iPhone, Android, BlackBerry–WinPhone, what do I choose?

We have lots of customers ask us this question and it is a valid one when you are looking at what is required to connect back to your Exchange backend. If you have Exchange 2007 or 2010 (SBS2008 or SBS2011) in-house the super simple answer is any one of the above EXCEPT BlackBerry (more on this in a sec).  Why?  Simple, they all talk directly to Exchange and will sync all of your Outlook (Exchange) data seamlessly.  In-house at itgroove we have a mix of iPhone, Android and WinPhone and we have zero hassles with our phones and Exchange.  We dumped BlackBerry a few years back and have never looked back.

BlackBerry really clouds the issue and we have had customers that have been lied to by their phone carrier as to what they can and cannot do with their BlackBerry.  So, here is the skinny:  if you have BlackBerries and you want to do all of the Outlook/Exchange data sync wirelessly you will need to have a Blackberry Enterprise Server (BES) installed in-house, period.  Oh, and to avoid tons of grief the BES software SHOULD NOT be installed on the same server as Exchange.  So, you need an additional server (or VM) and Windows Server license to support BES although BES itself is now free for the Express version.  BES is the ONLY way you can get full wireless sync of all of your Outlook/Exchange data; don’t let your carrier tell you otherwise.

RIM (BlackBerry) provides the carriers with a “dumbed down” wireless connectivity option know as Blackberry Internet Server (BIS) which will allow you to get incoming emails on your phone and send email from your phone all via your Exchange server.  However, this is limited to ONLY incoming email; you do not see the rest of your Outlook folders nor do you get calendar, contact or any other info.  BIS is the option that your phone attempts to set up when you add an email account.  Most Outlook users find BIS to be frustrating due to the fact that MOST of their Outlook/Exchange data is missing.

The last option is to use BlackBerry Desktop to perform the sync.  This is software that you install on your PC and it then does the sync between your BlackBerry and your local Outlook.  Problem is the PC has to be running all the time for this to work.  What if you have a laptop?  Ooops.  Frankly, this is a really pathetic option that reeks of the 90’s.

So, what’s the best choice for you?  That is really up to you but we find that iPhone, Android, WinPhone simply work without a lot of grief (assuming your Exchange OWA is properly configured for public access … SSL cert anyone??).  The additional effort and expense required to support BlackBerry and BES is something we advise our customers to avoid unless there is a compelling business need for BlackBerry.  Sorry, RIM.

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