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Managing Email Folders & the Grand Mobile Experiment

When I first joined AT&T, my boss challenged me to see how long it would take before I switched full time to the Apple iPhone. Once I got settled, I put aside my BlackBerry device and tried to make the switch. My plan was to see if I could use it for two weeks solid; I made it 10 days before I had to switch back to my BlackBerry.

It’s not that I’m a BlackBerry bigot, I love technology and playing with different devices. I promise you that if I could find devices that worked the way I needed to work, I’d be happy to switch around between different ones. The problem is that BlackBerry has been optimized for the things I do the most, regular everyday email. Every other platform I’ve used tries, but comes up short in so many ways.

Having worked for Research in Motion, I’m a heavy email guy. Because of the instantaneous nature of BlackBerry email, everyone at Research in Motion uses email heavily, even to the point where email was an easier way to reach a colleague than making a phone call. You knew that no matter what the person was doing, especially being on the phone, that they’d be checking their email regularly. Interestingly as these other device platforms (iPhone, Android, Palm and others) try to tackle the enterprise, it’s just not possible for them to accommodate the business email user.

What I’ve noticed with these different platforms is that they’re not designed to deal with a user who has a large inbox. On the BlackBerry for example, I can highlight a date, click the menu button and very quickly remove any messages from the device older than the selected date. It doesn’t remove them from your mailbox, just removes them from the device. On the iPhone and Android devices, when you want to clean up your inbox, you have to click each email individually to delete them – that’s ridiculous.

If you’re a heavy email user like I am, you probably have hundreds if not thousands of folders in your inbox.  When I get an email, I deal with it, delete it if I think I won’t need it anymore and file it if I think I will need it again. On the BlackBerry, I merely press the ‘I’ key on the keyboard and the list of folders appears. If I’d filed a previous message on the same thread, the BlackBerry will automatically highlight the last folder used for messages on that thread. When I select a folder and press the Enter key it’s filed. The whole process takes very little time. Pretty cool.

With other device platforms, you have the ability to file messages, but when you activate that function, the complete list of folders displays. There’s no keyboard entry, you have to swipe through every single page of your folder list to get to the one you want. It’s ridiculous. I have hundreds of folders in my inbox, why make me swipe through page after page of folder names to get to the one I want to file my message in? It makes absolutely no sense to me. This is what I mean when I say that most platforms aren’t setup for enterprise email users.

Now, you might be saying to yourself “Well, the BlackBerry works that way because it has a keyboard – that’s an easier thing to do with a keyboard.” Unfortunately that’s not the case. Even on a touch screen device, Research in Motion provides you with the means to bring up a keyboard and start typing the name of the folder you want to file your message in. It’s an extra click, but it still allows me to file the message pretty quickly.  On iOS and Android, the user is not provided with any means to use the keyboard for folder selection. Apple and Google have decided for you that you’re not allowed to use the on-screen keyboard when filing messages. Makes no sense to me.

Why not provide the option to use the keyboard? Default to using your finger to swipe through the folder list, but for people like me who have hundreds of folders, let me select the folder I want to use via the keyboard.  These devices are supposed to be so cool and so hot, but something as simple as filing email messages is broken. Like I said at the beginning of this article, these mobile platforms are not designed for the enterprise mail user.

Anyway, on to the Big Mobile Experiment… Today I moved my SIM from my BlackBerry Torch 9800 into a Windows Phone 7 device.

I was playing last week with the HTC Surround and this week I’m poking around in the LG Quantum. The Surround was pretty cool – I didn’t need the extra weight and thickness provided by the surround speakers, but it was a functional device. I thought I’d like the Quantum because it had a keyboard, but I found that on Windows Phone devices a keyboard is actually a detriment to the end user.  I’ve found repeatedly that the UI for many aspects of the phone doesn’t rotate to the keyboard orientation when you slide out the keyboard. If the UI doesn’t switch for keyboard input when you expose the keyboard, what’s the point of having the keyboard?

Anyway, I’m going to use the Quantum as my primary device this week and see how I like it. So far, Windows Phone 7 is better than I expected it to be. I think it has a real chance in the market.

Next week I’m going to switch to either the Motorola Bravo or the Motorola Flipside. Those are both Android 2.1 devices, so I’m going to give each a week as my primary device.

Following that I should be receiving the Motorola Atrix (which I’m really excited about using) and the HTC Inspire (which is AT&T’s First 4G [marketing 4G, not technology 4G, we’re already there with HSPA+] device). Stay tuned for how it all works out for me.

Feb 23, 2011
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