While travelling in the US I’ve been using these smartphones quite intensively and I have some random thoughts to share, from the point of view of a user.


The N95 is pretty expensive, the BlackBerry is cheaper while the iPhone 3G, now available in Europe, is generally sold at a subsidized price but with an expensive monthly plan for voice and data.

If I was on a desert island (with cell coverage) I would carry with me just the BlackBerry 8310, since what I do more frequently on my mobile is using email and the BlackBerry’s QWERTY keyboard and push is better then any of the other 2 alternatives for that.

For GPS and navigation the BlackBerry 8310 has the best Google Maps version I’ve ever tried. In the US my iPhone had data traffic included and my BlackBerry with extremely expensive roaming charges for data, still it was hard resisting the temptation to use the BB. Whoever designed the Google Maps for the iPhone was not thinking of the user.

The keyboard on the BB is by far the best, next is the iPhone which is slow but doable, last is the Nokia N95. It is absurd to put so much intellect on the Nokia and make it…deaf.

As for music, the iPhone is by far the best, next the Nokia, last the BlackBerry for which music seems to be “glued on”.

To look at pictures the only one that really works is the iPhone, the BlackBerry is bad and the Nokia N95 has the worst software for pictures I’ve ever seen (if you have a lot of pics, your phone will likely freeze). It’s ironic how the Nokia is the best for taking pictures and still makes it so hard to look at both pixs and videos.

To use Twitxr, the iPhone is the best, next the BlackBerry, last the N95.

The iPhone has an awesome display, next is the N95, last the BlackBerry. The iPhone´s soul is the display but that makes it a “spectator” phone. The TV of phones. Great for watching, bad for input.

The Nokia N95 has the best camera and takes great videos. I can film with the iPhone using an app from Installer but it’s pretty bad anyway, the BlackBerry they say it can do videos, I don´t have the latest firmware that does that.

The iPhone is great to watch movies in streaming or from its memory. The N95 is not so bad, on the BlackBerry it’s terrible.

The BlackBerry has copy and paste, the iPhone still hasn’t. The Nokia has it, but I’ve never tried because without a QWERTY keyboard I don’t even bother using it for writing. Predictive text (T9) is not useful for me since I often change language. The iPhone software keyboard can easily adapt to different languages and you can quickly switch from one to the other.

At this point you may be wondering why I am not talking about the many Windows Mobile phones. My answer is because as bad as some features of the Symbian, Mac and Blackberry systems maybe they are all better than Windows Mobile. Windows Mobile seems to be designed with the same philosophy of Windows in general: tons of features that are unnecessary crowd the essential out. Try connecting to WiFi using Windows Mobile and you will see what I mean. Try with the iPhone and you can….breathe. Windows Mobile to me has the same problems as Vista. My take on operating systems is that easiest is Mac, best is Linux, Windows XP is already bad, frequently slow and difficult, Windows Vista is a dead end.

The phone that most resembles a computer is the iPhone, especially if jailbroken. The N95 is the more phone-like of the three. The BlackBerry is in between. If you just want to talk, a Nokia is your best option. The app store does not beat the installer for me. But at some point it may. I just like the freedom of the Installer. The Open Source spirit of the whole thing.

As for quantity of applications, the iPhone is the best, next is the Nokia with Symbian S60 and the BlackBerry is last. But while applications for BlackBerry are really few, most work very well and are very easy to use. The ones I use more often are Facebook and Google Maps with cellphone tower triangulation and GPS. The only app which performs really bad on my BB is Google Talk, which slows everything down.

The BlackBerry is SIM-unlocked, which makes it very expensive, especially when travelling abroad, since you can’t change the SIM with one from a local operator. The N95 and my iPhone are unlocked. The iPhone 3G has not been jailbroken or unlocked yet, but it will be soon.

My iPhone is ok for email with EDGE, WiFi is much better for everything else we will see when I try the 3G one how it works but probably almost as good as WiFi. The problem with the 3G plans, the one in Spain for example is that if you download a big file, say a movie, you kill your data plan which is maxed at 200MB unless you pay a fortune. The BlackBerry has no WiFi and no UMTS so web browsing is always slow, but it’s incredibly good for email. RIM has been able to squeeze GPRS and EDGE and optimize message downloading providing great speeds with little bandwidth. The Nokia N95 has everything from HSDPA to WiFi, but choosing a connection is slow, uncomfortable and the interface is badly designed.

With the iPhone’s headphones you can’t set the volume, with the N95’s you can and this is much better for riding bikes for example which I do a lot. Music on the BlackBerry is just for emergencies.

The iPhone is by far the best phone to surf the web, look at pictures, listen to music… everything but writing. If it had a physical keyboard it would be the best on all aspects. The BlackBerry has the best mouse/keyboard integration. Using your fingers as a pointing device is an interesting concept in the iPhone but it forces you to always use both hands. This is not the best solution when you’re in some situations, like when I’m holding my son in my arms. If you are left with one hand the iPhone is almost impossible to use. Not so the others.

To use FON the best smartphone is the iPhone. The N95 has a Symbian FON connection manager which is reasonably good, but the iFon application wecreated for the iPhone is the best in ease of use. The BlackBerry can’t access FON networks.

To sync with a Mac or PC, the iPhone wins, next the BlackBerry, last the N95. The N95 has more advanced features but the iPhone and BlackBerry are easier and faster to use.

The N95 can now sync with iTunes, but the iPhone is still the easiest to sync with iTunes and iPhoto. I don’t think the BlackBerry can talk with iTunes although somebody told me it does.

To save money the best is the N95 with which you can use many VoIP apps. Next is the iPhone that now has a very good Fring application (also available for Symbian devices). The worst is the BlackBerry that can’t run any VoIP app. My thing though is that I speak very little on the phone. I use them for almost everything else.

As for design, the iPhone looks better then the others, but it’s so slippery that it fell twice from my pocket. The N95 looks good and is reasonably sized. The BlackBerry is the most useful but the worst looking. My kids would not want to be seen with a Blackberry. They refuse to hold it.

The N95 gets an additional score for JoikuSpot, the software that lets you turn an HSDPA connection into WiFi and use your phone as a hotspot for PCs and other WiFi devices. The BlackBerry can’t act as a modem, and the iPhone if it can I haven´t seen how. The N95 is great as a modem via Bluetooth or USB.

The BlackBerry has the best battery duration, while the iPhone’s power consumption is terrible. They say the 3G iPhone improves on this. On the N95 it depends on what you do with it but batter life is a problem.

The N95 has the best external speaker, next the iPhone, the BlackBerry last.

To avoid accidental calls (your phone dialing numbers or contacts by itself) the worst is the BlackBerry, that loves to call your contacts while in your pocket, even if it has autolock. The iPhone and the N95 are better at avoiding those embarrassing moments in which you accidentally spill the beans.

Searching for a contact is terrible on the iPhone, ok on the N95, best on the BB.

The N95 also has some things that maybe of help. In Europe and some parts of Asia it has HSDPA which is better than 3G. It has radio if u like radio. The iPhone instead has some great apps to listen to internet radio over wifi in the Installer and on the App store as well.

The 3G iPhone is sold unlocked in some countries such as Italy for 500 euros which is not a crazy price. The Nokia N95 is also sold unlocked for the same price. BB is not cause is tied to a BB server somewhere.

Follow Martin Varsavsky on Twitter: twitter.com/martinvars

No Comments

Stefanos on July 16, 2008  · 

I think some of your preference rankings (eg. regarding external speaker) will change with the iPhone 3G. I’d like to hear your take on the new iPhone as soon as you get one. It would also be better to provide this information in a table format, much easier layout, since you make all these comments about user friendliness 🙂

3.0 rating

Paul RODTS on July 17, 2008  · 

I walk around with a BB with Gizmo, an SMC WiFi phone with Skype and an Asus Eee Xandros also with Skype…… this Asus Eee weights less than 1 kg.
It has a very powerful WiFi modem ..
so I use it sometimes as a (big) WiFi phone via my headphone/mike…
And thanks to FON (thank you Martin…for inventing FON) and a little bit http://www.free-hotspot.com/, I don’t have to worry about expensive roaming or
3G download data plans… And in case I forgot the iPod at my sleeping place…I have lots of classical music on my 16 GB SD Memory Card…
This Asus isn’t a toy but a real small computer,
juke box, wifi phone,….she is the best 😉

3.0 rating

Nico on July 18, 2008  · 

I have a 3G jasjam imate with windows mobile and find it very useful. I agree with everything you wrote about windows mobile, connecting to wifi is not smooth indeed… But it’s ages better than previous cell Nokia95 which is history 🙂
I use twixter by sending an email from the outlook, couldn’t find a better way.
I recommend a cool app I wrote about here: http://www.nicoposting.com

3.0 rating

Nico on July 18, 2008  · 

I meant twitxr

3.0 rating

Matin on July 18, 2008  · 

The BB 8310 can be unlocked using a unlock code purchased online for about $30. It is also possible to change the SIM card to which your emails are forwarded; however, each SIM card need to be tied to a plan with BB service. If you only want to carry one phone and travel between US and Europe, it is cheaper to have two BB plans and swap the SIM card.

3.0 rating

Douglas on July 18, 2008  · 

If you are looking for a unlocked Nokia N95, but can’t afford one. I would suggest checking out a site called Unlocked Cell Auctions. I have bought two phones from that website, and I have never been able to find better deals anywhere else.

3.0 rating

vv on July 19, 2008  · 

Well done.
Why not use a BB with WiFi (8820 althought it has no camera) waiting for the Bold to save on data roaming?

3.0 rating

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