I’ll let you in on a little secret: I had BlackBerry Connect, the software version of Research In Motion’s patented push email system, for less than 24 hours on my Nokia E61i before I unceremoniously dumped it and never looked back. And even though my Nokia has its own full-featured email client, I’ve rarely made us of it. Instead I’m living large on the GSM-spec Short Messaging Service or SMS.
Here are but five of the many ways in which SMS beats the pants off of push email:
1. Volume, volume, volume – There are some 2.7 billion mobile handsets in use around the world according to Wikipedia, and the number of BlackBerries amongst them amount to a couple of tenths of a percentage point at best. While SMS interoperability between all those “regular” handsets isn’t guaranteed, it’s at the very least a mature and reliable technology for the almost-instantaneous delivery of short messages, and by sheer numbers alone is a lot closer to ubiquity than email.
2. Text messages are cheaper, way cheaper – The cheapest BlackBerry Connect plan I can get from Fido (my wireless carrier) costs $40/month for 7MB of data. Granted, emails sent through BlackBerry’s servers are significantly compressed, but that’s still 4 times the cost of their most generous text package — $10 for a whopping 2,500 texts a month!
3. SMS gives you 100% functionality of a BlackBerry without having to use one – Here’s another secret that no CrackBerry addict will admit — there is little to no support for attachments using BlackBerries or BlackBerry Connect. I know this for a fact because my brother once called me in a panic from his hotel to ask if he could forward a spreadsheet to me so I could read to him some numbers off it. There are third-party document editors available for the BlackBerry OS, but with BB Connect on my smartphone I couldn’t even attach one of my own files to an outgoing message… How stupid is that?
Bottom line: Nobody buys a BlackBerry for its looks, and the functionality of the bundled email is in fact overrated. Here’s even more proof…
4. Return receipts on email = delivery reports on SMS – Actually the SMS delivery reports are better. If you need to know that someone has indeed received your latest joke of the day by email you can make use of a feature known as a message disposition notification. When the recipient opens up the message they’ll be greeted with a naggy dialogue box with an alert like:
“The sender of this message has asked to be notified that you’ve received it. Notify sender?”
Now here’s the rub: You’d think that BlackBerries would have such annoy-ware enabled by default, but they don’t! However, most smartphones (and many feature phones) can provide you with notification that your message has reached their inbox, with the person you’re sending the message to none the wiser — thoughtful and sneaky!
5. Email to text/text to the web – Realizing that the ratio of regular mobiles to BlackBerries in customers’ hands is oh, about a gazillion to one, companies are using SMS to make their businesses more useful. Here’s but a sample of SMS services I use each and every day:
- Facebook status updates by text
- Google SMS Search
- Zipcar reservation reminders
- Air Canada flight notifications (okay, not every day, but still…)
This is just a tiny sample of companies that are using SMS to extend the functionality of their services. There are many, many more…
I suppose that in the interest of fairness I should balance this list with some caveats… So here are 5 reasons why email may be better than SMS — actually I can only think of 3:
1. Multi-tap, T9, etc. - Though it’s certainly possible to hammer out an entire novel on a numeric keypad, you certainly aren’t going to win any typing contests doing it. But I should also point out that at least one range of BlackBerry products suffers from the same problem of limited text entry.
2. Spam – Junk email is supremely annoying, and while BlackBerry mail servers don’t have automatic spam filtering you can at least manually set up your own . Worst case scenario: You have to change your email address. But since texts are sent directly to your phone number once you start getting SMS spam you’re dead. Worst case scenario: You have to change your phone number. So for god’s sake don’t even think about signing up for any SMS scams like this!
3. Extra software required for archiving – Should you want to keep any SMS messages for posterity you’ll need additional software to do it. This isn’t an issue for some people, who apparently take great delight in purging all email that’s been read and/or replied to.
… And there it is. So the next time some biz-knob bumps into you on the street because their head is bowed down in the classic BlackBerry prayer you can take solace in the fact that you’re not missing a damn thing!