Eyeballing the Blackberry Bold – How Does it Stack Up Against the iPhone?

We’ve been blogging about the iPhone 3G a lot lately, and for good reason: Everyone working in telecom expense management will have to deal with its rigid plans and arcane activation procedures. But what’s really interesting is how the iPhone woke every other manufacturer up. They all know that people want stylish, high end smartphones now, and that they’ll go to considerable effort to get them.

The iPhone is branded as a smartphone and its features take aim at RIM’s Blackberry, so it’s fitting that RIM’s reacted with a product seemingly designed to attack the iPhone’s niche. It’s called the Blackberry Bold, or 9000 series.

The Bold is currently running in test markets, but a wide release is just around the corner. AT&T in the US and Rogers in Canada have both announced plans to carry it, leading to the big question: Which smartphone will get a better plan? Unfortunately, that’s not something we can reliably answer (yet), but what we can do is look at the 9000’s features and see how they compare to the iPhone’s.

Applications: The iPhone supports lots of snazzy Apple apps. They’re a real joy to use but let’s face it: There are times when you just need to get down to business. The Blackberry Bold lets you edit Word, Excel and Powerpoint documents. The winner? That depends on your agenda, but you’ll probably be more productive with a 9000 gracing your pocket.

Memory: The iPhone wins here, with 8 or 16 GB options. The Blackberry Bold has a respectable 1 GB, but can be expanded to 8 GB.

Media Toys: Both phones synch with iTunes. The Times review notes that the Bold’s screen is just as clear as the iPhone’s. Both of them feature 2 MP cameras, but while the iPhone’s great at organizing photos into nifty albums, we’re not sure if the 9000 will match it. Winner: iPhone, but only due to lack of evidence on the Bold’s part.

Email: The iPhone uses Activesynch technology to regularly request email right from your Exchange server. RIM operates its own network; Blackberries are virtually synonymous with this “push” approach. Although outages are an occasional problem, millions of users are satisfied with it. We’ve also heard anecdootal evidence that it’s just plain faster than iPhone, too. This is Blackberry’s edge; it wins.

Web: Both phones offer true HTML browsing but the iPhone uses Safari: the same browser used by Macs. I feel conflicted here; I know lots of people dig Safari but when I tried it, I was disappointed – but maybe that’s because Firefox is my usual browser, and it’s just so good. I’m withholding judgment here. Both phones are also capable of Wifi.

The iPhone is very, very cool. The Blackberry Bold might be cool, but it has to overcome the brand’s somewhat staid, business-oriented image. That sums up the whole challenge of the “iPhone niche.” This is a crossover market whose customers are looking for a mix of features and style. One thing that might resolve it is the state of this niche a year from now, when the Apple fan effect will fade, and a larger proportion of consumers will decide based on something more than Apple’s formidable brand.