Blackberry gets two thumbs up
Tech Talk
June 24, 2005
Blackberry gets two thumbs up

For the past two weeks I have been walking around with my newest toy. To be honest, I was a little skeptical at first as to its usefulness and whether or not I would actually enjoy using it, but I have to admit, it’s grown on me, and I now don’t know if I can function without it.

Before your minds go any further, stop. I’ve been referring to Cable & Wireless’ Blackberry 7280 personal digital assistant (PDA) – cell phone, organizer, web browser, email client, calendar, calculator, memo pad and more, all in one. {{more}}

For me, the main selling point of the Blackberry is the easy access it gives me to my email no matter where I am. You don’t have to make any effort to check for email, the Blackberry automatically delivers the messages to your handset much in the same way you receive cell calls. You don’t have to connect to the Internet, you are always on. You can read, compose, forward or reply to messages. You can even open attachments in popular document formats such as Word, WordPerfect, Excel, Powerpoint, PDF, etc. Attachments of images can also be viewed and saved.

Your handset rings and/or vibrates when you have new email message or a telephone call. For someone who spends a lot of time away from their desk, this is an excellent tool. I can see the Blackberry greatly reducing my cell phone bill when I am overseas, as one has unlimited internet access and can send an unlimited number of email messages.

I configured three email accounts to deliver mail to my handset. Only a copy of the message is delivered, so that when I log on to my PC later, my mail is still available for download. Apparently, up to 10 email accounts can be set up. The literature says your hotmail account can be set up as well, but I didn’t try doing it.

Web browsing was fairly good, I was able to go to Searchlight’s website (, log on and read news. I also visited CNN and BBC news. I could Google and retrieve the results of my search. Bear in mind that the display screen is only 1.5” x 2.25” so if your primary objective in buying the Blackberry is to browse the internet, I wouldn’t recommend it.

The 7280 handset is fairly small (3″ x 4.5″) and quite light (less than 5.3 ounces), so it fits easily in your pocket, handbag, or can be clipped to your belt using a belt clip that comes in the box. Despite the small size, it features a full built-in 33 key QWERTY keyboard, with spacebar, shift key, everything. This is very useful for persons from my generation and older who haven’t quite caught on to the key tapping techniques needed for texting. You can use both thumbs or just one finger to type your messages. The rest of the device can be navigated using a trackwheel (otherwise known as a scroll wheel).

It also has all the features you would expect in a standard cell phone. Speed dialing, access to phone numbers in the address book, logging of incoming and outgoing calls, an alarm, etc. Interestingly, phone calls are logged in the same inbox as email and text messages, centralizing the records of all your communication.

I found the device intuitive and easy to set up and use. Customer support was excellent. Any questions I had were willingly and competently answered by my very professional Cable & Wireless account executive, Elroy Edwards. The battery life is also very long. I only had to recharge twice in two weeks. The device also ships with a serial cradle for syncing with your computer and charging. The full colour screen is easy to read and navigate.

I am always concerned about the security of my internet communications. The information provided in the Blackberry literature addressed all my fears and assured me that my interactions while using the Blackberry were secure.

One of the main negatives with the 7280 for me was the fact that it did not have a sleeker, more glamorous look. I know form is related to function, but that’s just me, I like my toys to look nice AND work well.

Another drawback with the 7280 was the time the device takes to initialize. I wasn’t able to make calls until about 60 – 120 seconds after I turned it on. I guess with all the fancy features, it takes a while to boot. So I complained to Elroy, and lo and behold, he presented me with a new model of the Blackberry, the 7100g (shown inset). Wow! I am now totally sold. No hesitations. This is the PDA for me.

In comparison with a basic cell phone, the Blackberry is a bit pricey. However, maybe a more valid cost comparison will be with other PDAs or the later model cell phones with cameras etc. You also should remember to factor in the flat monthly Internet access charge when budgeting. Overall, however, I give the Blackberry two thumbs up.