Archive for the ‘BlackBerry’ Category

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BlackBerry Curve User Review

June 18, 2007

I have been using the BlackBerry Curve, otherwise known as the 8300, since June 1. It is the full qwerty version of RIM’s consumer oriented Pearl. The Curve is more of a mass market tool in form and function compared to, say, the 8800, which is being positioned as a high end executive device.

BlackBerry Curve (from RIM website)

Form and Finish

I seem to like the feeling of the Curve much better than the 8800 simply because the I find the 8800 too wide for my hand. The Curve is just a bit narrower and, because of the black rubber sidings, seem to be more secure to handle than the 8800, which, because of the smooth glossy surface, seemed to always be in danger of slipping out of my hands.

The Curve almost feels like an 8700, but much better because of the slim profile of the device compared to the older 8700. Of course, I still had to get used carrying around a wide BlackBerry again because I have been using the SureType models for over a year now, starting with the 7100, then moving to the 7130, and currently the Pearl.

The keys of the Curve are separated, similar to the 8700 and unlike the 8800, which has a keyboard with keys right beside each other. I found typing with the Curve much easier than the 8800 because on the latter, I ended up pressing the wrong key pretty often, which is bad considering that my thumbs arent that large. Using the Curve keyboard was not that much of a learning curve, although I noticed that some of the positions of the alt symbols seemed to be in different spots. There are two shift keys now on each side of the keyboard which makes life simpler when having to type quickly, but generally the keyboard layout wasnt that far different from previous models.

The finish of the Curve is a lot simpler than the Pearl and the 8800. The Curve is in gray with black rubber accents, with a shiny gray lens frame. Finish isnt bad but is clearly not as “high end” looking as the black Pearl and 8800.

Multimedia

The other strange thing is that someone seems to have changed the headset jack from the very small mini-jack which has been standard on BlackBerries for years to a more conventional (but non-standard) minijack. Given the Pearl and this’ device multimedia features, I would suppose that this was done to accomodate stereo earphones. Trying out my regular stereo earphones (Shure E3C) with the Curve resulted in the expected stereo output. Listening to some loud electro house tracks showed reasonable results, at least compared to the sample blackberry movie. The sound was clear enough, although not great. Some EQ control would have been nice as sound was a bit too flat for me. There wasnt enough bass, the midrange was quite clear with a distinct but not overly powerful high end. Obviously my iPod sounds better as a music device but the Curve will do, especially with the 2 gig microSD card I recently bought and installed. Listenting to the music while using the BlackBerry for other functions, ie, messaging, didnt seem to slow down the unit at all.

The only downside of this whole minijack thing is that I only use a headset in a car while driving and my old BlackBerry headset from my 7230 days wont work on this device anymore. I suppose that the Curve comes with a stereo headset similar to the Pearl which I hate using because of the mess of wires.

Meanwhile, camera on the device is now 2 MP, which is an improvement from the 1.3 MP Pearl. More important of an improvement for me though is the self portrait mirror which doesnt stick out of the back of the device anymore like the Pearl, which means less wear on the mirror.

Finally, the entire Media application on the Curve has been revamped, at least as far as the front end is concerned. The main menu to select if you want videos, music, etc., has been jazzed up with an Apple-like look and feel, which sort of reminded me of Front Row, or at least an attempt at it. Basically Apple style icons over an Aqua-like wallpaper background. Much better I must say than the Pearl and the 8800, but unfortunately doesnt fit the look of the rest of the device and still not that easy to navigate around in.

General Usage

Otherwise, the BlackBerry Curve is simply another BlackBerry. Performance was quite zippy, as expected. But generally, everything seemed to be where they were from a BlackBerry UI perspective.

One major improvement, admittedly the most useful for me, is the increase in sound volume. Alarms are loud, as in really loud. Speakerphone volume increased significantly as well, while remaining usable, a significant enhancement from the older BlackBerry devices, including the Pearl.

Conclusion

The BlackBerry Curve is the best qwerty device out yet, in my opinion. I am not a fan of WIFI or GPS on my BlackBerry so the fact that the Curve lacks those features are not huge issue for me. I think the Curve is a great balance between a work and fun device, with the fun aspect focusing on multimedia. RIM tried to differentiate the device to its target audience of the device through a different look. I suppose that this is fine, but I dont particularly think its a beautiful device (unlike the Pearl where I was completely awe stuck). As an aside, I saw a gold colored Curve floating around here today, and it looks worse.

I like the 8300 because it is thin and light (much ligher than the 8800 which is just too heavy for me), because of the multimedia, and because its a BlackBerry. Would I switch from my Pearl to the Curve permanently? I doubt it. I was on the verge of switching back a couple of times already, but hesitated for some unknown reason.

In any case, the device is highly recommended in my book. It certainly beats all other qwerty BlackBerries today, in my opinion.

So my top list of BlackBerries in order of preference right now is as follows:
1. Pearl
2. Curve
3. 7130
4. 8800
5. 8700
6. 8707

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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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72 Hours with the BlackBerry Pearl

February 12, 2007

I finally upgraded from my trusty BlackBerry 7130 to the hot new BlackBerry Pearl. I’ve been waiting for this upgrade for a few months now, since I first saw the real unit with a RIM representative. Must say, the website and pictures dont do it justice at all.

I’m beyond first impressions by now, because I have seen the unit before. However, the first impression that came to mind was really its size and finish when I first saw it. The piano black finish is pretty magnificent by any standards, much better than a Nokia, similar to the new LG and Samsung phones. Compared to the 7130, the Pearl is much more compact and light. I felt that the 7130 was quite large and heavy to put in a pants pocket, but the Pearl is the perfect size and weight.

Setup was pretty straightforward as usual. Since the handset wasnt new, I first wiped the handset by going into Options / Security. The Pearl then rebooted completely empty, and proceeded to register itself with the network. A simple entry of my email address and Enterprise Activation password (since I am a BES user) and all my data started to come into the device over the air. I was pretty disappointed that some old pictures from the 7130 didnt get through as well as my pretty extensive custom wordlist consisting of SMS shortcuts, slang, and Filipino words. This didnt turn out to be much of an issue, however, as most of these words still typed correctly on SureType.

Usability of the handset was no big deal. After all, its a BlackBerry, and all BlackBerries work the same way, since my 7230, the first one I used. The most noteable change, which I guess is pretty major in BlackBerry terms, is the absence of the scroll wheel on the right hand side of the Pearl and it being replaced with a trackball in the center of the unit. It didnt really take that much of an adjustment to get used to the new primary interface. It only took a couple of hours to get used to the sensitivity of the wheel (which is much more sensitive than the old trackwheel) and I was good to go.

Other than that, using the Pearl was a standard BlackBerry affair.

A few things I noticed, though:

1. The newest version of the Dimension Today Plus theme, which is my theme of choice, is much better thought of than the old 7130 version. Aside from being able to scroll through the standard PIM functions on the today screen, scrolling down shows a pop up toolbar of the first five applications in the ribbon. Pretty useful stuff for frequently used apps. I have Address Book, Alarm Clock, Calculator, Media, and Push Weather as my list in the toolbar.

2. The BlackBerry menu (which was the old center button on the 7130) has been redesigned for two purposes. When in the Today screen, this button shows the full application menu. The icons in the menu are much smaller now than in previous BlackBerries, which allows more applications to be viewed. With a trackball that scrolls horizontally and vertically, choosing apps to launch is pretty easy.

3. Meanwhile, when the BlackBerry menu button is pressed while in an application, the full menu appears, similar to when the old trackwheel is pressed. In the Pearl, when the trackball is pressed, an abbreviated version of the menu comes out depending on the application that is used. For instance, when an SMS message is open, only Reply, Reply to all, Forward, and Delete come out when the trackball is pressed. This is generally pretty good, except that it would have been nice if I could customize this mini menu. I sometimes use other functions that are not in this mini menu so it took me a while to determine whether to press the BlackBerry menu button or the trackball to invoke the command I needed.

4. In the old trackwheel days, the wheel has a mechanical click sound when turning the wheel. There is also a bit of feel on your thumb when you turn the wheel. However, in the trackball, no such mechanical click or clicky feedback on your thumb exists anymore. Instead, RIM simulated the sound of the click through the speaker. I realize its not really important, but it still is pretty fun to play around with sometimes…

5. My biggest problem with the Pearl is the absence of the Next key. The Next key on the 7130 sits between the Alt key and the Space Bar. Basically, what it does is select the next word on the SureType menu. The Next key on the Pearl has been replaced with the Sym key. while it makes choosing symbols 1 less click away, I now have the problem of having a harder time typing Filipino SMS messages since the only way I know how to choose another word in the SureType menu is to horizontally scroll the trackball, which more often than not overshoots the word I want to use. This is my major problem with the Pearl.

6. The Pearl now supports voice commands. The commands are pretty minor, though, such as checking status and other minor system checks on the handset. The only major voice command available is the Call command, which is really cool. Basically, the user says the word Call and the name of the person he is calling, and the system responds with a list of three names based on the closest match recognized. It will then ask if the user wants to call the first match by reading the name of the first person in the list, and the user can either say Yes, to complete the call, No, to then prompt the system to read the next name, or to Cancel. I think its a novelty at this point although may be useful when driving using a Bluetooth headset, which I have yet to try out.

7. Multimedia is now becoming more developed in the Pearl, although going to the media application is still a bit of a departure from the standard BlackBerry look and feel. Icons are used, but i think it could have been implemented a bit better in particular to preserve the BlackBerry user experience. It would also be interesting how to get videos and music into the BlackBerry considering I do not use Desktop Manager at all and do all my syncing over the air. I use a Mac and have yet to check if file transfers over Bluetooth are now supported, a function traditionally not allowed on a BlackBerry

8. The camera, which is 1.2 MP seems ok, but I havent used it extensively yet.

9. The absence of 3G is not really a major concern as I mainly use the BlackBerry for SMS, Voice, Email, and Calendar. I hardly do any browsing.

10. The browser of the handset has finally been integrated. Previously, BlackBerries had three browsers, the WAP browser, the Internet Browser, and the BlackBerry Browser. The Pearl finally only has one browser which I can use regardless if I want to go to a WAP site, an Intranet site over MDS, or an Internet site.

Overall, I love the BlackBerry Pearl. As a side note, I saw the new BlackBerry 8800, which looks almost exactly like a Pearl but much wider with the qwerty keyboard and no camera. I am usually partial to phone type form factors but even then, the Pearl is really just the perfect size to make it a great handheld. Its actually been a long time since I was this attacted to a new phone (in my line of work) and even after three days I still find myself just staring at the device. Its a new, sophisticated twist on the reliable and easy to use BlackBerry interface. I think the Pearl is the perfect smartphone and would recommend it without question.

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Samsung BlackJack TVC by Cingular

December 7, 2006

Found this commercial of the Samsung BlackJack PDA-Phone from Cingular. The best mobile device commercial I’ve seen in recent memory!

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More New BlackBerry Devices

December 4, 2006

Apparently, a couple of sites got their hands on what seems to be a Mobile Operator presentation of the upcoming BlackBerry device roadmap for 2007. Aside from the BlackBerry Pearl that everyone is talking about, two new devices are coming up as well under the 8800 model number, the Indigo and the Crimson.

The Indigo is a device with built in GPS and expandable memory via MicroSD. It is expected to target the segment that needs location based service functionality such as logistics and construction companies, where they say that LBS has had slow adoptions so far. Aside from having built-in GPS, the device also has shifted from the BlackBerry standard trackwheel to a Pearl-type trackball.

LBS Market Overview - BB Presentation from The Boy Genius Report

BlackBerry Maps - BB Presentation from The Boy Genius Report

Indigo Spec Sheet -- BB Presentation from The Boy Genius Report

What is very interesting is that the spec sheet says that it will support WIFI/UMA. WIFI is not really new on other devices, but placing UMA (Unlicensed Mobile Access) specifically is quite interesting. UMA, assuming is supported by the network, will allow seamless handover of voice calls from the traditional circuit switched domain, ie, a regular cellphone call, to a packet switched domain, ie, VOIP, without the call dropping out. This means that I can start a call via VOIP in a supported hotspot, and as I walk out of the range of the hotspot, the call will automatically switch to a regular GSM call without the call being disconnected as I switch networks. This is huge stuff as several operators start to look at Fixed-Mobile Convergent services to roll out, both for consumer and corporate markets.

8800 Spec Sheet from The Boy Genius Report

Meanwhile, the Crimson seems to be a compromise between the traditional wide-body BlackBerry form factor and the narrow 7100 and Pearl series form factor. It seems to be narrower than the 8700 series devices but will still retain the full qwerty keyboard, no Suretype. The device will not have a GPS will will have a built in camera.

Crimson Description - BB Presentation from The Boy Genius Report

No doubt this device will cover a segment of the market that likes the sleek 7100 / Pearl form factor but just didnt have the patience to use Suretype enough to build their dictionary.

Crimson Spec Sheet - BB Presentation from The Boy Genius Report

Apparently, a poll over on BlackBerry Forums says that 60% of people that joined the poll will get the new 8800 series devices. Personally, I dunno if the number will be that high but I think the new devices, particularly the Crimson, will further expand the acquisition initiatives of RIM into the mass market.

Poll Result on 8800 Adoption from RIMarkable

At the end of the day, 2007 should be a pretty interesting year as far as BlackBerry devices are concerned. I think its actually good that RIM has somehow slowed down their rollout of new devices. I think that they launched way too many devices in late 2005 to 2006. Some devices, like the 7100, actually went less than a year (if I remember right) from launch to end of life. While a constant stream of new devices is good to drive adoption of their wider mass market thrust, too many devices launched at such a short time may disappoint buyers that made the jump early and quickly find themselves holding an obsolete device, as well as potentially alienate potential switchers for fear of their devices becoming obsolete very quickly.

BB 2007 Roadmap -- BB Presentation from The Boy Genius Report

Note: The content of this post was taken from sites around the internet. For more information, also check out The Boy Genius Report or RIMarkable.

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The New and Improved BlackBerry, Wireless Email Markets, etc.

November 22, 2006

So what is it with BlackBerry creator Research In Motion these days? BlackBerries are supposed to be black, monochrome devices, that busy executives use to answer their hundred plus emails a day. So whats with this???

BlackBerry Pear 8100

Its sleek, its light, and it actually has a camera!!!

I’ve seen and briefly played around with first hand. Its much smaller than the BlackBerry 7130 (my current BlackBerry and an excellent unit itself) with a much brighter screen and — no trackwheel!

Interesting that RIM actually got rid of the trackwheel after years and years of it being their hallmark, in favor of a sort of more traditional navigation interface in the middle of the device. Unlike the typical phones, though, the Pearl has a trackball. Sort of reminds me of the old PacMan arcade games.

Scrolling through it was pretty easy, and the familiar BlackBerry usability pretty much came out, with the addition of more on screen options, similar to the on screen icons of the Nokia Series 60 phones. its not a 3G device, which is just as well as the network is still being rolled out anyway, and BlackBerries dont really need 3G to work well.

One look at it, and I know that this will be my next BlackBerry…

Having said this, I saw a leaked presentation by RIM on some gadget site of two new Blackberry devices coming out sometime in 2007. Both have the wide body form factor, similar to the 8700, but one of the new devices have GPS and the other, if memory serves, is a 3G device.

Could it be perhaps because RIM is starting to feel the pressure from other wireless email providers, despite having something like 67% market share with over 4 million users?

The wireless email market is clearly starting to consolidate. Microsoft has come into the picture with free wireless email built into Exchange (with SP2 required). Nokia just purchased Intellisync, and earlier Seven acquired Smartner.

Its interesting that more companies are realizing that server and device integration is becoming much more important towards offering a successful email service. Microsoft now has control of the server side with Exchange and the device side with their WindowsMobile OS, and Nokia has the same with Intellisync and their E Series devices, which are really made for business. Are companies like Good, Seven, Visto, and others without a mobile device business slowly on their way out of business? Or at least becoming a ripe takeover target? We will all just have to stay tuned…

On another note, its interesting that NTP, the patent holding firm thats been filing lawsuits left and right on wireless email is itself being sued. Apparently, the word is that one of the guys that built the foundation of one or more of their patents but left the company wants in with the big payoffs. Meanwhile, the word is as well that some of their earlier patents are being reversed. I guess what goes around comes around. To be honest I dont know the facts of the case, this is just what I’ve heard, so nobody sue me now!

And I thought that the wireless email space was getting boring….