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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