Yesterday I tossed over the Samsung a900 I’ve had since December in favor of the even more provocative Cingular/at&t PDA BlackBerry 8700c phone and here’s why: While I love the sleek and small feel of the Samsung a900, I live via email and the a900 is more of a multimedia phone than a text device.
My lovely wife Janna is also big on email and she needs to track three email accounts while she’s out in the world away from her computer 12 hours a day. We both need a phone with a keyboard because the a900’s T9 predictive text isn’t cutting it as a vibrant writing tool.
As you can see below, the BlackBerry 8700c — currently only available in the United States from Cingular/at&t — is made for total communication with that beautiful screen and keyboard. If you do a lot of email and web work — you want the BlackBerry 8700c as your communication mainstay.
You can pull 10 different email accounts into your main BlackBerry Inbox so that gives you complete control over a total of 11 email addresses. If, however, you want instant email, use your BlackBerry email address.
Your other outside email accounts will only be polled for new messages every 15 minutes and the 8700c seems to respond better and faster with LED flashing and other forms of notification when the email arrives from the BlackBerry system instead of your outside email. Cingular/at&t have spent a lot of money in the New York Metro area to improve their service level and you can immediately feel the speedy, stinging difference in the responsiveness of the network.
Here’s what Cingular/at&t say on their website about the improvements:
Two leading independent research companies have concluded that no wireless market has fewer dropped calls or is more reliable in the New York metro area and In 2005, we invested over $500 million and added more than 270 new cell sites in the NYC metro area to upgrade our network and bring you: Greater service coverage Enhanced voice quality Fewer dropped calls Improved access to advanced data services
Of the three wireless services I have lived with over the past fifteen years or so I’d rank Cingular’s EDGE system first, Sprint EV-DO second and Verizon’s high speed network â€” whatever they’re calling it now
EDGE provides superfast data and all your voice calls are clear and crisp and neither Sprint nor Verizon can match Cingular in value — with Rollover minutes each month â€” or in outstanding quality of voice and sound reception. I get 4 of 5 bars of EDGE signal strength IN MY BASEMENT that is surrounded on all sides in bedrock with one shallow window for light and emergency egress. Talk time on the standard 8700c battery is an amazing four hours while on the EDGE network.
Purchasing the Phone I was enticed into this move by the tricksy Amazon.com. This week they were having a special where the $350.00 USD BlackBerry 8700c was on sale for $149.99 with a rebate of $150.00 USD for a two year contract which — if you do the fast math — means you get the BlackBerry 8700c FOR FREE if you are a first time activation with Cingular/at&t! I added another phone for Janna to the plan and that mean we paid $75.00 USD for each BlackBerry 8700c. I challenge you to find a better deal than that for two new 8700c phones. Before I ordered the phone from Amazon, I called Cingular/at&t and asked them if they could match that Amazon price.
The guy on the phone laughed at me because he didnâ€™t believe me. I sent him to Amazon and when he saw that deal he said under his breath, “I can’t get that price with my employee discount.”
The best deal he could offer was a couple of $50.00 USD rebates to lower the price of each phone to an astronomical $250.00 USD. You also sign up for a service plan on Amazon when you place your order for the phone and on the Cingular/at&t FamilyTalk Nation plan you can add a second line for $9.99 USD. All calls to other phones on the Cingular/at&t network are free and do not count against your national minutes. You are also required to purchase the BlackBerry data plan for the 8700c at $44.99 USD per month.
On that plan you get unlimited email and unlimited web browsing on the high-speed EDGE Network. You must provide personal information for an impending credit check during the Amazon signup process that includes your Social Security number and your Driver License. I had my phones in hand the next day. Currently there is three day delay on Amazon for ordering the BlackBerry 8700c and you now only get $99.00 USD back from Amazon in a rebate instead of $150.00 USD.
Keep your eye on the Amazon site because these phone offers seem to change each week.
Getting Service Setting up the phone was a bit of an event. Amazon “includes” a Cingular/at&t SIM card for instant activation of the phone but when I say “include” I really mean “tossed haphazardly in the shipping box.” I would have missed the SIM cards if I didn’t pull the box apart to find the SIMs stuck between the shipping tape and the hard place of the box flap.
The SIM card is a smaller card stuck in a larger credit card size card you punch out of the larger card. The SIM card is the size of an SD Card and you push that SIM card into your phone to get registered on the system. Be sure to clean the contacts on the SIM card because my card had a hard time registering until I rubbed the contacts with the business end of a pencil eraser.
That SIM card is the key for communication. Without it you will not be able to unlock the phone. The great thing about your service on Cingular/at&t is your SIM card is you and not your phone. That means you can take that SIM card and pop it into another phone of your choosing and that new phone will be auto-registered on the Cingular/at&t system. The 8700c instructions say your phone will auto-register in 15 minutes after inserting the SIM card.
Beware that the icons you see when you start up your phone for the first time are not all the icons you will have available to you. After your phone “finds” its home on the Cingular/at&t network and gets registered you will see other icons begin to appear on your phone and those icons represent your web browsing tools. I just happened to be looking at my phone when those new icons appeared and it was wacky watching each icon pop up from some hidden somewhere.
“Hoons” are the speedy spectacular things about the BlackBerry 8700c that one cannot now live without after having the phone for a day.
- The BlackBerry 8700c is fast and EDGEy! It zooms. It spins. It speeds! YOU CAN TALK ON THE PHONE AND BROWSE THE WEB! If you are browsing the web YOU CAN GET A PHONE CALL! You can truly multi-task with the 8700c on the EDGE network from Cingular/at&t. I have been able to get into the secure areas of this blog, my bank and a hunkered down State of New York email system with the 8700c so doing “Power Browsing” business online is not a problem.
The speakerphone sounds great and is easy to use.
Setting up your phone online is a fine experience because the BlackBerry portal is excellent. You can fine-tune filters and change your password and do lots of other interacting with your phone from any computer in the world.
“Haints” are the ghostly things that are neither here nor there. We can take these BlackBerry 8700c features or leave them.
- You can download themes and ringers. That’s okay but not spectacular. There isn’t much online for download and the game embedded with the phone is pretty awful — it’s a version of the game where you bounce a ball with a paddle to break bricks. I also had some trouble getting LED and ringer notifications when I switched from the default Cingular/at&t theme so my advice is to keep the default theme active and not to bother downloading any new themes.
There’s no camera or video capability in the 8700c. I don’t miss those features but, for some, that feature loss might be a deal breaker. For others that means the 8700c is tiny and lightweight. The whole phone fits snugly into the center of your palm and it stays there all day long.
The Desktop software is ugly. It works, but it’s Ugly! I thought it would be a beautiful reproduction of the BlackBerry’s enticing interface on my desktop but it’s really just an ugly conduit for moving contacts and tasks and other Outlook-related information onto your 8700c. You can also backup all your settings and that’s nice, too, even though the experience is pedestrian and ugly looking.
“Hags” are the witchy and hateful things about the BlackBerry 8700c that makes us want to toss it out the window.
- I am going to rip the haggy battery door off the thing with my teeth because it never opens kindly on its own even when you follow the illustration in the handbook. If you need a handbook illustration on how to open the battery door the battery door is too complicated and needs to be redesigned!
The holster is awful. You have to pinch a tab to get the 8700c out of its holster? Isn’t that like squeezing a bicycle tire while trying to fill it with air?
The BlackBerry 8700c does not like my stereo, TV or computer. I can wave it like a wand in front of the TV and there will be interference; waving it next to a stereo speaker brings a harsh white noise that will rattle the Haints!
My computer LCD screen kind of vibrates in waves when the phone is nearby. Everything still works together in the same room it just makes me wonder what the BlackBerry 8700c is invisibly doing to my innards as I hold it next to my ear canal and provide a direct path into my brain while speaking softly and carrying a big EDGE.
BEWARE You know there are a lot of people who use their BlackBerry phones so much for emailing that, in the street, the code name of the BlackBerry is “CrackBerry!” You have been warned! The 8700c is addictive and, for me, it is a laptop replacement on the road. I can do all my email and web business on a tiny phone.
There is also something known as “CrackBerry Thumb” and that starts to happen when you use the scroll wheel so much your right thumb begins to throb. It happened to me the first day! Janna had one of the original BlackBerry pagers way back when and the scroll wheel was on the face of the pager instead of the side where it sits today. Having the wheel on the face is much more thumb-friendly than forcing your thumb to scroll and then press in an uncomfortable side direction.
The solution to “CrackBerry Thumb” is to learn the keyboard shortcuts. The ENTER key is the same as pressing in the scroll wheel and that saves a lot on thumb wear and tear. The space bar also helps you jump around. Holding down key chords will make you scroll your thumb less and get all your fingers involved in the action.
Memorize the color Navigation tear-out included with your Getting Started Guide. ALT+SCROLL will be your new best friend. Also beware of the Auto Backlight feature. It is confusing. Sometimes the BlackBerry will give you a bright screen. Other times it will decide to dim automagically for you.
This is supposed to be what I call “anticipatory environment technology” where the BlackBerry self-modifies its behavior based on the ambient light around you but I find the screen changes annoying. I want my screen on full bright at all times but I can’t figure out a way to make that behavior the default so right now
I’m stuck with a ghostly screen that brightens and dims on its whims.
Here is more obligatory hardcore information that will take you even deeper into the world of the CrackBerry 8700c:
- Email, phone, Internet, SMS, and organizer applications in a single device
Full 35 key QWERTY keyboard
BluetoothÂ® connectivity for connecting wireless accessories
GPRS/EDGE High-Speed Data Access
850/900/1800/1900 MHz – Quad-band for international compatibility
Large 320 x 240 pixel color display
Integrates with enterprise email account or up to 10 outside email accounts
Embedded RIMÂ® wireless modem
Memory: 64 MB flash memory, 16 MB SDRAM
Processor: Intel PXA901 at 312 MHz
Warranty: 1 yr on the phone and accessories
User Interface: Backlit, Clock, Text Message Indicator, Voice Mail Button, Voice Mail Indicator, Volume Select/Display, Signal Strength Indicator Display Size: 15 lines Size & Weight:
4.4 x 2.9 x 0.94 inches
Advanced Messaging: Numeric Paging Web & Data Features: Call Restrictions, Lock Alarm Power: Battery Strength Indicator Minimum Rated Standby Time: 240 hours Minimum Rated Talk Time: 240 minutes Battery
Cell Composition: Lithium Ion Charging Time: 2.0 hours Extras: Personal Information Manager, Headphone Jack, Alarm Components: USB Cable, Battery, Travel Charger, holster w/ Belt Clip
The BlackBerry 8700c is the multi-tasking phone you’ve been waiting for since the debut of the Treo 650 two years ago. The phone is beautiful; the Cingular/at&t network is EDGE-ready and powerfully fast; the 8700c is light in your hand and heavy in helping you leverage the never-ending tasks of your evergreen workday.