Monday, August 10, 2009

Blackberry’s 26 Advantages over iPhone

We all have numerous good reasons to love our iPhone. It revolutionized the handheld business with its AppStore and ease of use interface. Apple (AAPL) will continue to gain ground, and further innovations to its iPhone product portfolio could accelerate its growth even further. The synergies with the Mac computers and the Apple Stores themselves, are real and material.

The advantages of the iPhone are mostly immediately visible. Its differentiating characteristics are extroverted, shouting them right into your face. For the casual observer, these iPhone advantages are very compelling when comparing it to its main rival to date, the Blackberry. However, Blackberry also has numerous advantages, almost all of which are “behind the scenes” and therefore often beyond the comprehension or attention span of most consumers to fully analyze before a purchase decision is made.

One is tempted to draw a political analogy – the flamboyant candidate with the eloquent rhetoric, versus the “boring” candidate focusing on the substance of the intellectual argument. The analogy fails in part as far as the iPhone is concerned, because its “superficial” advantages are real. However, the analogy holds as far as the Blackberry is concerned, because its advantages require a more serious intellectual analysis by the consumer in order to be fully appreciated. For this reason, it is possible that Research In Motion (RIMM) is underestimated as a force in the consumer market as well as the stock market.

Seeing as we already know the strong advantages of the iPhone, ranging from the class-leading AppStore to its beautiful and easy-to-use interface, it is about time that someone lists the advantages of the Blackberry when compared to the iPhone. Below are the top 26:

1. Blackberry can be used on almost every carrier in the world (over 475 of them). In the US, the iPhone is available on AT&T (T) only.

2. Blackberry is available in five form factors – small keyboard, large keyboard, no keyboard, flip phone, and candy-bar.

3. Most Blackberries have keyboards, so you can actually type fast and with no errors. Helps while driving, walking, carrying something in your other hand – all the time. iPhone: well…

4. Blackberry uses standardized (=inexpensive and available everywhere in the world) MicroUSB connector for synchronization/charging. iPhone has a much larger proprietary 30-pin connector.

5. Some carriers such as Verizon (VZ) and Sprint (S) offer unlimited international Blackberry data roaming for $40/month or less. iPhone does not. This could save you literally tens of thousands of dollars when you are abroad.

6. If your Blackberry is on T-Mobile USA, it also offers unlimited WiFi calling from anywhere in the world. This is with your existing number – in and out – so no new special number, procedure, etc. iPhone cannot do this (because it is only on AT&T; only T-Mobile USA offers this), and it can save you well over $100 per day when you’re abroad. Think $1 per minute savings, and you’re on the phone two hours per day. That’s $120/day.

7. Blackberry has expandable memory. iPhone is fixed and sold at 8, 16 or 32 gig only.

8. Blackberry has removable and expandable battery. iPhone is fixed.

9. Blackberry allows programs to multitask. iPhone has limited multitasking.

10. The newest Blackberry screen resolution is 480x360. iPhone is 480x320.

11. Blackberry allows communicating peer-to-peer via PIN identifier, circumventing the email system. No such iPhone equivalent.

12. Skype (EBAY) on the Blackberry? Yes, from anywhere to anywhere. Skype on iPhone? Only if you’re on WiFi.

13. Sling on the Blackberry? Yes, it’s free. Sling on iPhone? $30.

14. Google (GOOG) Voice on the Blackberry? Yes, it’s free. Google Voice on iPhone? Verboten.

15. Blackberry can be synchronized to multiple computers simultaneously, if you have multiple computers.

16. Multiple Blackberries can receive the same email feeds simultaneously, if you have multiple Blackberries.

17. Blackberry can sort the address book entries by company name, so you can scroll down a long list of names you don’t remember, but you just want to see who works for which company. Aside from sorting, the iPhone can take several seconds to search your address book, particularly if you have several thousand address book entries.

18. Blackberry isn’t slowed down by having, say, 10,000 or 100,000 address book entries. Try using an iPhone with 10,000 address book entries.

19. All major instant messengers are available on Blackberry.

20. Blackberry is available with multiple browsers from multiple suppliers. iPhone is available only with its standard Safari browser.

21. Blackberry synchronizes with iTunes – and every other media management program.

22. Blackberry models with 480 pixel resolution and WiFi offer PrimeTime2Go, an $8/month TV service that works as a DVR.

23. Blackberry fits as many emails in the inbox as there is memory available (typically many tens of thousands). iPhone is limited to 200 emails. Yes, iPhone has a remote look-up capability, but that doesn’t do you any good when you’re on an airplane or are otherwise out of coverage.

24. Price: Unlimited iPhone voice/data service, including unlimited SMS, is $150/month. Blackberry can be had for much less. For example, unlimited Blackberry service is offered on Sprint for $100/month, T-Mobile USA $125/month, MetroPCS $50/month, although AT&T/Verizon match the iPhone at $150/month.

25. Prepaid “no contract” flexibility: The AT&T web site says the iPhone is sold with a 2-year contract only, although once upon a time it offered a “contract-free” iPhone if you paid close to $899 up-front for the iPhone itself. In contrast, you can get prepaid no-contract Blackberry service on any old or new T-Mobile USA Blackberry handset for $65/month (600 minutes, unlimited Blackberry/Internet, but no SMS), or you can get truly unlimited-everything prepaid $50/month service from MetroPCS, if its handset selection and coverage areas are acceptable to you. That’s ONE THIRD the cost of the iPhone, and there is no contract.

26. Blackberry is an encrypted military-grade security platform, with 100% market share at FBI, CIA, White House, Congress, Department of Defense, major consultancies and major investment banks. In contrast, iPhone has security vulnerabilities. Please see this document for details as to why the Blackberry is the only platform approved for use in our national security agencies. It compares against the iPhone and Microsoft Mobile platforms (.pdf).

Disclosures: Long RIMM, AAPL and GOOG

Blackberry Price Study: Comparing Cellular Carriers

This is a comparison of prices between the five major cellular carriers. It focuses on one specific scenario: Unlimited-everything service for a Blackberry, purchased by a regular individual consumer – not an enterprise. I have divided the comparison into three parts:

1. Unlimited US domestic voice+SMS+email/Internet on the Blackberry handheld.
2. Having your Blackberry serve as a modem for your laptop.
3. Blackberry data roaming outside the US.

Let’s start with the cost of Unlimited Domestic Service:

Verizon (VZ): $150/month, consisting of unlimited voice $100, unlimited Blackberry/Internet $30 and unlimited SMS $20.

AT&T (T): $150/month, consisting of unlimited voice $100, unlimited Blackberry/Internet $30 and unlimited SMS $20. In other words, identical to Verizon.

Sprint (S): $100/month, which happens to be the simple all-in price for everything, and also includes GPS and TV.

T-Mobile: The baseline scenario is $125/month, consisting of $100 for unlimited voice+SMS, and $25 for unlimited Blackberry/Internet. However, if you qualify for the $50 unlimited voice loyalty plan, the total is only $85, because you add $35 for unlimited Blackberry/Internet/SMS. These plans also include unlimited calling over
WiFi, a technology not available from any other US carrier.

MetroPCS (PCS): $50/month, which happens to be the simple all-in price for everything.

Using Blackberry as a modem for a laptop/PC:

Verizon: Adds $30 per month for a BIS account; $15 for a BES account. 5 gig/month soft cap.

AT&T: Adds $30 per month. 5 gig/month soft cap.

Sprint: Used to be $30 per month with the customary 5 gig/month soft cap, but was recently discontinued in favor of no such service at all.

T-Mobile: Free on EDGE devices, which is going to be slow. However, for people who intend to use it only rarely as a back-up to other connectivity, it could be a good option. Free is good! Once T-Mobile launches its first HSPA (“3G”) Blackberry soon, expect some form of paid plan to follow.

MetroPCS: Not applicable.

What about Blackberry data roaming while abroad?

Verizon: Unlimited monthly use adds $35, in the form of a $65 plan replacing the $30 domestic-only plan. You can change the plan forth and back at any time.

AT&T: As an individual/residential account, no unlimited plan is available. You have to pay $25 for 20 meg, or a higher amount for a larger plan. The fatal flaw with this approach is that you don’t know how much data you are consuming, so you can easily exceed the 20 meg (or whichever larger number you purchase) without knowing, racking up hundreds or thousands of dollars in a matter of days. If you convert your account to a business/enterprise account, there is a $65/month plan available, replacing the domestic-only $30 plan, but you have to subscribe for a full year, making the incremental cost effectively a $420/year plan.

Sprint: Unlimited monthly use adds $40. You can change the plan forth and back at any time.

T-Mobile: Monthly email and web browser-only use adds $20. You can change the plan forth and back at any time. Keep in mind that this plan covers ONLY email and web browsing on your Blackberry. All of your other applications are not covered. In most countries, use of those other applications cost $15 per meg, which of course is impossible to measure, so just as in the case with AT&T, you can easily rack up hundreds or thousands of dollars in a matter of days, without knowing.

MetroPCS: Not applicable.

What are the main conclusions?

For regular domestic handset use, AT&T and Verizon are the most expensive, with MetroPCS being the cheapest. Sprint and T-Mobile are in the middle.
For using the Blackberry as modem for your PC, power users are best served by AT&T and Verizon. Infrequent or emergency users are best served by T-Mobile. Sprint fails this test.

For using the Blackberry abroad, for the purpose of using data (not voice) services, Sprint and Verizon are the only acceptable choices. T-Mobile and AT&T fail this test miserably, because their customers can very easily rack up dramatically large bills without knowing. This conclusion is of course ironic, because T-Mobile and AT&T are the GSM operators who led in this area only as little as a year ago.

Special award to T-Mobile: As a result of UMA technology (GSM tunneling through WiFi), a T-Mobile Blackberry can be used for making and receiving calls for free, while on WiFi abroad. This saves $1-$5 per minute, depending on the country. All other circuit-switched calling on US carriers, while roaming abroad, is prohibitively expensive.

Bottom line: There is no one Blackberry solution that is optimal, because all US operators each have flaws in their pricing structures. Different users have different priorities. What is clear is that while Sprint and Verizon were behind as little as a year ago, they have now caught up, and at least in the area of international data roaming, they are now the ONLY acceptable choices, by a very wide margin.

One major caveat: This study is only about price. It does not take into consideration coverage discrepancies (what’s great coverage for one person, is another person’s disaster) or handset choices, such as the fact that Verizon and Sprint Blackberries lack WiFi.

Disclosure: Long RIMM.

Tuesday, August 4, 2009

Euthanasia for Clunkers: The So-Called 'Healthcare Bill'

“Maybe you're better off not having the surgery, but taking the painkiller.”

-- President Obama (June 24, 2009) – on the topic of health care for elderly people

If the government can’t handle a $1 billion program that’s as simple as giving a $4,500 check to those who trade in an old car, how can it be trusted to administer a $1 trillion program where your life is on the line? Of course it can’t. The Cash For Clunkers program was a 136 page bill in Congress, and the Euthanasia For Clunkers program (the so-called “health care bill”) is around 1,000 pages just for starters. Its main purpose is to kill whatever remaining aspects of private health care, in favor of a Washington DC politbureau which will decide what health care you will, or will not, obtain.

As with every single government program, this massive socialist scheme will naturally generate a vast bureaucracy, cost many times more than what is being promised today, and deliver abysmal services. This is really so obvious that it shouldn’t be necessary to argue the point, but in the age of the Obama Marxist takeover of America, it has become necessary to explain these basics.

We already have numerous government health care programs – so many, in fact, that the government directly accounts for one third of health care expense in America already. If you include indirect spending and control, the number could be closer to two thirds. Some of the larger government bureaucracies include Medicare (for the elderly) and Medicaid (for the poor). Then we have a long list of other special programs for other groups in society: Indian reservations, the military, Congress and children, among others. The elderly and the poor already being covered, the only remaining purpose of Obama’s multi-trillion-dollar government bureaucracy is to cover those of us who already have health care, as well as one new group of approximately 10 million illegal invaders, people who in most cases ran across the border in direct defiance of US law.

In order for the government to take over the health care system, and to cover approximately 10 million illegals, while at the same time not increasing the number of doctors, nurses or hospitals by a single person or unit, someone else needs to get less health care. Who will have to surrender more than taxes in order to balance this equation? Most likely, all of us will pay to some extent, but the elderly will be the prime target. In Obama’s Marxist philosophy, they have out-lived their useful lives and seeing that as in his mind property rights don’t exist, the elderly in particular can have everything taken away from them by the state. After all, “we” ARE the state, in the view of the Marxist. And you can’t sue yourself.

The already-existing government programs, such as Medicare and Medicaid, are already bankrupt and huge failures. 21% of state budgets go to Medicaid alone. Anyone serious about health care reform would start by getting rid of programs that don’t work. If we abolished these huge government bureaucracies that drain private industry, this country would be a lot more competitive with the faster-growing economies around the world. Instead, with Medicare and Medicaid being total failures, Obama and Pelosi are proposing a new and even huger bureaucracy to serve as a super-umbrella-bureaucracy over all the failures. It is rewarding failure with power. Mr. and Mrs. Government Bureaucrat, you’ve failed in everything that you do. You’ve squandered tens of trillions of dollars. Now, let’s give you a gigantic increase in power!

If Obama and Pelosi get their way with the Euthanasia For Clunkers bill, expect all of us, but particularly the elderly, to await that “thumbs up, thumbs down” scene from the movie Gladiator. Need a pace maker? Thumbs down, take a pill. Need hip surgery? Thumbs down, take a pill.

Obama has said as much; perhaps we should listen for a change. When politicians promise nothing but sweetness, light and jingles, it’s time to question and be suspicious. But when politicians basically tell you that they will stick it to you, then it’s time to ring the alarm bell, just like Winston Churchill did in the 1930s. Remember that paperhanger in Austria who moved to Munich and wrote the book “Mein Kampf” in the 1920s? Perhaps we should have listened a bit earlier, no?

There is one, albeit dubious, benefit with the Euthanasia For Clunkers bill, and that’s in the form of “shovel-ready” government stimulus. What do I mean? In order to administer any of these programs, including Cash For Clunkers, there is the need to construct new government offices to house tens of thousands of bureaucrats. It will surely increase employment in the government, with tens of thousands of people being hired to investigate all aspects of your life, so that you minimize your health care expense. What do you eat? We have to change your diet. How much do you exercise? Stop when the dog stops. What do you drive? Make all motorcycles illegal or tax them like tobacco. So the building of these new government bureaucracy facilities will indeed stimulate the construction industry. But the same thing could have been said about Auschwitz.