Reviewed March 25, 2007 by Tong Zhang, Senior Editor
Update: the BlackBerry 8800 is now available on T-Mobile as well as Cingular. Verizon's version is the BlackBerry 8830.
If you don't want the GPS and prefer a model with more standard BlackBerry style keys, check out the BlackBerry Curve 8300.
RIM’s full-sized BlackBerry finally scored a new look! Gone is the last generation with its thick, chunky body and the utilitarian look. The new BlackBerry 8800 has an updated modern design with shiny and chrome surface and most of all a much slimmer body. If you have used or seen a BlackBerry Pearl, you might describe the BlackBerry 8800 as a “double-wide Pearl”: they share the same overall look, casing texture and control keys such as the same trackball style d-pad. Besides the new look, the BlackBerry 8800 adds new bells and whistles including a built-n GPS with TeleNav support, a microSD card slot and a longer running battery while keeping the push email with attachments, Bluetooth, push-to-talk and PIM functions intact. The camera-less BlackBerry 8800 is designed for use in corporate environment and for those who don’t need a camera phone.
The BlackBerry 8800 is a quad-band GSM world phone that runs on 850/900/1800/19000MHz bands and it currently works on Cingular’s (now called AT&T again) network in the US and it has EDGE for data. For push email, the BlackBerry 8800 works with BlackBerry server in the enterprise and with Cingular’s BlackBerry service. You will need to sign up with Cingular’s BlackBerry plan. The push email services allow you to set up multiple email accounts including business and personal email accounts.
Design and Ergonomics
The “Double-wide Pearl” is indeed wider than the Pearl, but it’s not really twice as wide. Measuring at 4.49 x 2.6 x 0.55 inches, the BlackBerry 8800 is 0.63 inches wider than the Pearl, but is the same width as the BlackBerry 8700 series. It’s slightly longer than the 8700 but 0.22 inches thinner! If you’re a last generation BlackBerry user, the 8800 will feel thin in hand. Not only it’s slimmer, the 8800 has shinier surface that’s currently in-fashion and chrome sides and accents.
Yes, the back of the BlackBerry 8800 show fingerprints.
The BlackBerry 8800 features a built-in QWERTY keyboard that’s similar to the BlackBerry 8700 keyboard, and the layout of the keys stays the same as the last generation of BlackBerry phones as well. They keyboard is easy to use. The keys have less spacing between them compared to the last gen BlackBerry, but it doesn’t take too much of a learning curve if you are used to the 8700 keyboard. The big changes are in the menu and directional controls. Gone is the side jog wheel that was popular on last generation of BlackBerry phones. Instead you’ll use the same white trackball found on the Pearl to navigate on-screen. You can move the cursor by brushing the trackball and make actions by pressing the trackball control. It will take some time to get used to this if you are a BlackBerry veteran as it’s a big change. The BackBerry menu key and the back key flank the trackball; and on the left of the menu key is the call send key and the on the right of the back key is the call end key.
The T-Mobile BlackBerry 8800.
The power button sits on top of the device on the left. Pressing the power button will change the brightness of the screen and pressing and holding the button will turn on or off the BlackBerry. Like the Treo smartphones, the BlackBerry has a mute key on top (right side). Press and hold the mute button to put the device in standby mode that can prevent accidental dialing; however when a phone call comes in while the device is in standby mode, the phone will ring and the screen will turn on so you can answer the call.
You’ll find the left convenience key at the same as BlackBerries of old, and it can launch applications such as voice dialing, Push-To-Talk or functions such as add a contact. The BlackBerry 8800 has a mini USB jack for charging and syncing to the desktop (USB 2.0), and a standard 3.5mm headset jack for voice and stereo music. The speakerphone control is embedded in the QWERTY keyboard as on the previous BlackBerries and is located left of the enter key on the keyboard. The loudspeaker opening lives dead center on top of the device.
The battery door is on the back of the BlackBerry. Open the battery door to gain access to the rechargeable battery, the SIM card and the microSD card slot.
Phone Features and Reception
Cingular has been a busy GSM carrier when it comes to releasing smartphone devices in the past few months, and they are currently the only US carrier to is offer the Blackberry 8800. Though a quad-band phone, the BlackBerry 8800 takes advantage mainly of Cingular’s 850MHz GSM network in the US. However if you are a world traveler, you can use the BlackBerry 8800 anywhere in the world where GSM service is available. The phone gets full signal strength almost everywhere in the Dallas area where Cingular coverage is excellent. The voice quality isn’t super clear like the Treo 750 on Cingular, but good enough for phone conversations in most environments including traveling in a car or in a noisy store. The BlackBerry supports the usual set of phone features including conference calls, call waiting, call forwarding, speed dial list, roaming management and smart dialing. WVoiceSignal’s Voice Command software is included for voice dialing. The voice dialing uses voice recognition and thus does not require pre-recorded voice tags, and works over Bluetooth.
Horsepower and Performance
The BlackBerry 8800 has an Intel Xscale 312 MHz processor that shows good speed for most tasks performed on the device. Web pages load fast, music and video play well and opening attachment is a breeze. The BlackBerry 8800 comes with 64MB of flash memory and after loading images, sample music and video, we have about 25MB of free space to store our own files.
To expand storage, the BlackBerry has a microSD card slot and you can use up to 1 GB cards with the BlackBerry for storing maps to work with the navigation and GPS system or music and video files.
Display, Gaming and Multimedia
The BlackBerry 8800 has the same size landscape display found on the last generation BlackBerries. The TFT screen has 320 x 240 pixel resolution and is capable of displaying 65k colors. The display is bright though not as bright as the Treo 700p and is color saturated. Pictures and videos look good on the screen. You can use themes to personalize the background and menu screen. There is a built-in light sensor for the display and the sensor will optimize the brightness of the display according to ambient light conditions and you can also change the brightness manually by pressing the power button. The screen is viewable outdoors, more so than Windows Mobile Professional devices and the Palm OS Treo models.
RIM bundles a media player on the BlackBerry to play music, video and to view photos. The media play supports MP3, MIDI, AAC/AAC+/eAAC+ and WMA formats. You can use the microSD card to store songs and the BlackBerry can play songs from storage cards. The speaker (on top of the device in the center) is loud and music quality through the speaker is decent. If you want better audio quality, plug in the included stereo headset which has great range and good balance. The volume is loud both via the speaker and the headset. The media player supports MP4 (part 2 Simple Profile), H.263 and WMV video formats. Video playback on the BlackBerry is smooth and audio is in sync with video. The play is picky about video file formats and codecs: some WMV files won’t play.
Like previous generation of BlackBerries, the 8800 comes with the BrickBreaker game. The trackball works well with arcade style games. You can get more games either by downloading them from Cingular or installing them using the desktop software.
Size comparison: Treo 750, BlackBerry 8703e and the 8800.
Top to bottom: BlackBerry 8800, Treo 750 and the BlackBerry 8703e.
The BlackBerry has integrated Bluetooth v2.0 and supports Headset, Hands-Free and Serial Port Profiles. The BlackBerry 8800 should work with most Bluetooth headsets and card kits. We tested the phone with several Bluetooth headsets including the Cardo scala 700, the Plantronics Discovery 655 and the Anycom ARIS-21 Bluetooth headsets. The BlackBerry 8800 didn’t make a lot of good friends with Bluetooth headsets. The Cardo scala 700 has the strongest DSP performance on the BlackBerry 8800 and background noise was minimal. The voice wasn’t the clearest but it was average with good outgoing voice quality and decent incoming voice quality. While working with the Anycom ARIS-21, the phone fared well with the headset’s DSP and it removed most of the background noise. Incoming voice suffers a slight stuttering effect that doesn’t make it hard to understand the caller but is certainly noticeable. The outgoing voice doesn’t have this problem. The volume is middle of the road on all headsets with the Plantronics Discovery 655 being the loudest. The range between phones and headsets is between 10-15 feet before you start to hear crackling and breakup.
In addition to using the Bluetooth for hands-free solutions on the BlackBerry, you can also send and receive ringtones, music files and other files via Bluetooth. Bluetooth v2.0 does make the file transfer faster than older Bluetooth versions.
The BlackBerry 8800 comes with a beefy 1400 mAh Lithium Ion battery (C-X2). That’s very high capacity by BlackBerry standards and it’s a very good idea it must power the 312 MHz processor, large display and the wireless and GPS radios. The battery life has increased accordingly compared to the BlackBerry 8700 series and the BlackBerry Pearl. The claimed talk time for the BlackBerry 8800 is 5 hours (300 minutes) and the standby time is 22 days (528 hours). Both estimates are a bit optimistic compared to our tests; the talk time is closer to 4.5 hours and the standby is a few days less than the claimed period. You can conserve some power by keeping the wireless radio off when not using it and scheduling your device for automatic power on/off so that you don’t keep the phone on all night when not using it.
You can charge the phone using the included world charger via the mini-USB port. The AC charger works anywhere in the world with 100-240v capacity and includes three prone adapters for US and international outlets.
The Pearl was RIM’s first phone with a built-in GPS and BlackBerry Maps. The BlackBerry 8800 is the second device from RIM that has a built-in GPS and a navigation package that includes TeleNav navigation services and BlackBerry Maps. TeleNav offers real-time route planning, turn-by-turn directions and road options such as quickest route, shortest route and more. It’s a monthly service that costs $9.99 a month or $5.99 for 10 routes. Combine this service with the BlackBerry Map application and you can plan out your trips, preview the trip in 2D or 3D, modify which roads you prefer to travel on and find POIs (Points of Interest) such as banks, gas stations and more in the map database. GPS functions on mobile phones are largely shared with assistance servers and require less computing power to get fixes. The BlackBerry 8800 has decent fix times with the TTFF (time to first fix) being about 2 minutes. It takes about 1.5 minutes to get a route mapped. That’s not super fast time for fixes, but decent enough for real life traveling needs. There is also integration between the map application and address book where you can navigate from the addresses in your contact database.
The push email services on the BlackBerry 8800 are excellent- reliable and easy to use thanks to the set up wizard. BlackBerry push email users can either connect their devices to their corporate enterprise email servers or if their companies don’t have the service, they can use Cingular’s BlackBerry server. You will need to sign up with Cingular’s BlackBerry plan to get push email. You can integrate up to 10 email accounts on the BlackBerry and yes, you can use those email filter and search functions we’ve all come to love. The BlackBerry enterprise server software provides support for Microsoft Exchange, Lotus Domino and Novell GroupWise email accounts and allows you to set up personal email accounts outside of corporate servers. For first time BlackBerry push email users without IT support, the BlackBerry 8800 offers a user-friendly setup wizard that walks you through setting up push email accounts on the device. You can view extensive formats of attachments on the BlackBerry including office docs (Word, Excel, PowerPoint), image files and other media files. You can’t edit office documents with the included software but you can install 3rd party software for that function. In addition to email, the BlackBerry also supports SMS, MMS and IM.
The Windows desktop syncing software.
For PIM functions, the BlackBerry bundles Contacts, Calendar, Tasks, Memos, Alarm and Calculator. The address book supports groups, search and is integrated into many applications on the device including GPS navigation, web browser and email. You can store up to 8 phone numbers and a BlackBerry PIN, two street addresses, email, URL, notes and assign caller ID and ringtone. The Calendar offers monthly, weekly and day view along with an appointment list and more. It also has strong integration with the email application, for example you can receive and initiate meetings in email based on your calendar items. You will find similar integration in Tasks and Memos. If you have a memo item on your list, you can open it in Memo and forward it via email application.
Cingular also added its own content to the BlackBerry including MediaNet where you can get news, download additional applications and games to the BlackBerry. Sorry, there’s no Cingular Video since the BlackBerry doesn’t have 3G . Let’s hope the next BlackBerry we see on Cingular will have 3G. The BlackBerry also comes with the AskMeNow feature where you can check info ranging from weather, sports, stock quotes to movies and directions.
The BlackBerry Pearl may have been the first to have a sexy, modern look; but for the very large full-QWERTY BlackBerry user base, the BlackBerry 8800 is the first hard core BlackBerry with the new look. While the push email, messaging and PIM functions remain strong, the BlackBerry 8800 adds a new navigation package and longer battery life. It should be a natural upgrade for the enterprise as it offers more security that works with the new server version 4.2 (including the ability to remotely wipe a memory card in the new microSD slot). And for the individual users, the BlackBerry is shiny and slim enough for those who want a solid push email solution on a QWERTY device. Who’d thought that a BlackBerry could be 0.25 in. thinner than the Treo 750?
Pro: Sleek, modern design that will turn heads. The device is light by BlackBerry and smartphone standards. You get the great push email experience with attachments, filter and searching functions. You also get a good set of software including messaging (IM included), PIM and desktop syncing. Longer battery life than all previous BlackBerry devices while supporting a 312MHz processor and GPS.
Con: We wish it had 3G support. With Bluetooth v2.0 implementation it begs for more profiles such as A2DP for playing music via stereo headsets, DUN and file transfer to and from desktop machines.
Price: $299.99 with 2-year new activation and mail-in Rebate on Cingular; $499.99 without a new contract.
Size:4.49 x 2.60 x 0.55 inches. Weight: 4.73 ounces.
Phone:Quad-band GSM operating on 850/900/1800/1900 MHz. GPRS and EDGE for data.
Networking:Bluetooth v2.0. Supports Headset, Hands-free and Serial Port Profiles.
Software:BlackBerry push email client. BlackBerry IM client. VoiceSignal voice dialing software, BlackBerry Maps and TeleNav navigation software, media player for your MP3 pleasure and video playback. PIM apps include address book, calendar, tasks and memo. Also Alarm, voice note, calculator, Password Keeper included. BrickBreaker game is bundled. BlackBerry Desktop software for PC included for syncing and software installation.
Expansion:1 microSD slot.
In the Box:The BlackBerry 8800 with battery, an AC charger with international adapters, USB cable for syncing, wired headset, leather case, getting started guide and 4.2 desktop software CD.