I promised myself I wouldn’t get drawn into this nonsense. The ridiculous “my mobile operating system is better than your operating system” back-and-forth that seems to comprise 80-85% of TechCrunch’s journalistic output (and – just before you get too smart-assy about it – a similar percentage of comments and page impressions).
There are, after all, actual things happening in the world. There’s been a landslide in China. North and South Korea are heading towards all-out warfare. Hell, a man who makes printers may or may not have had sex with someone!
But all those stories will have to wait. Because today I made a momentous decision, and a quick glance at my contract of employment tells me that I’m legally obliged to share it with you.
I’m going to buy a Blackberry.
Why? Because its operating system is better than your phone’s operating system.
In fact I’d go so far as to say – as one is expected to do in these arguments – that Blackberry OS is the operating system that suits my own particular needs so perfectly that all other handsets seem pathetic by comparison. So ideally does Blackberry cater to my every peculiar whim that I’m already judging anyone who doesn’t share my opinion. “Hey, you with your iPhone… and you over there with your – pah – Nexus One… you people are fools! You should be ashamed of yourselves!”
Another glance at my contract. Apparently I have to go further. Apparently I’m obliged (it actually says ‘obligated’) to list a number of reasons for my decision. A decision that millions of people around the world make every day, and one that would be utterly unremarkable, were I not sharing it with the 11+ million monthly readers of TechCrunch.
So here goes. I’m buying a Blackberry (and so should you) because…
It Allows Me To Pretend I Have A Proper Job When I Don’t
My history of purchasing Blackberries (Blackberrys?) is a curious one, correlating as it does 1-for-1 with the times I’ve been fired from office jobs. I bought my first Blackberry just after I was ejected from The Friday Project the publishing house I co-founded back in 2005. My second came a couple of years later when I was kicked out of the city-based social network I created back in London. I urge you not to draw any conclusions regarding my office job at TechCrunch, but the fact is, the Blackberry is the perfect camouflage for someone who – like me – suffers from negative employancy.
The fact is, it doesn’t matter if you’re a high powered lawyer or a sharp-suited brain surgeon: the moment you take out an iPhone and start tapping away – even if it’s to confirm a meeting with the President himself – you’re immediately transformed into a jobless hipster. No serious business could possibly be done with a touchscreen. The Blackberry, on the other hand, has precisely the opposite effect. I could be lying on a park bench, browsing for pornography having been drinking cheap wine since noon, but if I’m holding a Blackberry then – in the eyes of passers by – I must be working. Hard.
It Provides Fewer Distractions
One of the reasons people assume you’re working when you’re holding a Blackberry is the fact that it’s basically useless for anything else. Games? Forget it. Music? You’d be better off calling the bank and sitting on hold. Ebooks? That’s what your Kindle is for. There’s an amusing irony in the fact that the “Crackberry” was the original distracting smartphone: the phone that turned your friends and dining partners into obnoxious assholes and made every strolling businessperson a collision hazzard. Today, by comparison to other smart phones, the Blackberry seems like the handset of choice for people who still live in the real world. After all, unless you get a lot of emails, the lack of multimedia distractions on Blackberry means that you can take care of core communications quickly and then spend the rest of your day with your head held high – watching the world go by, talking to friends – rather than tending virtual crops or playing musical instruments or watching episodes of Mad Men or… or… or…
It’s Built Like A Tank, Inside And Out
Given how, more than any other smartphone, a Blackberry frees you to actual do real stuff in the real world, it’s appropriate that it’s built like a goddamn tank. As someone who breaks on average half a dozen phones a year, this ability to stand up to the rigours of real-world use is a key selling point. It’s also a rich source of comic relief: a friend of mine has been promised by his employer that when his current Blackberry breaks, he’ll be allowed to upgrade it to a newer, better one. Sadly for all his efforts – deliberately knocking it off tables, throwing it at walls, feeding it to his pets – the years-old device stubbornly refuses to so much as scratch. I’ve broken Nexus Ones by playing music too loud, and iPhones by thinking too hard while on a call.
(The ruggedness extends inside too: Blackberry OS boasts superior encryption to all but the most military-grade operating systems on the market. I don’t actually send or receive secret emails but, holding a Blackberry, I can at least pretend that I do.)
(I’m aware that readers in Saudi Arabia might not feel so secure using Blackberry messaging as I do. But frankly if you live in Saudi Arabia, you have bigger problems: while I appreciate Hilary Clinton’s interest in the country’s freedom-of-text restrictions, she might want to prioritise getting women there the vote first.)
It’s The Phone For People Who Love Words
Let’s end the debate right here, right now: touchscreens good, keyboards better, Blackberry keyboards best. In fact everything about the Blackberry makes it the ideal handset for those – like me – who love to communicate through words… The satisfying click of each letter that makes even the most mundane Twitter update seem vital and permanent… The ability to touch-type while walking, or eating, or doing anything that makes looking at an on-screen keyboard tricky… The recent and still- only-grudging acceptance of the need for a built-in camera. The Blackberry is a writers’ device, like the Kindle is a readers’ one.
…And Above All, Because Whatever Anyone Else Says, You’re Probably Buying One Too
To read TechCrunch, you’d think that Apple vs Android was the only fight in town. This past week, MG got infuriated by reports that Android handsets had overtaken Apple offerings for the first time – pointing out that it’s hardly surprising that 20 Phones on 4 Carriers Outsold 1 Phone On 1 Carrier. Erick weighed in too, noting that the numbers omitted the iPhone 4.
Both of my esteemed colleagues, though, all-but-overlooked one other stat (Erick mentioned it in parentheses): Blackberry handsets outsold them all – both in terms of current user base and new users, with 33% of recent purchasers picking up a Blackberry compared to 27% for Android and 23% for iPhone.
With numbers like those my choice to go back to Blackberry actually makes me look like a sheep. And yet to read TechCrunch of late, you’d think that to consider both iPhone and Android and choose neither is the boldest possible act of techno-contrarianism.
Whatever. My mind is made up, and I insist you follow my lead. I choose not to choose iPhone or Android. Maverick or sheep, I choose Blackberry.