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Yes! New company smartphones! ... But I don't WANT one

Since I don't have an iPhone with a worn out battery

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Sysadmin Blog It's mobile update month at my company, and that means it's time for a look at the smartphones. I've researched every single unit that will work on a Canadian cellular network and come to some interesting conclusions. For the first time I'm looking at a refresh cycle more from the standpoint of a business owner and end-user rather than as a gadget-obsessed nerd and that changes things significantly.

The first conclusion I've reached shouldn't come as a shocker to anyone: smartphones are no longer sexy. For the better part of a decade every Blackberry refresh was a major jump in capability, featureset, speed and so forth.

My HTC Desire destroyed any need for a Blackberry and on I went into a whole new world where my phone was not merely a palm pilot that could make phone calls, but a portable computer. From there, every new phone seemed like a generational leap. My Samsung Galaxy S II allowed me enough internal storage to install more than five applications, moving smartphones from "interesting potential" into "tool I use for hours every day."

My Galaxy Note II was a massive speed boost, seemed to hit the point where I couldn't use the internal storage up with applications and allowed me to use a MicroSD card for my media. It had a pixel density high enough that I couldn't make out individual pixels, even on that enormous screen. It also came with a double-sized battery meaning a decent amount of battery life.

A year and a half after getting my Note II the carrier is offering to annul the device balances, allowing us to upgrade our mobiles without penalty. This being Canada, "bring your own phone" doesn't give you much of a rate discount, especially if you are on corporate plans. This is slowly changing, but for this refresh cycle the rather complicated plan maths mean that it actually makes sense to take the "free" phones on offer and run.

But for the first time in nearly 20 years of owning cell phones I see nothing of interest to me. Josh (who also has a Note II) and Katherine (currently using a Galaxy S II) are similarly unimpressed.

Look at them Apples?

Apple has to be the first smartphone manufacturer anyone considers. It makes the mindshare-leading device. It has the best ecosystem: a walled garden that keeps at least some of the malware out and offers good enterprise management capabilities. Apple makes a good, solid product, but even a free iPhone 5s isn't worth the effort for me.

There's nothing I care about in its feature set that I don't already have on my Note II. If I switched, I wouldn't be able to take any of my apps with me, and the eleventeen squillion MicroUSB cables I have squirreled away in every bag, coat, car and desk would instantly be useless.

Switching to Apple wouldn't just be a change in phone, it would be pitching an entire ecosystem. Josh and Kat are passing as well, and for the same reasons.

Blackberry...crushed

It may come as a shock to readers, but Blackberry's Z30 is the one device that made us all interested. Specs wise, it seems to have a great screen, middling-to-decent battery life, a UI that isn't crafted from fundamental awful and it runs Android apps in a safer way than actual Android phones. It has a full 1080p screen, but that is well into the "pixel density has reached stupidity" range and doesn't actually attract as a feature.

Where things go sideways is trust. I know nothing about the Blackberry of today. I don't know the OS, the limitations of the device, this Android-on-QNX magical voodoo it is offering, and I don't know how the mobile device management software has evolved since the version 5 that I am using now.

I have a whole bunch of applications I've bought on Google Play. Will those be available (and usable) on a Z30, or will I have to repurchase them? What are the native apps like? What is the battery life actually like? How badly does using Android versus native apps affect battery life? Will Blackberry (the company) be around long enough to see the two year contract through?

I tried wading through a few reviews on the unit, but ultimately gave up. Nothing answered the practical questions I have, and Blackberry's marketing and media relations people have proven fairly impenetrable.

I'm interested in the idea of Blackberry's "Android on QNX" quite a lot. I'm not interested in it enough to commit to a complete unknown for a two year contract. Nobody I trust can vouch for it, so my risk aversion tops my curiosity and Blackberry finds itself off my list. Josh and Kat have made the same decision.

As a side note, I feel Sailfish and Tizen phones fall into a similar category as Blackberry. These phones are unknown, untested and in many situations not even available through carriers. The possibility of these phones being "a better Android than Android" sparks curiosity and interest: however, this comes up against risk aversion and loses. Smartphones are just that little bit too costly to be an impulse buy.

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