Archive for March, 2007

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BlackBerry 8800 (Codename: Indigo) User Review

March 2, 2007

I had the chance to try the BlackBerry 8800 for about 4 or 5 days since last week. The BlackBerry 8800 is pretty similar in spec to the 8700, except that a few additional features were added such as built in GPS, MicroSD card support, and 64 MB RAM, packaged in a much sleeker form factor.

Prior to using the 8800, I was using the BlackBerry Pearl, my favorite BlackBerry right now. The 8800 is about the same length as the Pearl, but about 4 or 5 mm longer than the 8700 and 8707. Thickness about the same as the Pearl, but significantly thinner than the 8700 and 8707. Of course, the 8800 is wider than the Pearl, and about the same width as the 8700 and 8707. In real world use, though, the thinness of the 8800 is quite apparent particularly when comparing to the older 8700 and 8707. The 8800 does feel solid and a bit more hefty than the older models, which is generally ok, but just that bit too hefty for me. The unit is not heavy, but for me is just that little bit too heavy for me to really like. Note, though, that my preference is for smartphone type form factor devices, so my point of reference is always the Pearl, which is extremely light.

The finish of the 8800 is a mixture of basic black and silver. The back of the unit is painted in a matte black finish, while the front of the unit has got the glossy, Pearl like finish. the 8707 style chromed earpiece accent, while the back of the unit has another chrome accent with the BlackBerry logo. The memory card is beneath this chrome piece, but is not accessible without removing the battery.There are two plastic chrome pieces covering the edges of the units. Unlike the Pearl, though, which had a very tight and secure fit to the body of the handset, the 8800’s moved a little bit, which was a turnoff for me.

The 8800 uses the new trackball interface, which is not bad once you get used to it. The trackball is flanked with the call, menu, back, and end buttons, similar to the Pearl.

Usability is, as expected, typical BlackBerry. application reponse was not bad in terms of speed and navigation is typical of a BlackBerry. Because the icons were made smaller, more could fit the screen. Otherwise, using the unit is typical BlackBerry fare. a few minor enhancements along the way, such as animated new message notication asterisk. The biggest difference is usability, though, is the keyboard. The thumboard of the 8800 consists of keys that are connected, as opposed to the thumboard of the 8700 and 8707, which have space in between. Typing was not as easy on the 8800 because I would frequently end up pressing the wrong key because of the key spacing. Generally, I got better abut a day or two, but would still make quite a few typos even after a few days.

I was not able to try the GPS becaue most of my time was spent indoors. My colleague who did try it was able to get a position fix, but maps did not show up. Maps will be progressively added for other countries in Asia, but it is not quite clear when, though.

Speakerphone was loud and clear, much better than the 8700, and 7130, which had a tendency to drown out your voice while you were speaking, rendering those speakerphones unusable. Other minor changes were the shift from the old “Turn Wireles On/Off” icon to “Manage Connections” which provides options to turn on or off the mobile and bluetooth radios. I suppose that when the WIFI enabled 8820 (Crimson) comes out later in the year then the Manage Connections icon will be used to turn WIFI on or off as well.

The device I tested did not come with a holster. At the end of the day, though, the holster is not really needed because the device is thin enough, and light enough, to put your front pants pocket. Related to storage, the only real gripe I had with the 8800 is that I couldnt figure out how to activate the key lock. On the Pearl, the keylock is activated by pressing and holding the * key. However, this is not the case on the 8800. To unlock, the * SEND key combination does the trick, but I couldnt figure out locking. So I had to manually go to the lock keypad icon and select it, which was pretty slow.

In general, the 8800 is a pretty good BlackBerry. If form factor is high in your priority list, then the 8800 would be a good upgrade from your old 8700 or 8707, or even older BlackBerries. GPS mapping support for the Philippines is not yet clear, so I am not placing high hopes on the GPS working. If such is the case, perhaps the option is to wait for the 8820 as WIFI will probably be used a bit more than GPS. In any case, the slim form factor of the 8800 series devices just makes using BlackBerries a joy again.

As for myself, I still prefer the smartphone form factor devices, so nothing beats the Pearl for me. The Pearl is just so much lighter and smaller than the 8800 (or even 7130), that it is just a joy to carry around and use.

BlackBerry 8800 Recommendation: 4 out of 5

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