iPhone versus Blackberry for email via IMAP

I have an iPhone, not a Blackberry.  I have always heard “the Blackberry is great for email” – better than the iPhone.

Well, I must say if you are hooking up to an IMAP account, the iPhone kills the Blackberry in my opinion.  I may be biased as I have been recently exploring various IMAP clients out there (due to implementing an IMAP server), but the iPhone actually has very good quality and sophisticated IMAP support.  The Blackberry seems to only support it as an alternative to POP3.  It does not act as a true IMAP client (in my opinion).

For example, the iPhone keeps the most recent mails locally.  It first downloads some headers (subject, to, from) of new messages, then does a second pass examining the MIME body structure of the messages (looking for attachments etc).  The iPhone client will download part of a message (instead of the whole message) giving the user the option to load the rest of the message.  The iPhone also allows you to search which it does by searching what has been downloaded to the phone first, but then has a “continue search on server?” button, so you can search *all* your email, not just the ones you have on your phone.  All the underlying IMAP commands are quite sophisticated.  The application is trying hard to get results to the user ASAP, while minimizing network traffic.

The Blackberry on the other hand (PLEASE correct me if I am wrong!) when you connect up to an IMAP account will not download all old mail.  It will just give you new mail messages.  It will not let you search through all your old mail, or look at any other old mail.  Its all about the current mail.

Why is historic mail useful?  It contains contacts or other information you may want to dig up while on the road.  At work I have around 160,000 messages (from memory!) I can search through from my iPhone.  If I had a Blackberry I would be stuck.  It seems the only way forward for a Blackberry solution is to write a new app.  (There are IMAP clients out there written for the Blackberry, but I have not found one yet that will forward searches to the server.)

The Blackberry might be great for some people, but for myself, wanting a great IMAP experience, the Blackberry seems a real disappointment.  The iPhone on the other hand does a great job of trying to be responsive, minimize your network traffic, while providing a great range of software functionality.

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