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Blackberry 8320: Week One

It's been just over a week and I can honestly say, I'm completely addicted. Now if only native Mac support would become available...

So about two weeks ago, I ordered a new phone, the Black­Berry 8320. I got it last Tues­day (two days early), but had to wait until Thurs­day of last week to actu­ally use the phone, because my new con­tract didn’t start until then.

So now that I have had the phone for a lit­tle over a week, I fig­ured I might as well write up my thoughts, par­tic­u­larly from a Mac-user standpoint.

The Phone

 

8320-1.jpg

The Size

The device itself is sim­ply awe­some. Although I had played around with Grant’s Curve a bit, I was still sort of hes­i­tant in the whole Curve/Pearl debate. Since early 2001, I’ve always had small form fac­tor phones. The best cell phone I have ever owned, the Nokia 8290 (oh, how I loved that phone. LOVED. The Sam­sung flip/color phone that I replaced it with was junk, the Sony Eric­son look alike was awful, and the Magenta Razr cap­tured my heart, but not in the same way) was incred­i­bly tiny and I like being able to have a phone I can stick in my pocket. Keep in mind, I’m a size 0, so my pock­ets are a bit smaller than most. So it wasn’t ever really a debate over fea­tures, Curve won that bat­tle eas­ily, it was about size. Ulti­mately, Wi-Fi can­celed every­thing else out and I stopped con­sid­er­ing the Pearl.

I can hon­estly say that I’m really, really happy with the size of the phone. It’s the same thick­ness as m Razr is when closed, only slightly longer and actu­ally, only slightly wider. I can’t quite put it in my pocket, but I can slip it into a small hand­bag. Plus the belt clip case I bought (again, that’s an Amazon.com affil­i­ate link — but seri­ously, I wish I had searched Ama­zon before buy­ing from Crack­berry, it was $20 there and $30 directly from Black­Berry. I over­paid for the sil­i­con cover too.) is still small and compact.

The Feel

The screen and text is very read­able, espe­cially after I tweaked the default font. It’s bright, but still works well under direct sun­light. When using the default browser or Opera Mini (can I just com­ment on how bizarre it is to actu­ally have a rea­son to use Opera? Freaky.), every­thing looks nice and graph­ics are clean and clear. Opera does a great job (!) with re-creating that “real” web expe­ri­ence. It isn’t the iPhone, but it’s a hell of a lot bet­ter than the Razr.

The key­board, is unsur­pris­ingly, the absolute best in the busi­ness. I’ve already mas­tered thumb­ing with one hand. Yes, I’m offi­cially that annoy­ing BB user. Le sigh. I have always hated T9 typ­ing. Hated it. I hated it so much, I almost never sent SMS mes­sages because it would mean either plod­ding through with T9’s suck­ta­stick­ness or resort­ing to typ­ing like AIM a la mid­dle school (i.e.. “r u there? wh8 r u doing 2day?”), and to be hon­est, I rejected the impulse to type like a moron in 8th grade, I really didn’t like the idea of doing it as an adult. The down­side? Now that I can send e-mail, SMS and MMS mes­sages (and do IM) so quickly, peo­ple are going to think I’ve lost my mind. OK, so it’ll be noth­ing new for my Twit­terati, but every­one else might be disturbed/alarmed/surprised.

The Phone

Every­thing else aside, this is still pri­mary a phone for me. I don’t have a land­line any­more and my cell phone IS my life­line. The main rea­son I had to get a new phone was because my old phone had this annoy­ing lit­tle quirk of, I don’t know, not let­ting me answer calls, ran­domly shut­ting off, ran­domly shut­ting its LCD screen off while still work­ing, fun stuff like that. My mom thinks I just wanted a new phone — and I won’t lie, I did, but if this was just about buy­ing a new toy, I would have made this pur­chase back in Octo­ber, when I was first allowed to accord­ing to my con­tract — not at the end of February.

So far, voice qual­ity has been great. I haven’t used the speaker phone that much, but it’s nice — and every­thing else is very, very clear.

I’ve asked peo­ple who call me how I sound and have received absolutely no com­plaints. I’ll also give the thumbs up to T-Mobile’s whole UMA thing — basi­cally it allows the phone to switch from the EDGE sig­nal to wi-fi depend­ing on what sig­nal is stronger, and it makes the tran­si­tion seam­lessly. I’m not pay­ing the sep­a­rate UMA fee for unlim­ited calls from wi-fi, but I would cer­tainly con­sider it if I found I needed more minutes.

The inter­face

All in all, I’m impressed. It’s an easy to use and intu­itive phone, obvi­ously there is some learn­ing curve — though I’m pretty learn­ing curve immune for most prod­ucts. The aver­age user would prob­a­bly have to take a few days to get used to the whole thing. Really, I just needed to learn the short­cuts for stuff.

The default web browser leaves a lot to be desired. Yes, it is a huge improve­ment over my last phone, but it’s not a great expe­ri­ence. Fur­ther­more, I’d like to be able to make Opera Mini my default browser. Opera is actu­ally kind of kick­ass. Who’da thought, right?

As for the other built-in apps, like BB Mes­sen­ger and the e-mail and what­not, no com­plaints. I do wish RTF e-mail was avail­able — appar­ently that is com­ing with the next soft­ware update. As it stands, you can pay $30 for HTML mail now, but I’m not going to do that.

Im still try­ing to fig­ure out the best Twit­ter option. I don’t know the Twit­ter short­cuts for SMS send­ing very well, so I haven’t used it that much. SXSWi is in like five days, so I bet­ter learn. I wish that there was a Twit­ter­rific for the BB that would let you directly reply and send DMs to tweets. Twit­ter­berry is a great inter­face, but with­out that fea­ture, I almost won­der if I should just sub­scribe to SMS updates of peo­ple I fre­quently tweet with or what.

I haven’t used too many Black­Berry apps, and I don’t want to judge third-party soft­ware in this review, but as I use it more and more, I’m sure I’ll come to have my favorites/least favorites.

Con­clu­sion

For a phone, I couldn’t be hap­pier. I’m find­ing more and more things that I like every day. I still need to test voice notes to see if there is a delay, as some other users have expe­ri­enced — but as a phone, I love it.

Synch­ing with the Mac

And now the sec­ond part of the review, how well does the BB inte­grate with the Mac? For ref­er­ence, I’m on a Black­Book 2.16 C2D with 2 GB of RAM run­ning the lat­est ver­sion of Leop­ard (OS X 10.5.2 as of this writing).

Going into this, I knew that the Black­Berry was not natively sup­ported on the Mac. Like Win­dows Mobile, third-party sync­ing solu­tions do exist. Plus, I have VMWare Fusion (again, affil­i­ate link but if you are inter­ested in run­ning Win­dows or another OS on your Intel Mac, Fusion is hands-down, the BEST. And it’s $42 after rebate from Ama­zon, which is awe­some), so I know that if I absolutely need to use Black­Berry Con­nect, I can.

Although there are Mac synch­ing solu­tions avail­able, for users who are not on a BES (the Black­Berry Enter­prise Server, mean­ing, users like me who are not using it pri­mar­ily through their employer), those options are far from robust. The two big options are Pock­et­Mac for Black­Berry, which is now a free down­load and Miss­ing­Sync for Black­Berry.

Let me save every­one $40 right now — Miss­ing­Sync is total crap. It out­right sucks. I had orig­i­nally installed Pock­et­Mac, because it was free and I wanted to give it a spin. To use Miss­ing­Sync, I had to unin­stall Pock­et­Mac. OK, well that makes test­ing side by side kind of hard, but whatever.

I used it for about five min­utes, it promptly fucked up my address book synch­ing sys­tem (I had just got­ten my com­puter address book the way I wanted it too, and I specif­i­cally said for it to over­write the address book on the phone) only to have the old address book on my phone’s SIM card come back to me. Joy.

It was also slow as hell, didn’t look like it offered a way to install pro­grams (which Pock­et­Mac can at least sort of do) and the inter­face was pretty ter­ri­ble. Fail. Total, total fail.

Pock­et­Mac isn’t a com­plete win — I quickly learned to NEVER under any cir­cum­stances sync my e-mail on my Berry with my Inbox (mean­ing that the Berry mail would be down­loaded) because it doesn’t either account for dupli­cates or the fact that it went to a dif­fer­ent inbox messed things up, I don’t know — it took for­ever and made my fans come on at full blast. I’ve got to inves­ti­gate IMAP sup­port for the Berry to see if I want to try doing that. That might be the best thing.

So synch­ing mail is some­thing you don’t want to try, but synch­ing address books was easy — you know, as long as Miss­ing Sync doesn’t come along and reim­port all the shit from your SIM card and over­write every­thing. It says it can install pro­grams, but I haven’t gone through lots of test­ing in that regard. I can charge my BB from the USB PC con­nec­tion, so that’s nice. I still have to play around in terms of ring tones and wall­pa­per trans­fers. Some­thing tells me I’ll need VMWare for that to really happen.

I hate that Blue­tooth doesn’t work on my Black­Berry with my Mac. Pock­et­Mac only works with USB — not with Wi-Fi or Blue­tooth. Rumor has it RIM is devel­op­ing a Mac ver­sion of Black­Berry con­nect — I really, really hope they do — as it would help me out a lot.

Final Ver­dict

After like 9 days with this thing, I’m in love. I can totally see myself becom­ing even more addicted. And although Mac inte­gra­tion isn’t great, it’s not awful. Pock­et­Mac, which is free, gets the job done — the $40 Miss­ing­Sync is total crap, but at least I don’t have to pay for some­thing just so it will work.

As for the phone — it rules.

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10 people have left comments

Linda Sher­man - Gravatar

Linda Sher­man said:

Nice thor­ough review. You might want to men­tion why, as a Mac Girl, you aren’t on iPhone. I adore my iPhone. I have had unevent­ful ser­vice from Cin­gu­lar for years. But I real­ize that some peo­ple just don’t want to be hooked to them.

Posted on: March 2, 2008 at 6:01 pmQuote this Comment
Christina - Gravatar

Christina said:

Linda, In an ear­lier entry about my new phone, I went into the details about why I couldn’t get an iPhone — it basi­cally boils down to me not will­ing to give BellSouth/Cingular/AT&T/whatever any of my money. Granted, an iPhone that can record video might have me eat­ing my words, but until then, the cus­tomer ser­vice expe­ri­ence was just THAT awful (we’re talk­ing had to can­cel credit cards because they wouldn’t stop charg­ing me for a can­celed account awful) that it’ll take more than the iPhone’s awe­some­ness to get me to use their ser­vice. Espe­cially since I can get an iPod Touch. But I totally under­stand that I’m way more dra­matic about my grudges than most people. :-)

Posted on: March 2, 2008 at 6:27 pmQuote this Comment
Angie Chung - Gravatar

Angie Chung said:

Thanks for post­ing this blog about the BB 8320. I to own a MBP and lov­ing every moment of both techy toys. Also KUDOS about let­ting us know about RIM com­ing out (hope­fully) about a Mac ver­sion of BB con­nect. But still itch­ing to get the iPhone. LOVE Safari not Windows.

Posted on: March 12, 2008 at 11:36 amQuote this Comment
Robert Chute - Gravatar

Robert Chute said:

Same here with the iPhone. Tried it with AT&T for a while, but just couldn’t do busi­ness with them. Use my iPhone with T-Mobile now and am glad I switched. You should try out an unlocked iPhone with you T-Mobile SIM and see how you like it.

Posted on: March 23, 2008 at 9:02 pmQuote this Comment
Chris Peden - Gravatar

Chris Peden said:

I have to dis­agree with you on sync’ing soft­ware. Pock­et­Mac is junk and Miss­ing Sync works very well.

Posted on: May 10, 2008 at 5:44 amQuote this Comment
Christina War­ren - Gravatar

Christina War­ren said:

Chris, You’re not the first per­son to tell me that ;-) What can I say, for my pur­poses, Miss­ing­Sync totally, totally failed, whereas Pocket Mac was able to at least get the job done. I’m not trans­fer­ring e-mail though, just synch­ing con­tacts. For iCal/Blackberry cal­en­dar synch­ing, I actu­ally found the best way to do this was via Google’s Sync tool for Black­Berry com­bined with Busy­Sync, which basi­cally enables me to have my iCal and gCal always up-to-date (and in turn, my Black­Berry just gets its cal­en­dar data from Google) and it is all done with­out need­ing to con­nect my phone to my computer.

Still, we need a native Mac Black­Berry pro­gram. Here’s to hop­ing the next ver­sion of the desk­top soft­ware will include an OS X variant!

Posted on: May 10, 2008 at 8:40 amQuote this Comment
Nemet - Gravatar

Nemet said:

@Linda Sher­man — now, what kind of ques­tion is that ? Pure fan­boy­ish noth­ing else. I love Apple more than any­thing, I do all my work on Apple machines and when I say all my work, I mean it. I have some of the largest clients in auto indus­try (Chrysler, BMW, Toy­ota, Nis­san etc.), and all my 3D and video com­posit­ing I do on Apple com­put­ers. But, c’mon… when it comes to the iPhone, I wouldn’t use it for any­thing in the world. First of all, all those stu­pid con­tracts that ties you to the spe­cific car­rier, through some minor phone glitches, to some huge ones, like these I’ll list in here:

  • Touch­screen impre­cise; can’t adjust for par­al­lax (finger/screen offset)
  • Web pages can­not be saved for offline viewing
  • Can­not browse iPhone’s fold­ers by any means
  • No Flash, Java or native appli­ca­tion sup­port (c’mon, every­thing is Flash today when it comes to the internet)
  • Extremely strong radio fre­quency inter­fer­ence with other elec­tronic acces­sories in house
  • No voice dial­ing; full hands-free oper­a­tion impossible
  • No VoIP sup­port for Wi-Fi
  • No voice-record capa­bil­ity; iPod add-on did not function
  • Qual­ity of cam­era is com­par­a­tively poor; focus dis­tance lim­ited; no dig­i­tal zoom; can­not cap­ture video
  • No expo­sure con­trol in cam­era, very slow shut­ter cre­ates blurry images
  • No text select/copy/paste (unbe­liev­able, but true… they didn’t fix it in 3G ver­sion either)
  • Phone audio qual­ity below par
  • No third-party soft­ware (unforgettable)
  • Cur­sor posi­tion­ing inside editable text is difficult
  • No musi­cal ring tones …

and the list goes on and on… not for­get­ting to men­tion that for every-day busi­ness, tools are not so flex­i­ble. Black­berry beats iPhone in every aspect, except the cos­metic one. I love the user inter­face and how inno­v­a­tive it really is, but that’s about it. You can get it with many other phones out there for exam­ple Sam­sung Instinkt or Omnia units. BTW, these two are a lot richer in func­tions than iPhone.

So let’s not be fan­boys, let’s take a look what’s bet­ter and in this case Black­berry is some­thing that wins by a mile.

@Christina — I feel your frus­tra­tion with Miss­ing­Synch, I feel 100% the same way. I also hope RIM will develop BB Desk­top Man­ager for Mac and I hope it will hap­pen soon. I have PC lap­top as well, so I don’t hold it as that much of a prob­lem, but sure I want to be able to do every­thing on my Mac, and ditch this virus-malware-bag for good.

Posted on: July 20, 2008 at 8:43 amQuote this Comment
Edwin - Gravatar

Edwin said:

I just bought my BB and In a cou­ple of days I should I have in my front door. Am some what wor­ried about the whole Mac and BB thing, since I only use Macs for my com­puter needs. I wound love a pro­gram that can wire­lessly sync Itunes and mail to my BB but so far i haven’t found one pro­gram that can do that with ease.

If you find some new soft­ware for the whole Mac and BB sync, please let us know with an update in this post.

Posted on: August 4, 2008 at 2:29 pmQuote this Comment
Steve - Gravatar

Steve said:

If you upgrade your os on your bb curve to the new os 4.5.0.52 you will be able to do videos.

check out this link: http://forums.crackberry.com/f52/newest-8320-os-v4-5–0-52-a-53316/

Posted on: August 28, 2008 at 12:50 amQuote this Comment
Christina - Gravatar

Christina said:

Steve, Thanks for the link! I can’t wait!

Since I have to upgrade my phone in VMWare or Par­al­lels, I’m try­ing to wait until the offi­cial T-Mobile 4.5 soft­ware comes out (so I don’t have to do it more than once).

Posted on: August 28, 2008 at 12:54 amQuote this Comment