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Blackberry 8800 Review

Ordering the phone was an adventure. Since I moved to Cingular service and a Blackberry 8700c in June 2006, I was very early in my 2-year service contract and not eligible for an equipment upgrade. This prohibited me from purchasing the phone from the website. Instead, the website directed me to call customer service. Aarrgg! I called customer service three times, experiencing the all too typical IVR hell characterized by shuffled me from menu to menu item only to be connected to a person who asks a bunch of demographic questions and then either disconnected me or transferred me into some other IVR queue. So three calls and like 60 minutes logged on the phone. I finally got someone who understood, that I did not want to wait over a year until I could get a rebate. Remember, I could not wait for my birthday. I was willing to pay retail, in fact, at one point, I think I quoted an old friend and said something very tongue in cheek like 'I have $1,000 how much can I get for it'' In the end, I actually paid less than retail for the phone, but the discount wasn't worth the time wasted purchasing the phone.

I was excited, really excited, to get my new phone. I opened the package and found a device with outstanding looks. The new 8800 has a glossy black and chrome finish that oozes cool. I think the physical design rivals the iPod. The phone has a solid, heavy feel like an iPod. It just feels good. That's not to say, it's a burden to carry on the belt. There is a substantial heft, like the iPods, that I perceive as a mark of quality. This phone doesn't feel cheap.

When I first booted it up and got down to business I experienced a huge disappointment. Blackberry took a great idea, replacing the 2 axis (up/down & click) thumb wheel with a 3 axis (up/down, left/right, click) trackball, and ruined it. RIM's old interface, designed around the thumb-operated track wheel, worked. The thumb wheel was a strong point of the phone and a hallmark of RIM's interface.

This kind of sequence typifies interaction with the old Blackberry and, on legacy versions, happens without ever moving your thumb off the trackball. With the new incarnation, this type of interaction turns into:

U/D/L/R (Up/Down/Left/Right) to select an item, click (So far so good)
U/D/L/R to select a sub- item, click
Nope, should have moved finger and pressed Menu key
Move finger press Escape key
Figure out where you are then backtrack to sub-item
Move finger press Menu key
Move finger back to trackwheel click Ok
Get the picture'

The menu key shuffle that I just described is so annoying; I may go back to my old 8700c. Its interface is that bad!

The GPS is fun, and Telenav isn't worth $10 a month. Google maps (does not work with GPS) is far superior. I look forward to Google integrating with the GPS. The media integration is nice. I like storing my photos but I don't have much use for the audio/video features. 2GB, the current memory limit is just too small for audio/video content for me to consider it as anything more than a novelty. Stereo Bluetooth ear buds might be interesting for audio/video too. I will wait and see how the new iPhone addresses these issues. (If only iPhone had RIM enterprise features with the Apple GUI'sweet.)

The 8800 has one programmable convenience key. Choose to use it for something other than changing your alert profile and you will have no easy way to change from audio alerts and vibration. Having another programmable key would be nice. If someone, preferable Blackberry, figures out a hack or patch to eliminate the menu key and implement the legacy interface metaphor described above, the menu key could be user programmable. Hey, I'm willing to pay. I've got a little over $500 left.

Visit Rim for more information on the 8800.


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