BlackBerry used to be synonymous with "business phone," until the iPhone and Android offerings became the go-to devices for work. But that doesn't mean that BlackBerry is dead. In fact, the company is still cranking out some truly unique smartphones that offer compelling features for business users, including top-notch security. And if you want a phone with a physical keyboard, BlackBerry might be your best bet.
But changing mobile platforms isn't easy. Switching from iOS or Android to BlackBerry means picking the right device, abandoning trusted services and transferring all your precious data. Read on for a step-by-step guide.
1. Pick a phone
Choosing the right BlackBerry phone is pretty easy, since there are only a handful of devices to choose from. Still, there's a decent amount of variety in the lineup. Whether you want a compact, touch-screen smartphone, or a massive phablet, here are three of the best.
BlackBerry Q10: The Q10 is a classic BlackBerry smartphone, with a QWERTY keyboard as its standout feature. It also offers great security and decent performance, if you can deal with its tiny 3.1-inch touch screen.
BlackBerry Passport: The Passport is one of the most eye-catching smartphones ever, with a physical keyboard and a massive 4.5 x 4.5-inch-square touch screen. The display has great dimensions for viewing documents, if you can handle the phone's bulky design.
BlackBerry Z30: The Z30 looks more like a typical modern smartphone. It lacks a physical keyboard, but offers a 5-inch touch screen and long battery life.
2. Transfer your data
What good is a shiny new BlackBerry smartphone if all your important data is stuck on your iPhone? Before you get down to business, you'll need to find a way to transfer all your messages, files, contacts and calendar items. Unfortunately, there isn't a single quick fix, but there are workarounds that you can use to get your new phone loaded and ready for business.
Email: BlackBerry natively supports most popular Web mail services, including Gmail, AOL, Exchange and Outlook. Just go to Settings > Accounts and type in the credentials for your email account. If you're trying to add a work account, follow these step-by-step directions provided by BlackBerry.
Text messages: Transferring texts is a lot trickier, but it may be possible for savvy users, depending on which platform you're coming from. Android users can use the SMS Backup & Restore app to export texts in the XML format. From there, you can use a USB connection to transfer the file from your Android phone to your computer, then from your computer to your BlackBerry phone. Finally, use the SMS Backup app to import the XML file to your BlackBerry address book. There's no good way to transfer texts from iOS to BlackBerry, however.
Calendar: There are a few good ways to transfer calendar appointments to your BlackBerry. If you use a Web calendar service such as Google Calendar or iCloud, simply go to Settings > Accounts, tap Add Account and enter your login credentials. Additionally, you can easily import appointments from enterprise calendars such as Outlook using the BlackBerry Link software for Windows or Mac.
Contacts: The Device Switch app lets you easily transfer your contacts, as well as other data such as photos, from an iPhone or Android device to your new BlackBerry phone. Just download the app on your BlackBerry, connect both devices to the same Wi-Fi network, and complete the on-screen instructions.
3. Switch services
BlackBerry's online services aren't as integrated as Apple's iCloud or Google's suite of Web services, but they do provide the functionality you need to stay productive.
Email: BlackBerry Hub is a notification center on every BlackBerry phone, which lets you view and respond to all your emails and messages in one spot.
Cloud storage: Unlike Google, Apple or Microsoft, BlackBerry doesn't have its own cloud storage service. Still, Dropbox and Box are great third-party apps that let you back up and sync your files and documents to the cloud.
Documents: BlackBerry phones ship with Docs 2 Go, a full-featured mobile office suit that lets you create documents, spreadsheets and presentations right on your phone. And it syncs with Dropbox and Box, so you can save your files to the cloud and access them everywhere.
Calendar: BlackBerry's native calendar app has everything you need to plan your schedule and plan appointments. Plus, you can install the BlackBerry Blend app on any PC or Mac computer to manage your calendar at your desk.
4. Find the right apps
BlackBerry doesn't have as many apps as competing platforms, but it does offer a pretty good lineup to help you stay on top of your email inbox, balance your books and even meet remotely. Here are some of the best apps for the platform.
Messaging: BlackBerry Messenger is a supersecure messaging app that connects you to co-workers and employees using a unique personal identification number (PIN), which keeps the service private and gives you more control over who contacts you. And all messages are encrypted during transmission, to keep work conversations secure.
Expense tracking: Expense Manager is a solid app for BlackBerry users who want an easy way to track daily expenditures. The app lets you enter in new expenses with a few taps, then categorize them by week, month, year or category. You can even save and index receipts by snapping a photo with your phone's camera.
Note taking: Evernote is one of the best note-taking apps you'll find on any mobile platform. It lets you dictate or manually enter notes, snap photos, create lists and more. And it uses text identification software to recognize and index printed or handwritten text, so you can find specific notes later using keywords.
Remote desktop: Splashtop Remote Desktop HD is a remote desktop app that lets you view the desktop of your work computer remotely, right on your BlackBerry device. Once the app is set up, you can remotely access files and documents, and even run desktop apps such as Microsoft Office and Outlook on your smartphone.
Video conferencing: Skype, the service that's synonymous with video chat, is a good option for meeting remotely with employees or clients.