Posted April 15, 2004 by Tong Zhang, Senior Editor
The BlackBerry line revolutionized messaging
several years ago when pagers were the lackluster standard. Since
then models have evolved and now function both as mobile phones
and email-anywhere devices. RIM's ever-popular thumb keyboard has
remained much the same over the years, and that's a good thing.
You can check and send emails and SMS messages anywhere you have
coverage, and the unit will let you know when new emails have arrived.
While you can do email on the go using smartphones, none offer
the BlackBerry push email feature out of the box.
While the BlackBerry doesn't fit the classic
definition of a PDA, it does offer good PIM support and desktop
syncing. Unlike a PDA or smartphone, it doesn't double as a pocket
multimedia player and you won't find a wealth of 3 rd party consumer
oriented software to extend the platform in the manner of Palm
OS and Pocket PC devices.
Understanding the BlackBerry Flavors
RIM makes many BlackBerry devices for most of
the carriers in the US . The BlackBerry 7200 series work on GSM/GPRS
networks while BlackBerry 7700 series has models that work on either
GSM or CDMA networks. RIM also makes the 7510 for Nextel networks.
The BlackBerry 7200 series is available through
all major GSM carriers in the US . RIM released the device to each
carrier with a different model number. Here is the break down:
The BlackBerry 7210 works on 900/1900 MHz and
is available on AT&T network.
The BlackBerry 7230 works on 900/1800/1900 MHz
and is available on T-Mobile network.
The BlackBerry 7280 works on 850/1800/1900 MHz
and is available on both AT&T and Cingular networks in the
US and Rogers Wireless in Canada . The Blackberry 7290 replaces
Ergonomics and Design
Though it's called BlackBerry, the 7200 series
devices actually have a deep marine blue casing with a silver screen
bezel and keys. The design is clean with rounded edges and no external
antenna. The display and thumb keyboard are located on the front
of the unit, with an integrated speaker located above the display.
The integrated mic is located on the bottom edge of the unit.
Display and Battery
The BlackBerry has a 240x160 color screen that's capable
of displaying 65K colors. Though it uses a limited color palette and
has a matte display, color saturation is amazingly high to the point
that it looks like picture painted on the screen. The deep colors and
large icons make the display extremely easy to see both indoors and out.
You will not only find shortcut icons for Message, Phone and PIM applications
on the main display screen, but also icons for keyboard lock, turning
the wireless off and power off functions.
The battery is user replaceable (sorry, RIM does not
disclose its capacity in mAh). The battery life is amazing on this device,
provided you don't talk on the phone for hours everyday. We found that
the claimed 4 hours talk time and 10 days standby time is on target.
The Double Identity
The beauty of having a BlackBerry is not only to get
email pushed to you anywhere at anytime, but also to integrate your currently
email accounts with BlackBerry so that you can receive and send email
from your existing corporate email account or ISP email account.
If you are integrating your ISP/POP3 email account,
the wireless carrier will provide the services for you via BlackBerry's
Web Client. You can add up to 10 email accounts on a single BlackBerry
with Web Client, including Outlook, Lotus Notes, MSN, Hotmail, AOL and
IMAP accounts as long as your carrier supports it. To add additional
applications to your BlackBerry, you will need to install the Desktop
Manager from the included CD, which gives you an Application Loader.
You can sync the handheld with the desktop using Intellisync in the Desktop
Manager and configure the content you wish sync. The Desktop Manager
also has Backup and Restore applications.
If you are using corporate email accounts on
the BlackBerry, your IT department can set up your handheld with the
BlackBerry Enterprise Server or you can use the BlackBerry Desktop
Redirector to configure your account settings.
BlackBerry has a very simple and easy to use
interface. When you turn on the device, you will see the icons
for all the applications on the screen. Use the Trackwheel to select
application and press the Trackwheel to launch it. As you highlight
the icons, you will see the name of the application displayed below
all the icons. Above the application icons, you will find battery
meter, signal strength and GPRS status as well as date and time.
When you launch this application, you will actually
see your email messages, PIN messages as well as call logs displayed
by date. You can check and compose email, PIN messages (to other
BlackBerry handhelds with PIN numbers) and SMS messages as well
as place a phone call in this application. There is also a very
nice search function, which makes it easier to pinpoint the email
you are looking for if you have long list of emails.
After you open an email, you can perform regular
email functions such as reply, forward, delete, save, etc. In addition,
if the email body includes a phone number, email address or web
URL, you can use the Trackwheel to highlight it and make a call,
send an email or open a web page directly from that email. Very
convenient! Another convenient feature in this application is that
you can type notes to your call log, as well as copy/paste the
phone number in the call log to your address book.
To send messages, you can type in a new email
address, PIN number or SMS address or use an address in your Address
Book. BlackBerry even lets you send messages to email addresses
on a web site or in the messages you receive: all you have to do
is to highlight the email address, then click on Email to send
a message. Reply, Forward and Delete message functions work similarly
to desktop email applications. You can choose to not include the
original message when you reply to an email. You can also include
Copy list and Blank Copy list in your messages. If you delete messages,
you can set options to have them deleted only on handheld or both
handheld and desktop, and to assign over-write in a conflict situation
for either the desktop mailbox or the handheld. You can easily
delete all messages prior to a date you set.
BlackBerry supports attachments. You can receive
and view MS Word, Excel, PowerPoint and Adobe Acrobat PDF files
as well as .txt and .wpd files. You can also view html and zip
files if your Enterprise Server is 3.6 SP 1 or later. You will
have options to set the display format for the attachment files
as well as cache sizes. The viewer actually gives you considerably
amount of freedom in configuring the format and layout of the documents.
Sending and receiving SMS messages on the BlackBerry
is easy and fast and the built-in keyboard really shines. You can
choose a phone number in your Address Book, call log, messages
or type in a phone number to send an SMS. The SMS display screen
on the BlackBerry is simple and clean. You can scroll through all
messages using the Trackwheel. If the list is getting too long,
you can delete them using the Remove History function. In addition,
you can specify the number of previous messages to appear on your
SMS screen. You can also easily forward or resend SMS messages
to other phone numbers in your address book or a new number.
Address Book on the BlackBerry is a quite flexible
application. It provides fields for all basic contact information
and you can have up to 3 email addresses, 4 user fields as well
as adding notes to the contact record. The Address Book supports
Group function where you can categorize and group different types
of contacts. You can email to a single email address or to a group
of email addresses. The Address Book is also integrated with the
Phone, Message and web browser so that you can take actions in
these applications using the contact records in the Address Book.
If you've stored addresses on your SIM card, you can import them
to BlackBerry Address Book easily. You can sort your contacts by
First Name, Last Name and Company. If your handheld is set up for
Remote Address Lookup on your Enterprise Server, you can even search
address in your company database.
There are four views in the BlackBerry Calendar
application: day view, week view, month view and agenda view. Use
the Trackwheel to navigate through your scheduled items, times
and dates. When you add a new appointment in the Calendar, you
will go to day view and input the subject, location, mark for all
day event, start/end date and time, duration, time zone, set reminder
and recurrence as well as adding notes. The week view also has
time display, and you can select any day and click on New to enter
an appointment for that date and time. Very nice layout and an
easy way for inputting a schedule. If your handheld is set up to
sync to your desktop and your Enterprise Server is 2.1v or later,
you can invite attendees to your scheduled meetings on the BlackBerry.
Attendees who received your invitation can email you with their
responses (accept or decline).
Tasks, Memo and other PIM apps
Tasks and Memo are simple applications in the
PIM group. Tasks allows you to create to-do items with Status,
Priority, Due date and notes. Status includes Not Started, In Progress,
Completed, Waiting and Deferred. Priority includes 3 levels. You
can sort your Tasks by Subject, Priority, Due date and Status.
MemoPad allows you to write notes and memos.
You can add, edit and delete memos in this application. Alarm application
gives you the option to set daily alarms including weekend/weekday
The Phone application on the BlackBerry is a
very capable and full-featured. You won't feel that you are giving
up any telephony features for an email-centric device.
You can dial a number from your Address Book
or in a message or on a web page. When you launch the Phone application
on the BlackBerry, the left side of the keyboard, which also occupied
by numbers on top of letters, will turn the numeric mode on automatically.
You don't need to hold the shift key to be in numeric mode like
you would when you are in message mode. If you need to dial a phone
number that does not exist on the BlackBerry yet, press the Space
key to bring up a pop-up dialing window. The nice thing about the
BlackBerry is that you can use extensions with phone numbers: when
you get to the automatic recording on the main line, the BlackBerry
will automatically dial the extension for you. Once you have a
number, you can access the menu by clicking on the Trackwheel which
offers to call that number, SMS that number, copy the number, add
to address book, and more actions. The menu also gives you instant
access to the Address Book as well as to Call Voicemail. You can
adjust volume via this menu when not on a call or use the Trackwheel
during a call.
The BlackBerry comes with four profiles: Loud,
Discreet, Quiet and Default. It supports only midi ringtones. When
an incoming call reaches your BlackBerry, you will see a pop-up
window giving you choices of Answer, Answer and Hold, and Ignore.
If the person calling is in your Address Book, the BlackBerry will
display caller ID info. During a call, you can push the Trackwheel
to bring up menu selections to end the call, put it on hold, mute
it or to take some notes. BlackBerry makes it very easy to swap
calls if you have someone on hold while talking, and to make conference
calls if you subscribe to that service. You can add or disconnect
any caller during a conference call. Very impressive! You can even
type messages during a call, but you can't send them until the
BlackBerry also offers other phone features such
as call logging, call barring, call forwarding in additional to
call waiting. You can choose what types of calls to log or block,
and set a call barring password. Call barring is only available
for SIM cards that have this option. You also have the option to
turn off your caller ID.
There are two browser types on the BlackBerry:
one allows you to open web pages using your service provider's
gateway, and other one uses your corporate Mobile Data Service.
You will likely be limited to WAP if you use the browser out of
the box via the carrier's service. The web browsing shines when
you have Enterprise Server set up with Mobile Data Service. You
can download applications directly to your handheld via web browser.
It also supports bookmarks, history, and clear cache options.
Pro: The integrated email accounts and always-on
wireless email technology are the most attractive features on this
device and make it the de facto standard for push email. Sending
and receiving messages and attachments is easy thanks to the built-in
apps. Very readable screen, comfortable keyboard and long battery
life are big winners for this email-centric device. Con: weak browser
if you don't have MDS set up. No polyphonic ringtones. Could stand
high resolution, 65,000 colors, backlit. Viewable
indoors and outdoors.
replaceable Lithium Ion.
does not disclose processor information. 16MB flash
memory plus 2MB of SRAM. Runs RIM OS, Java-based.
x 2.9 x 0.8 in. 4.8 oz.
the Box: The
BlackBerry, 2 standard Mini-USB cables, world travel
charger, a standard battery, an ear-bud headset,
a plastic swivel holster and a desk cradle.
850/1800/1900 MHz GSM/GPRS.
in speaker and mic.
2.5mm standard headset jack. Notification: Tone,
vibration, on-screen and LED. Midi ringtones.
with BlackBerry Message app for email and attachments,
Phone app for telephony, Address Book, Calendar,
Tasks, Memo, Calculator and alarm applications for
PIM. It's bundled with a WAP browser. Also comes
with BrickBreaker (a Breakout clone). BlackBerry