You can also watch two of my colleagues battle it out with the most recent models in our video...
The clear front runner in the smartphone arena is the Apple iPhone. The launch of all three models saw people queuing through the night to be one of the first to get their hands on Apple’s new toy.
O2 used to have exclusive rights to the iPhone, which saw owners paying upwards of £600 over the term of an 18 month contract for the 3G model that was launched in 2008. The contract itself wasn’t great either except for the unlimited web and WiFi access on offer, the calls and text packages weren’t anything to shout about.
Then O2’s stranglehold came to an end last year with Orange, Vodafone and even Tesco now having rights to sell the iPhone. This has made tariffs more competitive, not just on price but on the minutes and texts offered also.
Tesco has announced that the 3G model could be purchased from as little £100 on a £35 per month contract that offers 750 minutes, unlimited texts and unlimited web. The further benefit to this tariff is the contract length is just 12 months.
Tesco has also re-launched its 3GS tariffs: the 16GB device can be yours over 12 months for £200 up front and £35 per month for the contract, which offers 750 minutes, unlimited texts and unlimited web.
The question mark over Tesco is how well its 3G signal holds up. It piggybacks the signal of O2 which came under fire for slow 3G coverage when it had exclusive rights to the phone.
The fastest network to offer the iPhone is Vodafone. You can pick up the iPhone 3GS 16GB on an 18-month contract for £35 per month with the phone itself costing £149. This gives you 300 minutes, unlimited texts and 1GB of mobile internet and webmail plus unlimited WiFi. If you are hoping to bag a free phone then you would need to stump up £50 per month, however, this gives you 1,200 minutes and unlimited texts as well as the same data usage as the £35 contract.
- The phone itself is very easy to use – the only instructions you get with it is a two-sided leaflet which goes to show that you can be up and running on the phone instantly.
- You can access multiple email accounts, including Microsoft Outlook for those looking to use this as a business phone.Access to the internet is gained through the Safari platform which, if you are on a good 3G network or hooked up to WiFi, is really quick and easy to use and the screen can be used in landscape as well as portrait. You can also make the pages bigger if you wish.
- You have instant access to iTunes and songs that are downloaded are transferred automatically to the iPod which is also a feature – this is a dangerous little plus point, if like me, you hear a song in a pub after one too many and download it straightaway. It soon adds up!
- The 3Gs model has a 3 megapixel camera which also allows you to shoot videos that can then be uploaded to YouTube.
There’s an app for that
The jewel in the iPhone’s crown is the App Store. Thousands of apps and games can be downloaded for free or for a price. Apple is pushing the boundaries with the App Store and is trying to prove that the iPhone can be used for absolutely anything. You can gain access to stores such as eBay and Amazon, PayPal has an app on offer where you are able to transact and manage your purchases as well as items you may have sold. You can search for restaurants in your area, check up-to-date cinema listings, train times, the weather forecast, the list goes on.
You also have access to the wide range of social networking sites available including numerous Twitter apps and also the extremely addictive Facebook app.
- The battery life leaves a lot to be desired. Apple claims that, on standby, the battery can last up to 300 hours, however, if you are buying a phone to leave it on standby then you really shouldn’t be looking at the iPhone.
- The camera could also be better. Even though you have a 3 megapixel camera, there is no flash, so if you want to take photos or videos in the dark then you really are stuck.
- Safari is a great internet browser but Apple’s refusal to let any of its devices support Flash means that you are limited at what you can view online which at times is very annoying.
- There is no full Bluetooth capability except if you need to hook up to a handsfree device. Bluetooth in this day in age is to be expected and you can obtain it on even the most basic of handsets so why Apple refuses to extend the iPhone’s capability for Bluetooth is a burning question among many users.
- You cannot access the battery or, as a matter of fact, anything within the phone, due to all of Apple’s products being sealed tightly so nobody can get in or out. This is an annoying design feature because if your handset ever breaks due to battery failure you will be left with no phone, no iPod and a very expensive bill, unless it is still under warranty.
- When you come to the end of your contract, unless you have a hidden haggle hero inside of you, don’t expect to be upgraded to a new iPhone for free. It’s too expensive a device for the networks to give away for nothing so be prepared for a firm “no” from your provider and a slight dent in your pocket before you get your hands on one.
BlackBerry, made by Research In Motion (RIM), originally started life as the businessman or Woman's phone but in recent years it has been targeted at a wider audience.
Tariffs for all BlackBerry models have always been relatively reasonable due to the fact that you can obtain a BlackBerry from virtually all the UK’s networks (unlike the iPhone, which is only now becoming more widely available).
You can pick up a high spec BlackBerry Bold 9700 from most networks free of charge and then pay around £40 a month for an 18-month contract. For example, Orange’s Panther 45 plan, costs £42.50 per month. You get the handset for free and receive 1,200 minutes, unlimited texts and unlimited internet.
There are many different models available and most are also available on a pay-as-you-go basis and at a more reasonable price than the iPhone.
- Battery life is much better than the iPhone even though, like with the iPhone, you can choose to have your email and social network notifications permanently on.
- The phone is not touchscreen, which many may see as a downside. However, touchscreen phones are notorious for being scratched or cracked easily and it can be expensive to have them fixed.
- BlackBerries either have a trackball or trackpad which, even though not as quick as touchscreen, makes using them easy.
- The email capabilities are more sophisticated than the iPhone: attachments are easily opened and you have the capability to edit excel and word docs. The QWERTY keyboard on the BlackBerry makes emailing quicker and easier than that of the iPhone touchscreen hence why this is still the phone of choice for people who need this function most.
- Call quality is much clearer than on the iPhone especially if you need to use the handsfree function.
- Sending texts and photos is also easy and quick, again this is down to the phone’s keyboard. BlackBerry also has its own instant messaging service in which you can chat to your BlackBerry-owning friends for free.
- The camera for the more up to date BlackBerry phones is good, most models are 3 megapixel. It also boasts the all important flash and photos are easily uploaded to Facebook and Twitter just as they are on the iPhone.
- You can also play music on the BlackBerry and the more up-to-date models support iTunes music as well as other MP3s.
- There is full Bluetooth capability with BlackBerry which makes sharing photos, documents and music a lot easier than with the iPhone.
- The browser on the BlackBerry isn’t great but if you just need it for basic internet browsing then it is perfectly adequate. There are other browsers that can be downloaded for BlackBerry if you do a quick search.
- BlackBerry App World isn’t as extensive as App Store so for those app junkies the BlackBerry may be a bit of a let down, however you can still get the usual apps for BlackBerry like Facebook and Twitter – BlackBerry has just launched its official Twitter app which is very good. The push notifications for the two social network giants are also more sophisticated than those on the iPhone.
- There is no Flash support as of yet for BlackBerry, however, RIM has announced that it will be introduced during 2010.
At the end of the day, it comes down to personal preference: if you want a fun device that lets you play games and offers quirky apps then the iPhone is for you. If however you want a phone that works as a phone then the BlackBerry is second to none especially for messaging and email.
I have owned both. I used to have the old BlackBerry Curve but then after months of dilemma switched to the iPhone. At first I loved it; it was like my best friend. The apps were amazing and I loved that I could have a phone that was integrated with an iPod and also be able to chat to my friends on Facebook. But then the love affair ended.
Yes the apps are cool and fun and it’s great to show off to your mates but once the novelty wore off, half of the apps on my phone went unused. Facebook, due to the chat functionality, also became far too addictive for my liking!
The phone also dropped calls midway through conversation, sometimes they didn’t come through at all and text messages would disappear or come through to the phone two days later, which, for a social butterfly like myself, is a big no, no! You don’t expect a mobile phone to do that and even though I always made sure the phone’s software was up-to-date, the problem persisted. This may have been down to the network I was on, however I have friends with iPhones on different networks and they all complain about the same problem.
I love my BlackBerry and will never go back to an iPhone but there is a way of enjoying the best of both worlds (as I am doing) – get a BlackBerry for the use of a great phone and an iPod Touch for the music and fun side of the apps and games on offer.
Whichever phone you prefer, you can find the best deals on handsets and tariffs using moneysupermarket.com’s mobile comparison channel.
Do you agree with Kate or are you an iPhone addict? Join the debate in our forum.