Black Friday 2017 was coming around and I was spending it repeating what I’d done many times over the course of the year: looking at smartphones.
My wife and I were then using BlackBerry Z10s: those venerable launch devices of the failed* mobile platform BlackBerry 10. These were holdovers from my time as an employee of Research in Motion (aka RIM) eventually renamed BlackBerry Ltd where I worked on the Browser Team from 2008 until 2015.
The Z10 was released in January 2013, which made our phones nearly five years old. This is an eternity for the rapidly-evolving handset hardware business. We were fine with our Z10s, but they were starting to age: batteries drained faster, free storage fell lower, and weird things like “turning off the Wi-Fi for no apparent reason” started happening with ever-increasing prominence, if not frequency.
We were past due for a change.
The BlackBerry Z10 is a small device (by today’s standards) so there were few acceptable choices from the current crop of phones with the correct form factor. Also at this level of concern were security, privacy, and how long it would be sent supporting software updates. The iPhone SE was recommended to me by a dev who sits next to me at my coworking space.
It seemed ideal: excellent support, world-class design, the first platform to get apps, and it kept Google’s data collection to apps instead of bleeding it through the entire phone.
So on Black Friday I bought into That Other Fruit Company at their most affordable pricepoint.
And I hated it.
First off, it had a voicemail indicator that never went away.
Secondly, the mail app showed at most six emails on one screen.
Third, I had to use separate apps to track email, calendar, BlackBerry Messenger, phone calls, SMS.
Fourth, its text-selection capabilities and fine cursor control were horrible.
Fifth, I couldn’t set a non-Safari default browser which meant I was copy-pasting URLs from emails to Firefox multiple times a day. (Something went wrong with the share framework so I couldn’t even “share” the URL to Firefox. Focus worked, though.)
Sixth, there as no way to get my messages and calendar to show on my desktop outside of GMail.
Seventh, and fatally, the WiFi would cut out whenever the screen turned off.
To be fair, the WiFi thing was a hardware fault, the voicemail thing is a problem with my carrier account that they still haven’t resolved, and I was likely going to hate it no matters what it did.
Apple was the enemy for so long I don’t think I could’ve given it a fair shake if the hardware were perfect and my carrier had spent any of its millions of dollars on improving its infrastructure so an empty voice mailbox would read as empty to new phones.
I returned the iPhones, my wife’s untouched. I had given it a week, and it was clear to me that I wasn’t going to be happy with even the smallest and most affordable iDevice.
This was unfair. The thing took amazing photos exactly when I asked it to. Its browser scrolled almost as well as the BlackBerry 10 Browser. It did what it was asked with quiet efficiency.
But it wasn’t as good as it needed to have been to overcome my apparently-still-strong anti-Apple bias. So back they went.
Luckily, there was nothing immediately forcing us to make a decision, so we could ride our Z10s into the dirt if we wanted. My wife expressed that she was going to be unhappy to switch to any new device in equal measure, so it didn’t really matter which one.
Also, she was happy to stick to her tried-and-trusted Z10. She had it configured just the way she liked it.
So that’s the story of my unsuccessful attempt to leave my BlackBerry Z10 for an iPhone SE. May it help you in your search for acceptable personal computing appliances amongst the garbage the resident duopoly have left us.