In the most recent ABA Technology Survey, 77% of the responding lawyers reported using a smartphone in their practice. (Source: Inside Legal.) According to the survey results, Blackberry continues to be the most popular choice: 64% of lawyers reporting the brand names of their smartphones reported using Blackberries. Even though Blackberry continues to be the overwhelming choice among lawyers, the iPhone’s popularity has increased, and 14% of the survey's respondents reported using the iPhone, making it the second most popular smartphone in the survey.
As the iPhone's popularity continues to increase, it will almost certainly continue to gain market share among lawyers and law firms. And, as this happens, more and more lawyers will face the choice about which of these products is better for their practice. Galen Gruman has published a comprehensive comparison of the Blackberry Bold to the iPhone
. Several bloggers have also published commentaries on the pros and cons of each of these devices for lawyers, and a sampling of some these can be found here, here, and here.
Why didn’t I like the iPhone? I did like it in many respects; in fact I loved it as a web browser, music player and game machine. It was wonderful at running applications like OmniFocus (my task manager) and others. It failed me, however, as a telephone. I found it difficult to use in the car (while driving) due to the touch screen and ineffective voice dialing. I found out how much I rely on the buttons on the Blackberry to do things without looking. I was also frustrated by call quality on AT&T.
Why didn’t I keep the Storm? It’s not nearly as cool as the iPhone. It doesn’t support many applications and it has a much clunkier web browser. It also suffers from the touch screen and issues with dialing, although it has great voice dialing capability.
Bottom line, I need a phone. The applications, the touch screen, the cool factor are all terrific but if the device doesn’t make it really easy to make a call then it has to go back to the store. One day I hope to have something that fills my need for cool and makes it easy to place a call with a decent connection. Until that day comes, I will be keeping my traditional Blackberry with a keyboard.
Richardson, on the other hand, easily chose the iPhone over the Blackberry
. While Blackberry has long been the industry leader in email functionality, Richardson noted that the iPhone has made strides to catch up, while offering some benefits of its own:
I wish the iPhone had some of the Blackberry’s advanced e-mail features such as macros and other shortcuts. But Apple can easily add these with software updates, and indeed iPhone e-mail today is already much better than it was a year ago. As things stand today, although you give up a few e-mail features with the iPhone, you also gain other features such as readability and ease of use. This is why I say that if the one and only reason that you want a smartphone is for e-mail, the Blackberry and the iPhone are both good options.
Ultimately, though, it was the features that the iPhone offers over and above email that convinced Richardson:
…The Safari web browser is far better than any other mobile phone browser because you can quickly (thanks to WiFi and 3G) see a whole web page the way it was designed to be displayed and use multi-touch to easily zoom in and out to better read any small text. Accessing the Internet on the go is such a key feature nowadays that this alone is enough reason to get an iPhone.
The iPhone also does a great job displaying Google maps and the built-in GPS quickly finds where you are and helps you get to where you want to go and, using Street View, show you what it will look like when you get there. With the iPod app you can enjoy music, podcasts and videos, and with the iTunes app you can download content directly on the iPhone. The camera is decent for a cell phone, especially for outdoor shots.
While those built-in apps are great, the iPhone’s real flexibility comes from the over 10,000 (and growing) third-party applications. If you can dream it, there is bound to be an app you can add to do it. You can carry around copies of statutes and rules, check the weather, stream Internet music, play amazing games, etc., and these apps almost always cost just a few dollars and can even be downloaded and installed directly on the iPhone.
Following up on Richardson’s last point about the flexibility of the iPhone apps, he has also blogged about the best iPhone apps for lawyers
Ultimately, Rosen and Richardson seem to carve out the main dividing line for lawyers choosing between the Blackberry and iPhone. For a reliable phone and email functionality, Blackberry is likely to remain the smartphone of choice for lawyers. But for lawyers who are looking for better mobile access to the Internet, media functionality, and application flexibility, the iPhone may offer a better option. Any lawyer trying to choose between a Blackberry and an iPhone would do well to read the full articles by both Rosen and Richardson.
Of course, the Blackberry and iPhone are not the only smartphone choices available for lawyers. Palm was the third most popular choice among lawyers in the ABA survey, and its new Palm Pre is bound to be popular among many lawyers. Google also continues to try to become a major player in the smartphone market with its Android operating system and GPhones. And there are many other devices available from manufacturers that haven’t been mentioned here.
The most interesting question, though, may be, Which device are you using in your practice? What experience have you had with the device, and would you recommend it to other lawyers?