Switching from BlackBerry to iPhone 4? Here's what you need to know

How to make the switch from RIM's BlackBerry to Apple's iPhone 4


iPhone 4 with its 960x640 retina display, easy-peasy FaceTime video calling, high quality 5 megapixel, back-illuminated camera that shoots 720p 30fps video, and the silky smoothness of iOS 4 convincing you to switch from RIM's BlackBerry to Apple's newest handset? Worried about moving over your personal data like contacts, finding apps, getting used to the differences? Wondering where to get help?

Stop. Smile. We're here to help. Follow along after the break for everything you need to know (more properly, everything the iPhone Forums have taught us) about switching from BlackBerry to iPhone 4 and iOS 4.

(And yes, we've done Android, webOS</a, and Windows Mobile switcher guides up later this week as well).

RIM to iPhone - Yin and Yang

Perhaps you've used an iPhone before but work or hard core messaging needs demanded you back on the BlackBerry? Perhaps the missing mail and multitasking kept you from trying an iPhone at all until now? It's all good. The past is the past and this is about the future -- your future with iPhone 4 and iOS 4. This is about getting you from BlackBerry to iPhone as fast as possible.

And here's the good news -- of all the smartphone platforms, no two complement each other more than BlackBerry and iPhone. Ultimate communicator to paramount web and app platform. So even if you're not really switching but just lining up a little iPhone action on the side -- we got you covered. Dual wielders most definitely welcome.

Moving over contacts, calendars, and email

If you're on an Exchange server at work, you can just plug your credentials into iPhone and ActiveSync will do the rest. No BES required. That is if IT allows it -- they can get super-controlling with all the super-functionality BES provides. If they won't let you give up the Berry, you can still sneak the iPhone in on your own time. (And if you have or can get the direct Exchange info, you can probably still access your data on the down low).

For personal email, Gmail (and Hotmail soon as well) can also be added via ActiveSync. iOS 4 supports multiple ActiveSync accounts. Just tap the Settings icon on the Home Screen, tap Mail, Contacts, and Calendars, choose Exchange, and enter your info.

If you don't like ActiveSynch, you can setup MobileMe (Apple's expensive push service), Exchange, or pretty much any POP3 or IMAP service you have via the Other button.

Since the iPhone already has a WebKit browser -- the leading WebKit browser -- you can load up gmail.com and most other web mail sites right in Safari.

What to do about BlackBerry Messenger (BBM)

Ah, there's the lock-in. RIM operates their own, industry leading, completely proprietary messaging service and since there's not much chance they'll announced BlackBerry Connect for iPhone any time soon, leaving BlackBerry means leaving BBM.

Don't panic! (Crash cart ready!. It's for the best, really. Communication protocols shouldn't be proprietary and if they are (like Twitter) they should at least be supported on every platform -- especially the web. That way you can log out of one machine and in to another and all your stuff is just there. Like email. Like IM. Like Twitter. Like pretty much everything popular aside from BBM.

You're moving on and if your friends are real friends, they'll move with you. (Ha, sorry, couldn't resist!).

Now there are iPhone apps that try to mimic the BBM experience, even cross-platform, but we're not going to recommend them because they tend to be just as proprietary as Twitter without the mass adoption... so just use Twitter. Or AIM. Or Windows Live Messenger. There are tons of great iPhone app clients for all of those. Here are the official -- and free -- Twitter [iTunes link], AIM [iTunes link], and WLM [iTunes link] clients for iPhone. You can find several premium, multi-protocol apps as well, including BeeJive [iTunes link] and IM+ [iTunes link]

Finding other apps (and games).

Truth time -- Apple doesn't have a creaky old J2ME operating system awkwardly opening APIs and offering fractured support for technologies like WebKit and OpenGL. (They save partial support for messaging and multitasking! Zing!)

Okay, so Apple may not have invented mobile apps but they've revolutionized them sure as BlackBerry revolutionized mobile communications. What this means to you is 225,000 apps ready and waiting, and surprisingly most have nothing to do with farts. You'll find cutting edge productivity, amazing entertainment, top of the line social networking, and scores and scores of other amazing apps. And sorry Brick Breaker, but the iPhone also owns (and pwns) on games, from the casual farmers to full-on 3D shooters. TiPb reviews several a week and we've got a whole iPhone Apps and Games Forum ready to help you out as well.


Jailbreak and Cydia are two words you might here come up around these parts. Okay, iPhone 4 probably won't be Jailbroken (root jail broken open to allow side-loading of unsigned apps -- if you don't know what that means, skip this section) on launch day but it probably will eventually, maybe even soon. If you're a diehard tweaker and customizer, you'll want to keep your eyes peeled to our Jailbreak coverage, and more importantly -- our Jailbreak Help Forum, and Jailbreak Apps, Games, and Themes Forum.

Say farewell to fracture

Seriously, you don't have to worry much if at all about versions and hardware compatibility any more. With very few exception, iPhone apps past, present, and future will just work on your iPhone 4. Sure the screen is bigger but it's exactly 4 times bigger at the same physical size so existing (pre-iOS 4) apps will look the same and new (post iOS 4) apps will, frankly, blow your eyeballs out the back of your head.

There's no Pearl vs Curve vs Storm vs Bold, keyboard vs no keyboard, flip vs no flip, SureType vs SurePress vs full QWERTY.

Apple is all about user experience and they're doing a lot of abstraction behind the scenes to make sure things look great in front of them.

Say hello to iTunes

A mixed blessing if ever there was one, iTunes runs okay on Mac, kludgy on Windows, but is the local sync client required to activate your iPhone 4 and to transfer large media and document files from your computer to your phone. But why are we telling you this, you've probably used BlackBerry's desktop app, maybe even Outlook. You know how to handle pain.

You can do a lot of things OTA (over the air), including syncing all your personal data via ActiveSync (including Google Sync) or MobileMe, download apps, and buy or rent iTunes music, TV shows, movies, podcasts, etc. (20MB or under over 3G, any size over Wi-Fi). You can find apps that let you access your Google Docs, DropBox, Box.net, and other online storage. You can even convert and stream content on the fly with apps like AirSharing [iTunes]. But at some point, be it to install a software update like iOS 4.1 (probably due this fall) or backup your data, you're going to need to plug in to iTunes. So 2007, we know. If it's any consolation, Apple should release iTunes.com at some point...

Say WTH to weak, interruptive notifications

For all the huge usability advantages iOS 4 has over BlackBerry -- and make no mistake they really are huge -- notifications are sorely lacking.

You get one notification popup at a time that you have to view or close before you can resume what you were doing (or about to do) and once you close it -- or another notification pops up on top of it -- it's gone forever.

There's also no notification light -- not even a big glowing Apple logo. Nothing.

Hopefully Apple will fix these omissions in a future update. (Because we know RIM's getting a better browser.)

No. More. Keyboard. Or. Stylus.

No front facing QWERTY, no SureType. No physical hardware keyboards of any kind. Apple hates buttons and keyboards are nothing if not homes for dozens of buttons. If you're coming from a Storm this won't be as big a deal. If you're coming from the Bold...

Okay, here's the thing. Apple prefers the flexibility of a virtual keyboard, and they do flexible keyboards better than anyone in the business. Seriously. Despite what Big Mike says, multitouch capacitive interface of any kind on glass can be a transformative experience.

Apple likes their keys virtual so they go away when you don't need them (without creaking, oreo'ing, popping batteries, or coming to the rescue when virtual keyboards just won't do). On the plus side, if you're multilingual or international, the iPhone keyboard can easily be switched to any alphabet, script, stroke, or pictographic symbol you want to use. It can also become optimized for numbers, games, or pretty much anything you (technically, a developer) can think of.

Best of all, if you really miss your physical keyboard, with iOS 4, you can tether up a Bluetooth one and knock email -- and yourself -- out.

More BlackBerry to iPhone help and information

If you haven't already, check out our complete iOS 4 feature walkthrough. There's an incredible amount of stuff in iOS 4 and you can save yourself some serious time cribbing off of us.

If you need help, or have a story to share, check out TiPb's iPhone forum -- we've got a special switching from BlackBerry to iPhone 4 thread going just for you!

And if we forgot anything or just plain got something wrong, let us know and we'll add it or fix it.

Have something to say about this story? Leave a comment! Need help with something else? Ask in our forums!

Rene Ritchie

EiC of iMore, EP of Mobile Nations, Apple analyst, co-host of Debug, Iterate, Vector, Review, and MacBreak Weekly podcasts. Cook, grappler, photon wrangler. Follow him on Twitter and Google+.

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Reader comments

Switching from BlackBerry to iPhone 4? Here's what you need to know


After 3 years and 4 blackberries (pearl,curve,storm,tour) I now have an iPhone and while their are definatley things I miss from crackberry land ,overall the iPhone USER EXPERIENCE is just hands down better. There are things that iPhone will never get right ( notifications) but the things RIM can't get right (memory leaks, ancient OS, terrible browser) are just unforgivable ! So long RIM , please please don't become the new palm :(

Great article, very unbiased. I know the Berry vs. iPhone stuff has gotten heated in the past and considering I work for IBM I'll always be forced to use a Berry (and have been using one since the scroll wheel days) there was a time (when the Bold was released) where Berry vs. iPhone was actually relevant.
Nowadays Berry is so far behind Apple, Android, even Windows 7 phone, and Palm that they aren't even in the game as far as I'm concerned until they make some large changes. iPhone has made changes to their original shortcomings, and Blackberry has not done anything which is why I'm picking up the iPhone 4.
I'm worried about notifications, but I'll get over it, and I'm sure the next iPhone will fix this (I hope), great article, spot on in my opinion!

Despite being a diehard Apple user since 1984 -- and having had my iPad since April 10 -- I simply cannot do without my BlackBerry Bold 9700. Despite the lousy browser, limited apps and certain Mac incompatibilities, my BlackBerry keeps me functional at work and home.

Just left a BlackBerry 8900 for the iPhone 4. Sure, there are things I miss, like all my BBM friends. But I'm getting over it fast. I just had a bad conversation w/a BB friend who thought I betrayed RIM. He went so far as to call me a teenager now. (I think he's just jealous!). I have found that it's not just a phone to some people, but a way of life. LOL!

Hi Lenceria, i am leaving BlackBerry after 6 years cos have finished work and no longer have Blackberry server for work. mylast Bold is a personal phone. i am going to get an Iphone 4s but would like advice as to how i can transfer all data to Iphone easily. contacts, email addresses, calendar (V Imp), Tasks, Memeos and if possible apps. i look forward to hearing from you

Get used to lousy battery life with no provision to slap in a fresh one. My 4 is not as good on battery as 3G. What gives. Down to 77 % after sitting doin nothing for 3 hours, 20 min iPod and 5 min 3G phone call

Francolasalsa - Opera makes a very good browser for RIM devices.
That leaves you with memory leaks and ancient OS. Both of which have caused me know problem in 4 years of BB use.

There just aren't words to How true this article is I had the storm and the storm 2 (broke storm 1 so many times they sent me the second one) I don't miss any of the blackberry features it had. A terrible web browser and even opera was no fun to use. I really like the pop up modifications better it let's u know what is going on. Plus with all the apps it's gives the iPhone a new element it's a portable gaming device. The UI is ten times better And the retina display is awesome I'm very glad I switched I will me never buy a different phone than an iPhone now

Hi, thx for this article, I just left my STORM for the Iphone 4, is there someone who have experience to migrate from Lotus Notes ACCOUNT via BES to Iphone? is it possible to stay connected (mail ,calendar)?

Hi - Just switched from Bold to iPhone 4 and I am missing simple things like notifications (covered above), auto correct text and the fact that the alarm clock doesn't work when you shut down the device...anyone can shed some light on how to solve it?
Beside that I am smiling

About to make the jump from crackberry land to the iphone4. i hear it has no provision for the auto-correct-text from the BB? i have TONS of personalized "replace" text programmed into my BB. saves a LOT of time to type a couple of letters and have it fill in a lot of info for me. SAY IT ISNT SO!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! SURELY Apple has something that can do this.......?

Taylor: I just got my iPhone 4 so I dont know if this is accurate but my friend told me that the iPhone will automatically adapt to your style of writing. Each time you cross off it's auto correct suggestion, it remembers and after a few times, your way of writing a word or spelling something becomes the "correct" way.

We are a Lotus Notes shop, and in addition to BES, are in the process of offering pushed email/calendar to Iphone, Ipad and Android for our user base. This can be done if your Notes admin installs Traveler 8.5.2 on Domino.
We've been a BES shop since the BB 8700's, and I'm actually going to be switching from my 9780 bold to an iPhone4 this week... Should be interesting, since the most I've done with an iPhone play with a few apps.

I'm looking to go from a Blackberry 8830 to an iphone4 (or 5). Greatest concern is retaining all the material I have in "memopad", which is extremely important to me. How can I transfer "Memopads" to iphone 4? Details from those who have done it would be appreciated.

Hi TOny, I saw your note about retaining your memo pad information during a switch to Iphone from blackberry. Were you able to do it? That is my main concern too.

I'm delaying switching from Blackberry Bold to iPhone because I have TONS of info in my Memopad app on the Blackberry. Did you ever figure out a way to transfer the memos? I can't find anyone who knows! Surely there must be lots of others! Thanks!

didn't answer how to move the calendar from blackberry to iphone. Does anyone know if this is possible?

If you have gmail, you can sync your blackberry contacts and calendar with google calendar (search how to do that but the bb app is called sync).
After you do that, on your iPhone you need to add gmail as an exchange account (NOT as gmail) under mail, contacts, calendars.
I had the added advantage of keeping my iPod touch in sync with my blackberry before I switched so it was all there waiting for me but this might be a problem if you only have a mIcrosim and no wifi on your bb.

Please HELP! Does anyone know a very simple step-by-step conversion process to transfer memo notes from a BB Pearl to an iPhone 4? I have been trying on-and-off for weeks now, and everything I've tried has failed or there isn't enough instruction to do the conversion. I have soooo many notes on my BB I'd HATE to lose. Can anybody please help me? Thank you for reading my post and any assistance would be greatly appreciated.

I face the same challenge as to memos on my Blackberry. Did you ever find a solution?

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