finally, a phone
Ok, it’s great at giving you your email. Well, most of your email – you want attachments and other goodies, you’ll have to look elsewhere. But the BlackBerry has also claimed to be a phone, and there’s a basic problem with something the width of the Blackwall Tunnel (for the QWERTY keyboard) being stretched across the span of the average hand and elegantly raised to the ear. Now here comes the latest from the soft fruit farm, and reputedly it’s the greatest. We’ll see about that …
Up until now, the BlackBerry was ignored by the likes of the Man from Delmonte and other fruit gurus, with exception of Mr Kipling, who does make great cakes, keeping a keen eye on this bramble grown delight. But now, the BlackBerry has emerged to a cutting edge piece of technological wizardry, which several models and upgrades down the line, can now be called a phone.
Yes, the new 8700 is the first offering from RIM that really does suit the split personality. In fact it might be fair to say that even Mr Delmonte himself now says yes via push email. Well, maybe not quite, but he might use it to connect to his Apple? Drum roll please … The 8700 looks great, with a juicy resolution of 320×240 pixels and 65K colours. This doesn’t match up with the latest media phones; but for a device primarily used to display text for business people on the move, this is a very welcome upgrade marketing that dull life on the road a little brighter. With the ability to add a custom wallpaper, the BlackBerry has just become a bit more personable. It also supports MP3 ringtones, but I haven’t figured that one out yet. Maybe RIM might be able to help – must ask them.
The unit is more solid than previous versions. The look and styling is impressive, and you’d be proud to sit it next to a Smartphone or PDA. Thanks to its QWERTY keypad it has more buttons than a Smartphone, and has less grease than a PDA screen, but let’s face it, so does my deep fat fryer. It also feels better in the hand. The keys are a little on the crowded side which can hinder speedy typing, but if you like the sleeker looking units, you’ll understand the compromise here for aesthetics. Anyway, just Sellotape a stylus to your index finger for the rest of your life and your problem typing days are over.
The microphone and speaker are now placed in a far more ergonomic arrangement, allowing the 8700 to double up as a phone far easier and more comfortable than its predecessors. With dedicated call keys of red and green, and dedicated shortcut keys, this is the first BlackBerry to really fit the double bill.
Length 110mm
Width 69mm
Depth 19mm
Main display
320×240 pixels TFT 64K colours
Proprietary: web and email clients, Instant Messaging,
MP3 player, client for BlackBerry Enterprise Server
Quad-band GSM, EDGE USB, Bluetooth
Intel PXA901, 312MHz
64MB flash, 8 MB SRAM
Standby 16 days
Talk time 4 hours

Two for the road
Many people have used two devices in the past. A BlackBerry for emails and a phone for … well, phoning. Hence the rebirth of Smartphones and PDAs with push email capabilities, but the 8700 series has solved this problem, and now it’s a one-stop-shop. Unless you want a camera, memory stick, MP3 player etc. Well, it’s primarily a business handset, and who genuinely uses a phone for anything bar text and voice anyway?
The processor inside the unit is far quicker than before, an Intel PXA901 312MHz processor to be precise, and it has at least double the memory. This coupled with the usual Java and HTML browser makes it quite a handy wireless device for roaming the world wide web. The screen is a big help here, but the overall layout makes it easy to search and scroll.
The BlackBerry’s scroll wheel doesn’t seem to have improved to the point you’d want it to; there are still little glitches with it, but not as many as on the 7100 series. The older versions like the 7100 series seemed to have a mind of their own. One touch of the scroll wheel and you’d open ten mails up. Now, it’s more like one and less often.
It has some other interesting new features, one of which is a dedicated mute button on the top of the handset; and the shortcut keys I mentioned before make keyboard locking a one-touch process. The searching facilities seem to be quicker, and it will find bits of information for you as you compose emails, which make it more akin to your desktop. All these make for a much nicer user experience, like velvet pants or new socks

So, now the bad points. Well, the cramped keyboard is not brilliant, and the fact that there isn’t an accessible pound sign is a little annoying for the business world. You need shortcuts to access these. Also, the document viewer is a little on the single column, no formatting side, which in fairness will struggle to impress with the offerings available on competing units. PDAs offer the chance to edit, format and view documents much in their original states, and with the addition of push email, this will pose a real threat to our fruity friend.
The lack of fun features could pose a problem. OK, my previous dig at entertainment options from networks like 3 might have a nugget of truth in it; but all work and no play makes Jack a dull boy, and surely a camera or MP3 capability might be of use here. You can receive emails, so why not funny video clips or music thingies you can use as a ringtone or text alert? Personalisation is a big thing in the mobile world, and BlackBerry will fall behind if they fail to impress on the gadgetry front. After all, with Windows compatible units talking the country by storm, it’s going to be hard to win over consumers with a feature free unit. Like a Cherry Bakewell with no cherry on the top, the BlackBerry needs to give that little extra something to appeal to the market in full.
There is no expandable memory option, which will need to be addressed if and when RIM are to add a few funkier features to the unit, that will definitely need to be addressed. Also, where’s the docking station we had with older versions? Don’t you know we need little stands to place near our laptop? It makes us feel loved, important and up-to-date. All I have now is a limp and lifeless USB cable that wouldn’t impress a snake charmer on hooch. Come on guys.

All being said, the BlackBerry 8700, though in need of some better packaging, and possibly a couple of extra features, is a great solution for those on the go. It handles emails with ease, looks good and now, at last, using it as a phone is a real proposition. In fact now it could be said that Mr Kipling sends exceedingly good emails.

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