Designing to the Device… Apple v. BlackBerry

Scott CooperEven though Google's Android platform is the new kid on the block and has great features like open-source code capabilities along with Google API access, the mobile application market - until recently - has featured only two major device prize-fighters: Apple and BlackBerry. Sorry Microsoft, you are not in contention yet.
I do not want to get into which carrier services certain mobile device(s) and models feature, or why some people prefer a BlackBerry device over an iPhone. Those arguments have been agonized over by many in the past. I would rather compare the development process of mobile applications for an Apple device (iPhone, iPod Touch, and iPad) against a Research in Motion (RIM) device (BlackBerry).

Trying to compare the two device platforms on the basis of applications seems a little unbalanced. Apple’s apps, the tools available to develop them, and the platform they get to run on excel. Non-RIM programmed BlackBerry apps, the tools available for development, screen resolution, and screen size trail way behind.

I can honestly say that since Knotice just created a mobile application on behalf of a client for both Apple and BlackBerry, that the iPhone is the easiest device to develop an application on. The Apple platform gives an application that “WOW” factor. We were able to create a beautiful iPhone/iPod Touch application with great design and slick user interface… only to turn around and simplify the application so we could retrofit it to function on the BlackBerry device.

The difficulties with BlackBerry development is due to the smaller screen size and resolution, poor data capabilities (especially with video), and the general lack of proper tools made available from RIM to tap into the same resources that their core development team uses to make their nicest legacy applications.

Knowing we had to develop an application that would be somewhat consistent across both platforms was a challenge for the team on this project. Given the parameters of the project, we could not shoot for the moon on the iPhone app because we would definitely leave the BlackBerry app in the dust. Even with our cross platform thinking approach, the honest truth is that while trying to have a sense of application balance we still could not achieve it because the Apple platform empowers developers and users alike, and the BlackBerry devices seem to hold progress at bay, given the tools RIM makes available to third party developers.

Needless to say, I am looking forward to making upgrades to the iPhone application and continuing to monitor the app development market, especially Android and BlackBerry.

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