Smartphone comparison for lawyers

Smartphone comparison for lawyers
I recently presented a CLE course that examined the different apps, benefits, and features of the leading smartphones for lawyers. There are three leading choices for lawyers: the BlackBerry, iPhone, and Android phones.

Although there are no Canadian statistics, the American Bar Association’s 2012 Legal Technology Survey Report shows that of the 89 per cent of American lawyers who use smartphones for law-related tasks, 49 per cent of them use iPhones and 31 per cent use BlackBerry. Although only 18 per cent use Android phones, the Samsung Galaxy is by far the leading Android device on the market today with 30 per cent of the entire smartphone market.

It can be difficult to decide which smartphone is best for you and your law practice. I have used all three. Although my choice is the BlackBerryQ10, each phone has benefits and shortfalls. In this article I will compare the features of the top three
smartphones for lawyers to help you decide which is best for you and your law practice.


Cost is always a big factor and it includes more than the cost of the device. Consider the data plans, daytime minutes, and long distance as well as how many text messages you can send. These factors are different depending on your provider. The following table outlines the advertised device costs in Canada:

BlackBerry Z10


$100 on a three year contract (Rogers, Telus, Bell)

BlackBerry Q10


$199 on a three year contract (Rogers, Telus, Bell)

Samsung Galaxy S4


$199 on a three year contract (Rogers, Telus, Bell)

iPhone 5


$199 on a three year contract (Rogers, Telus, Bell)


Each phone has different storage capabilities; however only the BlackBerry’s storage can be expanded. The smartphones compare as follows:

BlackBerry Z10

16 Gigabytes

Expandable memory up to 32 GB

BlackBerry Q10

16 GB

Expandable memory up to 64 GB

Samsung Galaxy S4

16, 32, or 64 GB

Expandable microSD, up to 64 GB

iPhone 5

16, 32, or 64 GB

No expandable memory

Battery life

Each phone has unique ways to increase battery life. For example, the iPhone can extend its battery life by limiting location services and push notifications. In every case, the battery life depends on how you use your phone:
Talk Time

Standby Time

Video Playback

BlackBerry Q10/Z10

20 hours (3G)

13 days plus

11 hours

Samsung Galaxy S4

18 hours (3G)

13 days plus

12 hours

iPhone 5

18 hours (3G)

13 days plus

10 hours

Size and weight

Size and weight of your smartphone may not seem important at first, however if your screen is too small for you to see or the device is too large to fit into your suit pocket comfortably you will regret not considering this factor. Here is a table to compare:





BlackBerry Z10

130 mm/ 5.12”

65.6 mm/ 2.58”

9 mm/ 0.35”

136g/ 4.8 oz

BlackBerry Q10

119.6mm/ 5.12”

66.8 mm


139g/4.9 oz

Samsung Galaxy S4

136.6 mm/5.4”

68.8 mm/2.7”

7.9 mm/0.31”

130 g/4.7 oz

iPhone 5

123.8 mm/4.87”

58.6 mm/2.31”

7.6 mm/0.30”

112 g/3.95 oz


 You will spend plenty of time looking at your screen and every smartphone uses the screen to navigate the operating system. Here is how they compare:



BlackBerry Z10

4.2” diagonal

1280 x 768 pixels

BlackBerry Q10

3.1” diagonal

720 x 720

Samsung Galaxy S4

5.0” diagonal

1920 x 1080

iPhone 5

4” diagonal

1136 x 640

Camera and video

I have friends, family, and colleagues who use their smartphones to capture all of their photographs and videos, so having a quality camera is important to them. As lawyers, we need these tools to document evidence at a motor vehicle accident location or a client’s property. Here is how the cameras and videos compare:

Front Camera

Rear Camera


BlackBerry Z10/Q10

2 megapixel fixed-focus camera

8 MP auto-focus camera

720p HD (front) & 1080p HD (rear)

Samsung Galaxy S4

2 MP fixed-focus camera

13 MP auto-focus camera

1080p (rear)

iPhone 5

1.2 MP fixed-focus camera

8 MP auto-focus camera

720p (front) & 1080p HD (rear)

The bottom line on BlackBerry

My smartphone of choice is the BlackBerry Q10. It has a responsive keyboard for those who do lots of typing and an interactive touchscreen. It is slick and modern, yet is surprisingly rugged.

For anyone who loves the QWERTY keyboard on mobile, the Q10 keyboard is very likely the best BlackBerry ever produced. In addition, I can switch batteries in minutes, which is an absolute necessity for the travelling lawyer. Few phones will last a full day of travel, with heavy use, without additional battery charges.

The BlackBerry continues to have excellent e-mail filtering and security. Finally, the BlackBerry Balance is new technology built into the BlackBerry 10s that lets you create two separate personas on your smartphone: one for work and one for personal so you can keep your work life and personal life separate.

The bottom line on the iPhone 5

The iPhone is the ideal companion for the iPad and MacBook. All Mac products, including the iPhone, iPad, and MacBook, have amazing integration. If you download an app for the iPad, it works (usually for free) for the iPhone as well. The iCloud is incredibly convenient and useful for accessing non-confidential documents from anywhere. For the lawyer, this may include templates, letterhead, addresses, calendar entries, to-do lists, and saved legal cases.

Another advantage for lawyers that choose the iPhone is there are many excellent web sites dedicated to lawyers that use Mac products in their legal practice. A quick Google search will raise many of these sites.

The Bottom line on the Samsung Galaxy S4

The Android operating system is customizable and developer driven. Although many lawyers have not adopted the Android operating system it has the potential to integrate with your PC (and all things Google, such as Gmail and Google+, Google Docs, etc.) and there are many apps available. The Samsung Galaxy device has a larger screen than the iPhone and BlackBerry and if you are not a fan of the Samsung Galaxy you have the option of many other smartphones that harness the Android operating system.

Summer law student Ben Austring assisted with this article.

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