The BlackBerry 7100t is part PDA, part telephone and, to the uninitiated, looks like a bulky mobile. In fact it’s a lot more than that, and I it may change the way you work when on the move.
At first glance, the BlackBerry doesn’t appear to offer much your regular phone doesn’t: there’s a WAP browser and email capabilities. My Motorola v600 has all that, plus a camera. But there’s a subtle difference with the BlackBerry. Because it was designed as an email device from the ground up, it’s much easier to use. The keyboard on this model is smaller than some other BlackBerry devices, half way between a QWERTY keyboard and a phone pad. It’s amazing how much more accurate predictive text is when there are only two letters per key. While my typing is slower on such a small keyboard, it is two or three times faster than my texting would be. I felt happy writing a full-length email on the BlackBerry where I would have been much more brief if I was texting.
I know I can email from my phone, though I haven’t quite got to grips with receiving email on it. The BlackBerry way is much easier: email just works. I did have some difficulty navigating the Web page to set it up – it displayed correctly only in Internet Explorer – but once it’s set up, there’s no need to go back to it.
Many people might shudder at the thought of getting email away from work. I wouldn’t want all my email to buzz my BlackBerry every few minutes. Fortunately, there are filtering tools. So, for example, if you want to receive email only from your work colleagues or from particular customers, you can. That way you can slip to the pub on a Friday afternoon safe in the knowledge that any urgent emails will reach you. For those who can’t be trusted not to obsessively check email after hours there is an option to shut off the BlackBerry at a predetermined time. So you can turn your work-brain off after 7pm, and turn it on again at eight the next morning.
One rather nifty feature of the email facility is the ability to open various attachments including Word, Excel and JPEG documents. Downloading an attachment is always an option rather than the default – otherwise the 32MB of memory would fill too quickly.
Although the BlackBerry has been around for a while, it hasn’t really been something for us Mac users. Until recently, a server (a PC one at that) was needed to administer BlackBerry phones, so bigger corporate companies were the target. Now T-Mobile is offering single-user accounts, so we can all enjoy the BlackBerry experience.
The second hurdle to overcome is the fact that the software that syncs your desktop is Windows-only. The solution is Pocket Mac for BlackBerry, which costs an additional $29.95 but is well worth it. It lets you sync iCal, Address Book, Entourage, Stickies Notes and Now Contact databases without any hassle – everything magically appears on the BlackBerry when you plug it into the USB to charge.
The WAP Web browser works well, if a little slowly. Images are pin-sharp on the high-resolution screen. There’s also a swathe of additional applications available, such as an iChat client, spreadsheets and games.
It’s fair to say I’m a fan of the BlackBerry; I like almost everything about it. That’s not to say there isn’t a bit of a learning curve to get used to it, though – there are some quirks that are confusing. For example, there’s no obvious way to navigate in the same way as a mouse, touch screen or track pad. Instead, you’re limited to a click-&-scroll wheel and a back button, with the keyboard helping out from time to time. It’s easy to get used to, just quirky. I also miss having a camera in my phone – odd, I know, but I do. There are more positive things than negative though, and I’m looking forward to adding more features by buying software for it. For Mac users needing to keep in touch on the road, the BlackBerry is ideal. I’ve seen people become very attached to them, and now I can understand why.