bb8700g.jpgThis will be a series of ongoing posts as I acclimate to my new phone.  There will be a lot of comparision to my old phone the Sidekick 2, because they both will be fulfilling a very similar role in my life. Right out of the box, I experienced a slight pang of nostalga for the “kewl” factor of the Sidekick.  As trivial as it is, I do miss the way the screen flipped up and over on the Sidekick.  In comparison the Blackberry 8700g isn’t sexy in the same way, but I quickly learned that opinion of what is sexy in a phone are just as varied as they are with people.

Let me just start off by saying, this isn’t a Sidekick bash. My Sidekick was a faithful and excellent devices which fulfilled many of my pda/phone needs. I don’t regret owning one for a minute.

Custom themes and images! Anyone who has used the Sidekick for long is probably tired of staring at the anime-esque characters and although you can tweak the SK interface a little, the themes and image options on the Blackberry 8700g allow for much more customization to the user’s tastes and style:

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I also appreciate the ability to change fonts and font sizes on the Blackberry. Increasing them “at a glance” viewing is very handy, reducing them for reading longer articles and documents.
Rich selection of applications and software to supplement your device. One very frustrating thing I found about the Sidekick through T-Mobile was being locked into their catalog of software (games, ringtones, productivity, utilities, etc).  With the Blackberry 8700g there seem to be hundreds of developers (both commercial and free).  The Google Maps with real time traffic was gorgeous, fast and useful. Map view, satellite imagery and hybrid maps along with real time traffic volume information for highways.
The Blackberry 8700g keyboard is a little more cramp than the Sidekick 3.  This is taking some getting used to given the monstrous size of my thumbs, which are only slighly smaller than Rhode Island… each.  While the Blackberry 8700g does sport a QWERTY keyboard (a must in my mobile devices), many of the typing functions on it differ from the Sidekick. Users will experience a learning curve. However, there are some very helpful shortcuts effects and timesaves built in (which I’m still memorizing), like the window-esque alt-tab through open programs function (alt-esc key on the Blackberry).
What to say about the screen?  At a glance, it might appear that the Sidekick’s is slightly larger, but checking with a ruler it is actually the same size. That’s where the similarity ends though, the super bright QVGA (320×240) LCD display is a pleasure. It adjusts smoothly and efficiently to usage and light levels, seemingly with great power efficiency.
A small but thoughtful detail; the Blackberry 8700g comes with a very nice holster. Hard plastic, tough clip and a sturdy “snap” locking the phone in place when you holster it. Unlike similar holsters I’ve had in the past, the phone is also easy to remove quickly when you need it with one hand. The Blackberry also “knows” when its in the holster and you can use this feature in its options to regulate ringtone, volume and powersaving.

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Speaking of ringtones, there are a plethora of settings for each type of message (voice, text, email, browser, etc) that can be tweaked to the user’s needs. I’ve only dabbled with these option at the moment as I’m a bit overwhelmed by the granular details of options available (one ring, special tone, do not disturb, quiet time from 2am to 5am? Good grief!).

Like the Sidekick 3, the Blackberry 8700g takes advantage of the EDGE network, making it very fast compared to the old Sidekick 2.  One feature of web browsing on the Blackberry 8700g I like is the “load when connection is restored”. This is great for when you are browsing a page and leave the EDGE network (tunnels, parking decks, elevators or just out of area).  The Blackberry 8700g will automatically download the page when EDGE is restored and alert you with a message/buzz.

The Blackberry has EXCELLENT support for synch’ing with desktop Outlook via USB cable. I imported my massive contact list, calendar, notes and tasks in seconds without a single error.  When I tried the same task on my Sidekick 2, it regularly ate and truncated my Outlook Notes.

I’m a little underwhelmed with the default email application on the Blackberry 8700g. While it sends, composes, receives and renders well, I wish it were a little more robust with folders and sorting. I plan to explore some 3rd party email clients for the Blackberry and see if there are some more advanced options out there.

The Blackberry 8700g, like my Sidekick 2, does not support additional/expansion memory. Since I do not use my phone as a music, video or photo platform (that’s what my iPod is for, grin), I don’t forsee it being a big problem for me personally. On the topic of photos, Blackberries are not camera phones. Having never been happy with image quality of camera phones after using a dedicated digital camera for my photography needs, I don’t think I’ll have a problem with this. Both these factors are important to many people, so I thought I’d mention them to avoid any oversight or confusion.

Text message were a nice improvement. The Blackberry seems to not have the limit of onboard messages that constantly haunted me on the Sidekick 2.  I can build up a lot of sentimentality for my text messages and hate having to go through and prune them constantly.

T-Mobile’s default Instant Messenger program ties together several of the popular platforms (AIM, MSN, Yahoo, etc) but I ditched it because believe it or not, it utilizes your SMS limit with your service plan. I could burn through that in a matter of hours. Instead I chose IM+ WAP Gateway Edition, another 3rd party project. Initial testing looks promising, but I’ll give it a more thorough shakedown in the weeks to come.

High on my list but as yet untested, is tethering the Blackberry 8700g to my laptop and using the EDGE network for a laptop internet connection. That should be interesting. If it works will, it could be a great asset to bridge my online needs when I’m not at home/office or a wifi hotspot in the wild. I’m hearing conflicting stories about how feasible and/or easy this “hack” is.  I’d also like to dabble in the productivity applications for the Blackberry (word processing, databasese, spreadsheets, etc).
That’s it for this entry.  I’ll post as impression come to mind, positive or negative.

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The Deal:   Several people inquired about “the deal” and the vendor I mentioned in my original article.  It was through Amazon.com. They often have great deals with new service plans. Be sure to read them closely though, some require 1-2 year contact or a specific service plan. However, in my case with the Blackberry 8700g, the required service plan was perfect for my usage (1000 minutes/month, unlimited internet added on a few hundred text messages). YMMV.

Blackberry 8700g (T-Mobile) at Amazon.com

Deals come and go, so you might have to time your purchase to catch the best discounts and rebates. For example, in my areas the 8700g is now NEGATIVE $25.00 (I broke even at $0… guess I should have waited a week, grin).