.

  2. Thanks for the Hello Vino mention! Sincerely glad that our free iPhone app helps you when shopping for wine. Enjoy your new iPhone!

  3. @raktim - go for it. take the wild ride :-)
    On cameras, you can't go wrong with either. But I personally prefer and use Canons. And always remember NOT to buy the best body money can afford - save it to buy the best lense(s) money can afford

  4. Hey Arjun,
    Good and very detailed comparison. I ditched the BB back in 2007 when they had the first gen iPhone. Loved it then and after upgrading to the 3GS last week, love it even more. But then I have all Apple products except the AppleTV so am kinda biased. :-)
    Having said that I used to carry a BB, an IPOD and a Razr before the iPhone.

  5. @Ajay, yes, I remember when I met you at MD - you were pulling out multiple devices from your pocket :-)

    I had my eyes set on Apple TV for a while, but now am skewed towards XBMC related developments.

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  7. Thanks for the post. Finally someone gets it. I wish all post/reviews were this informative and useful. I've been looking for a decent ringtone like my RAZR had and now I found it. Seems like I'm not the only one missing the RAZR vibe then ring. I also learned a few things that I didn't know about like some new apps, changing the ring time until voicemail, converting a mp3 to a m4r and showing the battery percentage. I just got my first iPhone so I'm just learning. Thanks a bunch!

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