It was sometime in the early 1990s and a buzz – or more precisely a shrill bri-ing bri-ing – swept through businesses across the land.
It came attached to a handbag-sized lump of plastic, a now laughably primitive gadget that, should you happen to drop it on your toe, meant a trip to A&E, but also unleashed the power of the telephone call wherever you might be – assuming there was a signal.
Now, of course, we’re all glued to our smartphones, tweeting and updating our status, uploading, downloading, streaming, searching, texting, snapping and even, occasionally, phoning.
While some Edinburgh phone users are getting to grips with the superfast 4G network – watching films and television without annoying buffering – from today, there will be another reason to look closely at the smartphone in our pocket. After a fairly dire couple of years the BlackBerry, with its much-loved Qwerty button keypad, is poised to make a return.
RIM, the firm behind the businessperson’s one-time favourite phone, launches BlackBerry 10, a touchscreen device that aims to recoup ground lost to the likes of the Apple iPhone, Samsung Galaxy and Sony Xperia.
It arrives in a rapidly changing marketplace. At the weekend it emerged that Apple is losing ground to Samsung, prompting suggestions it has “lost its cool” to the South Korean firm.
According to Ben Woods, senior reporter for technology news website ZDNet, BlackBerry 10 is a vital throw of the dice for its maker. “No longer is e-mailing, web browsing and video calling the preserve of a business user,” he said. “Which is why it [RIM] has worked hard to fully revamp the core software. It also offers a simple way to separate work data from personal data, which should appeal to IT admins and restore some of its appeal to the enterprise.”
So, a new “old” player is on the scene. But is the BlackBerry 10 going to tempt anyone? It might help if we know who is packing what kind of phone now, and just what they use it for.
• Steve Coyle, 44, is operations director of property management, investment and letting firm Cullen Property. He uses an HTC Desire HD.
Favourite app: “My torch app is brilliant.”
Steve’s HTC is in almost constant use but rarely as a phone: “It’s probably more of a mini PC that happens to be a telephone, because only about ten per cent of what I use it for are actually calls.”
Flick through his mobile and it’s clear it’s mostly “business over pleasure”, stuffed with document storing apps, work contacts and photographs of apparently random properties.
“I make calls and send texts with it, but the social networking access it also gives me is important. I send updates to my personal Facebook page but also to our two company Twitter and Facebook accounts because promoting your business, dropping the name in wherever groups of people might be, is now really important.
“I use it to access LinkedIn a lot. It helps if you’re heading for a meeting, you want to find out a bit more about who you are seeing.”
His phone maps help him navigate to various properties and he uses the RingGo app to help pay for his parking charges.
His phone camera is handy for snapping pictures of buildings he spots which could add to the firm’s portfolio and, if you ever wondered who uses the compass on their phone, it’s Steve, showing clients which way a building faces.
Among his handiest apps is Camscanner, which captures documents while on the move, and the torch app is a vital tool for visiting empty properties with dark corners.
“BlackBerry used to be the be-all-and-end-all but it’s been overtaken now.
“It’ll have to be something pretty amazing to get people back using it.”
PAUL HART, 38, is head chef at the Scotsman Hotel. He uses an iPhone 5.
Favourite app: “Sous Vide, an app that tells me the time and temperature for cooking meats and fish in a water bath.”
A glance through Paul’s iPhone5 reveals his passions lie in the kitchen. He has a mass of images of his latest culinary creations, while his contacts list is full of foodie suppliers and his most used apps provide guidance on cooking methods.
Still, the Peppa Pig app is a clear hint that, unless he’s a fan of the pink piglet, he’s not only a chef, but a dad, too. His iPhone alarm works as a kitchen timer and the calculator scales up recipes to cater for larger numbers and tots up his costs. Meanwhile, his Twitter account is handy for connecting with customers – an increasingly important weapon in the fight to keep clients and hunt out new ones.
He says he can hardly imagine not having such a gadget to hand. “Everything I need is there. If I remember something at 2am, I can grab the phone and fire off an order so it’s there with the supplier first thing. Everything is done on the mobile.”
• Rory MacAleece, 36, is head of group operations for the Chester Residence in the West End. He owns an iPhone5.
Favourite app: Alien DVR, an app which provides a live stream from cameras at the group’s properties.
The biggest clue on his iPhone5 as to who he is, is the TripAdvisor app. He checks it several times a day, watching for new reviews related to Chester Residence, recently voted the UK’s top small hotel.
“TripAdvisor can make or break a business,” says Rory. “The Edinburgh hotel trade is cut-throat, so it pays to be on top of what people are saying about you.”
Since he switched from BlackBerry to an iPhone, his mobile has rarely been off.
“Now I can sync things easily to my iPad without having lots of e-mails still sitting in the BlackBerry. I use Facetime a lot, too, it’s better to be able to speak face-to-face rather then just through e-mail.” He stores work documents on iCloud and regularly checks the LinkedIn app to connect with others in the industry and recruit.
However, it’s not all work and no play – the Toy Story apps suggest a couple of little people share his iPhone.
“I have a two-year old and four-year old, so there’s games, Buzz Lightyear and Woody on there, too,” he says.
• Garry Cossar, 32, who works in internal communications at Standard Life, is a reluctant iPhone user, juggling it with a Blackberry Curve for work.
Favourite app: Bleacher Report, a sports report and results app.
Anyone finding Garry’s iPhone4 in the back of a cab could quickly pin him down – sports addict, father-to-be and news junkie who likes to travel and keep an eye on the financial world.
“I have around 17 sports apps,” he confesses, which jostle for space with TripAdvisor, BBC and Financial Times news sites and movie app IMDB.
It’s a reasonable guess that he’s a man with leisure time on his hands.
However, that could be changing, for also lurking is a handful of “father-to-be” style apps, suggesting time to check the NFL scores may soon be a distant memory.
“I had a Samsung for years and, to be honest, I preferred it,” he says. “It bucks the trend for everything Apple and if you don’t use Facetime or if you want good maps, then I think it’s a better choice. And all the updates on the iPhone are just annoying.”
While his iPhone is his link to the world of sport, the Blackberry Curve in his other pocket is strictly work. “I don’t even use e-mail on my own phone, but the Blackberry e-mail is fantastic even if it doesn’t look brilliant.”
• Jason Wright, 26, head chef at Steak in Picardy Place, loves his iPhone4.
Favourite app: A keen snowboarder, the SkiScotland app keeps Jason up to date.
“I used to have a BlackBerry but I absolutely love my iPhone,” he says. “The only negative is all the updates – and if you don’t have an Apple computer, they can take forever.”
Just back from a holiday in Verbier, his photo gallery is crammed with snowboarding images. But most pictures on his phone are of new dishes, which he then shares with Steak staff so they can ensure every meal they turn out is consistent.
“I also save recipes on my phone – one app, FileApp, lets me download them straight from my computer which is great,” he adds.
His phone also stores his music collection, around 400 files which recently vanished after a frustrating update, causing eight hours of panic before his fiance tracked them down.
“Everything is on my phone, I don’t think most of us realise how much is actually stored on them,” he adds.
• Leanne Rinning, 30, works in marketing and PR and has been busy helping to promote the Huxley bar and restaurant at 1 Rutland Place. She touts an iPhone 4 in one hand and her Blackberry Curve for business in the other.
Favourite app: More than one, all vital for getting around town – City Cabs app, Yelp and Edinburgh Bus apps.
Leanne separates business from personal life, keeping her BlackBerry Curve for work e-mails and documents, and her iPhone for everything else – from scanning news apps for celebrity news to picking up dinner recipes.
“I like the iPhone because of the nice big screen, you can see things clearly,” she says. “I’ll be on the bus in the morning going to work looking at the BBC recipes website to see what I might have for dinner, or reading the morning paper, or BBC News website on the iPhone.
“But the BlackBerry is easier to type out an e-mail on, so that’s for work.
“And I just feel it’s ‘safer’ somehow.”
She uses her iPhone to keep on top of Facebook and Twitter – vital tools for trying to raise a client’s online profile – and My Fitness Pal app keeps her exercise and healthy eating routine on track.
As for switching to a new BlackBerry 10, she’s more interested in trying out a different smartphone altogether.
“I’ve seen adverts for the Nokia Lumia 920 and it looks like it has a big interface which I like. But I’ll stick with the BlackBerry I’ve got for business.”
At your fingertips
So you’ve got the smartphone, but have you got the best apps? Here’s our guide to some of the best Edinburgh apps around.
1. EDINBUS (free) The iPhone app taps into Lothian Buses’ Bus Tracker system to give up-to-the-minute travel information for bus stops across the city. Check My Bus Edinburgh (free) on Google for Android phones which offers the same service.
2.EDINBURGH REAL TIME PARKING (69p) This iPhone app tells you which city car parks have spaces, and which are nearly full. Saves driving round in circles hunting out a space.
3.CITY CABS EDINBURGH (free) Book a City Cab taxi, track its whereabouts and check over previous journeys. Other operators – Central Taxis, Capital Cars and so on – have similar apps.
4.IAN RANKIN’S EDINBURGH (free) You’ve read the books now visit the locations under the guidance of an app that features videos, audio, photographs and exclusive content that bring the Edinburgh based author’s books to live.
5. EDINBURGH AIRPORT GUIDE (free) Official airport app. Check flight arrivals and departures, search for cancelled and delayed flights.
6. EDINBURGH FESTIVAL FRINGE (free) Use the app to find your way through the hundreds of shows and events on offer, store personal listings and buy tickets.
7. RINGGO (free) Pay for your parking using your RingGo app and avoid hunting for loose change. The app lists nearby RingGo zones and directs users to them via Google maps. Manage account information and store favourite parking sites.
8. EDINBURGH LIBRARIES (free) One of the first apps of its kind in the UK allows you to scan the barcode of a book you spot while out shopping and search the city library catalogue to see if it’s available. Renew loans and scan your library card details into your device.
9. SCOTSMAN (£1.99) and SCOTSMAN.COM JOBS (free) Keep up to date with local, national and international news on your iPhone or iPad. Scotsman.com Jobs carries all the latest situations vacant.
10. Edinburgh Trams How Late? (free) Find out just how far behind schedule the trams really are with an Android widget app that counts the days since February 25, 2011, when the trams should have started running. Connects with tweets concerning Edinburgh’s trams. Described by one user as “infinitely more competent than the tram project”.
HELLO, IT’S ME
SO, what does our phone say about us – or, to be more precise, who we’d like to be?
The phone of choice for a spy like James Bond is a Sony Experia T. And for yummy mummies juggling home, work and looking good, it’s a mobile loaded with Windows 8 as modelled by a Nokia Lumia 920 and
This Morning presenter Holly Willoughby.
HTC Desire X may be aiming for the serious music fan with its built in Beats Audio. Samsung Galaxy S3 has signed the hottest sports star on the planet – David Beckham wasn’t playing football at the Olympics, he was advertising the South Korean’s latest gadgets.
BlackBerry’s recent adverts highlighted its stance as a “working” phone, suggesting users are “people who do”.
Apple has secured some of Hollywood’s coolest gents and stunning women, with Samuel L Jackson, Martin Scorsese, Megan Fox and Zooey Deschanel plugging its products. To appeal to our inner sporty side, new iPhone5 adverts feature Williams twins, Venus and Serena.