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 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 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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
10 people have left comments
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.
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. 🙂
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.
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.
Chris Peden said:
I have to disagree with you on sync’ing software. PocketMac is junk and Missing Sync works very well.
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!
@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.
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.
If you upgrade your os on your bb curve to the new os 22.214.171.124 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/