I still remember the first time I saw, and realized the life-changing power, of the BlackBerry 850. It was 1999 and I was raising a venture fund. I was in a Midtown conference room with a lawyer who was mildly interested in my deal but was intensely interested in what the little black box, produced in beta version by his client, could do. He kept shaking his head and repeating, “Amazing! I just can’t believe this thing.”
Within weeks I had managed to get one of the very first production BlackBerry units. As a divorced dad with responsibilities during the workweek to pick up kids, take them to the playground, and go to doctor’s appointments I immediately saw the power of the device. I could do what I needed to do for work without being tied to my office. I ran my own firm, which meant that face time meant nothing, only responsiveness and results. But I wanted to live up to my responsibilities as a dad, too, and until I saw my first BlackBerry I really didn’t see how I was going to be able to do both.
My love affair with my Research in Motion device (or I should say the 20 or so I owned, as I burned each one out after about six months) lasted a decade. I honestly believe I am the champion of the world at thumb typing. I became famous at work for lengthy email diatribes drafted on a plane or in bed or at the playground during odd hours when my overly energetic mind was let out of its cage. I am pretty sure that the people who worked for me, both directly and at the 30 or so companies that I started during that period, were less than pleased with the advent of the always-on Tom.
My BlackBerry has been an integral part of my manhood as I got sober, raised my kids, started a new career, got remarried, and just tried to survive in one piece. It gave me ready access to the world and mobility. And it was reliable. Those little keys let me sleep at night, always at the ready to record a random but crucial thought. I had repeated fights with a neighbor down the street, a founder of a huge biotech company, who kept bugging me to check out the Apple products. I just couldn’t see giving up the keyboard and machismo of my BlackBerry.
Then something sneaky happened to me. I got an iMac at home and realized just how much more I could do with it than I ever could with a PC. I started using an iPod Touch for music and videos. On one transatlantic flight I watched a whole season of Mad Men after interviewing Matt Weiner for a story on my iPod Touch. But I still took quotes and jotted down thoughts with my BlackBerry.
All that at least convinced to try parallel processing. I got an iPhone and carried it along with my BlackBerry for several months while I tentatively typed on the weird touch-screen keypad. Ultimately I realized that, for some unknown reason, if I typed in the “Notes” section of the iPhone I was completely comfortable and typed just as fast as on my Blackberry. I was disturbed that the iPhone doesn’t sync email all the time, only once every 15 minutes or when you punch the email button, which I do about every 30 seconds. I also found the battery life distressingly short, perhaps because of my overuse of the sync button. With the BlackBerry I carried extra batteries but because the iPhone is solid state there is no way to access the battery. So I found a $20 solution that is a mini battery extender and charger that you can carry with you and juice up your phone when the battery runs low.
Which left me just with a concern about signal strength. I spent a day in NYC sporadically unable to get much of any signal on my iPhone either because of the interference of skyscrapers or overuse of the AT&T signal. But in the end, even that concern seemed less important than function and ease of use.
I listen to endless awesome tunes while going for long rides on my bike (with some wicked cool earphones that make a big difference). I take amazing pictures with my iPhone and post them to Facebook instantly. I carry around my calendar and contacts, all of which sync everywhere. I use 1Password to sync my passwords to everything and Dropbox to allow me to see files on my iPhone, iPad, Air, and iMac.
OK, I am drinking the KoolAid now. And yes, I threw out the BlackBerry. That thing is so 1999. I’m an iPhone man now.
photo by miss_hg on flickr